Monday: Hili dialogue

November 21, 2022 • 6:30 am

First, watch Artemis-1 go around the Moon!  Video here and more details below. Do it NOW!

If you go back to about 7:10 a.m. Eastern time, you can see the Earth disappear as Orion goes around the back side of the Moon. Here’s a screenshot:

Good morning on Monday, November 21, 2022: it’s Thanksgiving this Thursday, so most Americans will get a four-day weekend. In preparation for Thursday’s feast, it’s National Cranberry Day. Did you know that cranberries are evergreen shrubs, native to the Northern Hemisphere, and are cultivated in bogs? Here’s a plant in situ and a bunch of berries waiting for harvest:

It’s also Pumpkin Pie Day (I have a big four-pounder from Costco: it’s only $5.99 and it’s good), National Stuffing Day, National Gingerbread Day, World Television Day (United Nations observance), and Alascattalo Day:

Alascattalo Day honors Alaskan humor and is named for the alascattalo, a fictitious animal that is a cross between a moose and a walrus, that is said to have been bred by miners during the Alaskan Gold Rush around the turn of the twentieth century.:

The Google Doodle today (click on screenshot) is an animation that celebrates the life and work of Marie Tharp (1920-2006), whose discovery of the MId-Atlantic Rift provided strong evidence for continental drift.  Click the arrow at bottom right of each successive screen to advance the narrative:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this day by consulting the November 21 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*I don’t know if Twitter is circling the drain, but Elon Musk has reinstated a previously banned account. You know who!:

Elon Musk reinstated Donald Trump‘s account on Twitter Inc. after polling users on the platform, broadening the former president’s potential reach days after he declared another run for the White House.

The move also underscored how Mr. Musk has made himself the principal decider on all things Twitter after buying the platform for $44 billion late last month. Mr. Musk had previously said he would establish a content council to weigh in on account reinstatements.

The Twitter poll that Mr. Musk launched Friday recorded 51.8% of votes in favor of reinstating Mr. Trump’s account and 48.2% against.

“The people have spoken,” Mr. Musk tweeted Saturday evening. “Trump will be reinstated.”

Minutes later, Mr. Trump’s Twitter account was restored, though he hadn’t tweeted as of midday Sunday. His most recent tweet was dated Jan. 8, 2021.

As of this morning, the Donald still hadn’t tweeted; check his account to see if he comes back or, in another petulant fit, stays off Twitter permanently.  He has 86.3 million followers but is following only 49 people, including Mitch McConnell, Maria Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Roma Downey (?), Laura Ingraham, Mike Pence, Tucker Carlson, Geraldo Rivera, Greta Van Susteren, and most of his family

*Yesterday afternoon, at least five people were killed and 18 injured in a shooting inside a gay nightclub in Colorado Spring, Colorado. The gunman, who used a long rifle, was subdued by the patrons:

  • The police received an initial call about a shooting at the nightclub at 11:56 p.m., said Lt. Pamela Castro, the Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman. Within six minutes, officers had entered the nightclub, Club Q, and had taken a suspect into custody, she said, adding that the suspect was also injured and being treated at a hospital.

  • The city’s police chief, Adrian Vasquez, said in a news conference that the gunman had used a long rifle. Two guns were recovered at the club, the chief said. He identified the suspect as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, and said that officials were investigating a motive.

  • The injured were taken to several hospitals, Lieutenant Castro said, adding that some also drove themselves to seek treatment, making the exact number of injured uncertain. Not all of the injuries were from gunshot wounds, officials said.

  • The F.B.I. said that it was involved in the investigation, and several Colorado lawmakers condemned the shooting. In a statement, Gov. Jared Polis praised the “brave individuals” at the nightclub who had “blocked the gunman.”

The suspect hasn’t yet spoken to police, and no motive is yet known.

One more bit of information:

The man identified by authorities as the suspect in the nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs Saturday night appears to have been arrested last year, accused of engaging in a lengthy standoff with the police after threatening to hurt his mother with a homemade bomb.

I looked up Colorado Congresswoman Lauren “Glock Momma” Boebert’s Twitter account:

Prayers don’t help but more restrictions on guns might have.

*The incident above adds to the total of mass shootings this year, which is up to 601. That means we’ve nearly tied the record for years up to November 19, which was 633 last year.

Mass shootings — where four or more people, not including the shooter, are injured or killed — have averaged more than one per day so far this year. Not a single week in 2022 has passed without at least four mass shootings.

Mass shootings have been on the rise in recent years. In 2021, almost 700 such incidents occurred, a jump from the 610 in 2020 and 417 in 2019. Before that, incidents had not topped 400 annually since the Gun Violence Archive started tracking in 2014.

2022 is close behind the high reached last year when comparing the same time period.

The Washington Post gives a graph of mass shootings during the last nine years, which shows a palpable increase over time, more than doubling. 601 means an average of nearly 1.9 shootings per day so far this year.

*The NYT describes “The Royal Game of Ur“, the oldest board game in existence (see also Wikipedia, the source of the photos below). It’s way old!

The original name of this ancient game has been lost to time, but it was dubbed the Royal Game of Ur after a British archaeologist named Sir Leonard Woolley uncovered five worn playing boards in 1928 at the Royal Cemetery of the Sumerian city of Ur. Analysts estimated that the highly decorated boards, made of wood, inlaid shell and lapis lazuli, were made between 2,600-2,400 B.C., making the Royal Game of Ur the oldest complete tabletop game ever discovered.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the game (which is also called the Game of 20 Squares) was immensely popular with people of all classes. The boards were carried all over the Middle East — and sometimes scratched into clay or rock, if no board was available — by soldiers, missionaries, explorers and traders, who introduced it to Iran, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Cyprus and Crete. Variations of the game have been found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb, and etched into pillars in the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II.


(From WIkipedia): One of the five gameboards found by Sir Leonard Woolley in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, now held in the British Museum. Wooden game-board; the face is of 20 variously inlaid square shell plaques; edges made of small plaques and strips, some sculptured with an eye and some possibly with rosettes; on the back are three lines of shell triangular ornamental inlays.

The rules of the game were discovered on a clay table two millennia later:

Enter Irving Finkel, a curator and Assyriologist at the British Museum. In the 1980s, Dr. Finkel translated a cuneiform script on a crumbling clay tablet that had been brought to the museum by an antiquities dealer. The document sounded remarkably like the rules of an ancient game.

Written in 177-176 B.C. by a scribe named Itti-Marduk-balatu, the tablet was discovered around 1880 in the ruins of Babylon, according to an academic paper written by Dr. Finkel.

. . . Scholars tried to decipher the cuneiform over the years, but it was Dr. Finkel who was able to identify the text on the tablet as instructions on how to play the Royal Game of Ur after comparing it to the other game boards the museum had stored in its archives.

Da Roolz!:

(From Wikipedia) The rules tablet dated 177 BC (British Museum)

The Babylonian tablet revealed that the game is a race between two players to get their markers around and off the board.

Pyramid-shaped dice are used to indicate the number of squares a player can move, but strategy is involved as well: If a player lands on a square occupied by their opponent, they can knock that marker off, and the opponent must start over again with that piece. That can set a player back by quite a bit, and it is almost impossible to predict who will win, even near the end of the game.

But there was another aspect of the game that attracted people: It was said to tell a player’s fortune. According to the cuneiform tablet, some of the marked squares on the board were assigned signs of the zodiac and, with them, predictions that a player would win a beer, make a friend, eat well, or perhaps become powerful and wealthy.

The NYT article includes a paper copy of the game, so you can play it yourself, though astrological predictions are up to you.

*Farewell, Nancy Pelosi, who will stay in the House but has surrendered her leadership roles. I think Pelosi did a great job, and so does Jennifer Rubin of the WaPo, who extols the Speaker in an editorial called, “Distinguished pol of the week: The most powerful woman in American politics ever.” Rubin links to the video below, which I remember well (watch the first 30 seconds if you’re pressed for time). The graceful insouciance with which Pelosi rips up Trump’s speech is fantastic.

*Finally, an Artemis update from Jim Batterson:

(From NASA public schedules and and SpaceNews news releases)

It is almost there, folks!  As of yesterday morning, the NASA Artemis-1 Orion spacecraft is just one day out from the Moon:.  230,000 miles from Earth and 55,000 miles from the moon.  This morning it should pass around the back of the moon (as seen from Earth) starting at 0725 EST, passing approximately 80 miles above the lunar surface at 0757 EST and re-emerging into view at 0759 EST.  It will fire its main engine at 0744 EST, which I think is to start to elongate its lunar orbit.  Be sure to tune in about 8:00 AM EST.

Here is an excellent SpaceNews summary of the past week’s activity as well as what is scheduled later this week.

This morning’s event will be carried live on NASA LIVE TV starting at 0715 EST; the YouTube site will probably be this one.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is impatient:

Hili: I’m imagining spring.
A: Cool it, it’s not winter yet.
Hili: Wyobrażam sobie wiosnę.
Ja: Spokojnie, jeszcze nie ma prawdziwej zimy.

. . . and a photo of Baby Kulka by Andrzej:



From Merilee; I think you can translate the French:

From Stash Krod:

From Now That’s Wild:

God has left Twitter! OMG!

The latest news from Iran via Masih:

From Luana, who says, “This is hilarious! The remaining people know how to code”:

From Erik. The world is a duck!


From Barry: An obituary for Seth MacFarlane‘s cat, who just died:

Cat socks from Malcolm. I actually bought some, but as a present for Elzbieta when I visit Poland right after Christmas:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a heartbreaking photo. Be sure to look at the enlarged version:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, a lovely murmuration:


I’m not sure what kind of sport this is, but it appears to be a hybrid between curling, triple jumping, and karate. Sound up.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 9, 2022 • 7:30 am

Welcome to Hump Day, known to the Kurdish as rojek hûr:  February 9, 2022: National Bagel and Lox Day. Oy, what a great day, but why did they forget the schmear? Here, let me fix that:

It’s also Chocolate Day, Pizza Pie Day (does anybody still call a pizza a “pizza pie”?), National Toothache Day (?), and Read in the Bathtub Day.

Today’s Google Doodle is a gif celebrating the life of Toni Stone (1921-1996) who,

was the first of three women to play professional baseball full-time for the Indianapolis Clowns, in the previously all-male Negro leagues.This also made her the first woman to play as a regular on an American big-league professional baseball team. A baseball player from her early childhood, she went on to play for the San Francisco Sea Lions, The New Orleans Creoles, the Indianapolis Clowns, and the Kansas City Monarchs before retiring from baseball in 1954.

There was a women’s baseball league then, but they were unofficially segregated and Stone could not play. When you click on the screenshot, you’ll not only see information about her but some fancy animations on the page”

News of the Day:

*Well here’s a pleasant surprise. Senator Mitch “666” McConnell has done the right thing for once! You may recall that the Republican National Committee censured two Republican Congresspeople (Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger) simply for staying on the “bipartisan” panel investigating the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol. All the other Republicans refused to be on that committee, and act of pure petulance. At any rate, McConnell took the RNC to task for this censure!

Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, pushed back hard on Tuesday on the Republican Party’s censure of Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and its characterization of Jan. 6 as “legitimate political discourse,” saying the riot was a “violent insurrection.”

The remarks from Mr. McConnell, the normally taciturn Kentucky Republican, added to a small but forceful chorus of G.O.P. lawmakers who have decried the action that the Republican National Committee took on Friday, when it officially rebuked Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger for participating in the House investigation of the Jan. 6 attack, accusing them of “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

Mr. McConnell repudiated that description, saying, “We saw it happen. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.”

In the days since the Republican National Committee passed the resolution at its winter meeting in Salt Lake City, a handful of Republicans have criticized the move as everything from a political distraction to a shame on the party. Mr. McConnell was among the most blunt.

McConnell is a nasty piece of work in general, so I can’t help but think he has secret motives. He’s too old to run for President in two years (he’s 80 now), so what’s in it for him? Is this an act of genuine principle?

*Sorry, but I cannot forgive Pope Benedict, who just asked “forgiveness” for not dealing directly with priests who were sex abusers. At the same time, he said he bore no responsibility for what happened, including his covering up the abuse. Benedict is 94 now, and preparing to meet his Maker, but doesn’t he think the Maker knew what was going on.

Most recently, Benedict has been under fire over his time as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, between 1977 and 1982, after a Church-commissioned report into abuse by Catholic clergy there was published last month.

The report found that he had been informed of four cases of sexual abuse involving minors — including two during his time in Munich — but failed to act. The report also revealed Benedict had attended a meeting about an abuser identified as Priest X, though the retired pontiff’s testimony to investigators denied he had been present.

Days after the report’s publication, the former pope admitted he had gone to the meeting, blaming his earlier denial to investigators on “an error in the editing of his statement.”

Pity there’s no Maker to mete out the punishment that is meet.

*Another surprise, this time reported by the Boston Globe. Eric Lander, a geneticist and big macher in the genomics world—he was one of the founders of the Broad Institute—has resigned as Biden’s hand-picked science advisor. Lander’s had a reputation for self aggrandizement, but so do many big-name scientists. What he apparently did as science advisor, however, appears to be worse:

President Joe Biden’s top science adviser Dr. Eric Lander resigned Monday, hours after the White House confirmed that an internal investigation found credible evidence that he mistreated his staff.

An internal review last year, prompted by a workplace complaint, found evidence that Lander, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and science adviser to Biden, bullied staffers and treated them disrespectfully. The White House rebuked Lander over his treatment of his staff, but initially signaled Monday that he would be allowed to remain on the job, despite Biden’s day-one assertion that he expected “honesty and decency” from all who worked for his administration and would fire anyone who shows disrespect to others “on the spot.”

But later Monday evening, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had accepted Lander’s resignation with “gratitude for his work at OTSP on the pandemic, the Cancer Moonshot, climate change, and other key priorities.”

Lander’s resignation is effective February 18, and Biden will have to choose a replacement. I hope it’s a good one; this is an important job.

*A new article in the Guardian, reporting on a new paper published in Current Biology, notes that, on several dozen occasions, a chimp with a flesh wound inflicted by an internecine fight was treated with “insect therapy” by another chimp. The “doctor” chimp would snatch an insect out of the air, and crush it in its mouth, applying the insect to the “patient’s wound. (Some injured chimps will even do this to themselves.)  Now it’s not clear what’s going on, but people speculate that the crushed insect is a palliative or type of antibiotic. (h/t Jez):

Researchers have not been able to identify what bug was used on the wounds, but they believe it to be a flying insect given the chimpanzees’ rapid movement to catch it.

[Biologist Simone] Pika says the insect could contain anti-inflammatory substances that have a soothing effect. Insects are known to have various medical properties and researches will need to conduct more work to detect and study the insect in question.

Birds, bears, elephants and other animals have already been observed self-medicating, for example by eating plants. But what is unique about chimpanzees is that they will treat not just themselves, but also help others.

Some scientists, however, still doubt the ability of animal species to exhibit prosocial behaviours, such as selflessly caring for others, Pika said.From Jez: “For humans, the first instinct would be to disinfect it and then cover it with a bandage. But chimpanzees have invented a more creative method: catching insects and applying them directly to the open wound.

*Where’s Elizabeth Holmes? Convicted on four of 11 charges in the Theranos wire-fraud case, she’s awaiting sentencing in the fall, and could receive 20 years in jail. (I’m curious as to why they’re waiting so long for the sentencing.) In the meantime, a movie about her, “The Dropout”, starring Amanda Seyfried as Holmes, will be released March 2 by Hulu. Here’s the trailer:

I don’t think Seyfried makes a fairly convincing homes, but I don’t think anybody could make a convincing Holmes after you’ve watched her for hours as I have in interviews and talks. She’s sui generis, and not in a good way. I predict the movie will be a stinkeroo.

*A WaPo article by Anne Hornaday, chief film critic for the paper, about this year’s Academy Awards, turns out to be a big pile of boring verbiage, but at least it alerted me to several new movies I want to watch. But after kvetching a lot and saying little, Hornaday ends like this:

When it comes to uniting movie lovers, the academy’s best move would be to heed the advice of millions of fans and enlist “Spider-Man” stars Tom Holland and Zendaya to host the March 27 telecast (a good idea in any year). That gesture would not only acknowledge the movie that arguably saved Hollywood during an otherwise ruinous period, but it would convey the hard truths of what united movie lovers in 2021. To attain its massive success, “Spider-Man” had to attract not just young spectators who were unafraid to return to multiplexes, but also their more hesitant parents and grandparents — people with more complex decision-making when it comes to gathering in indoor spaces — who decided it was worth the risk to take the family to a bona fide spectacle.

As pleasant as films like “Belfast,” “CODA,” “King Richard” and “West Side Story” are, none of them conveyed an urgent need to be seen on the big screen. Their core audiences coalesced around another principle: that, at least for now, they were more than happy to wait and watch them at home.

Call me a snob, but you will never get me to watch “Spider-Man”. Yes, I know it got good ratings, but I just can’t absorbed by action movies, which seem like a waste of an opportunity to see something better. As for the “urgent need to be seen on the big screen”, well, all movies should be seen on the big screen if you have a chance. Why does “Spider-Man” demand it? So the special effects are more thrilling? Yes, I’m a snob, at least about movies.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 904,144, an increase of 2,598 deaths over yesterday’s figure. These were the same figures reported yesterday, and so haven’t been updated. The reported world death toll is now 5,784,632, an increase of about 13,600 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 9 include:

This is the oldest racecourse still in operation. It’s about one mile (1.6 km) long:

  • 1775 – American Revolutionary War: The British Parliament declares Massachusetts in rebellion.
  • 1825 – After no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes in the US presidential election of 1824, the United States House of Representatives elects John Quincy Adams as 6th President of the United States in a contingent election.

A photo of JQA!

Davis was imprisoned for two years after the war, and then was pardoned:

  • 1893 – Verdi’s last opera, Falstaff premieres at La Scala, Milan.
  • 1895 – William G. Morgan creates a game called Mintonette, which soon comes to be referred to as volleyball.

Here’s the gym in Holyoke, MA where Morgan developed volleyball. I had no idea the game was invented in America:

McCarthy was finally brought down, and one of the men who helped, lawyer Joseph Welch, is shown here with McCarthy in 1954. Welch has an “I can’t believe this” look:

  • 1964 – The Beatles make their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing before a record-setting audience of 73 million viewers across the United States.

Here’s part of their performance:

Paige was a great pitcher, who finally played in the major leagues when his best days were long gone (he was 42). Here he is in 1932 with the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro League (I put an arrow pointing to Satchel):

His performance two years later:

The 1934 season was perhaps the best of Paige’s career, as he went 14–2 in league games while allowing 2.16 runs per game, recording 144 strikeouts, and giving up only 26 walks. On July 4, Paige threw his second no-hitter, this time against the Homestead Grays. He struck out 17, and only a first-inning walk to future Hall of Famer Buck Leonard and an error in the fourth inning prevented it from being a perfect game. Leonard, unnerved by the rising swoop of the ball, repeatedly asked the umpire to check the ball for scuffing. When the umpire removed one ball from play, Paige hollered, “You may as well thrown ’em all out ’cause they’re all gonna jump like that.”

  • 1971 – Apollo program: Apollo 14 returns to Earth after the third manned Moon landing.
  • 1991 – Dissolution of the Soviet Union: Voters in Lithuania vote for independence from the Soviet Union.
  • 2021 – Second impeachment trial of Donald Trump began.

Notables born on this day include:

The discoverer of the bacterium Rickettsia

  • 1874 – Amy Lowell, American poet, critic, and educator (d. 1925)
  • 1910 – Jacques Monod, French biochemist and geneticist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1976)

Monod, who won the prize in 1965 with Lwoff and Jacob for their studies in gene regulation:

  • 1930 – Garner Ted Armstrong, American evangelist and author (d. 2003)
  • 1940 – J. M. Coetzee, South African-Australian novelist, essayist, and linguist, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1942 – Carole King, American singer-songwriter and pianist

Here’s King in 1971 at the BBC concert, playing “You’ve got a friend” with her friend James Taylor. The BBC live concerts are some of the very best. What a trip back in time: this is half a century old, and a fantastic performance. JT has lost a bit of pelage since then.

  • 1944 – Alice Walker, American novelist, short story writer, and poet
  • 1945 – Mia Farrow, American actress, activist, and former fashion model

Those who encountered  their demise on February 9 include:

  • 1881 – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and philosopher (b. 1821)

I visited Dostoyevsky’s flat in 2011 (if you go to St. Petersburg, you must), and there you can see the cigarette case that his daughter inscribed on the day he died

Here’s a scandalous picture of Margaret in the tub with a tiara on her 29th birthday, photographed by her husband Anthony Armstrong-Jones:

  • 2021 – Chick Corea, American jazz composer (b. 1941)
  • 1966 – Sophie Tucker, Russian-born American singer (b. 1884)
  • 1981 – Bill Haley, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on patrol in the orchard:

Hili: Strange things are happening under the stairs.
A: What things?
Hili: I’m just in the process of checking the facts.
In Polish:
Hili: Dziwne rzeczy dzieją się pod schodami.
Ja: Jakie?
Hili: Właśnie jestem w trakcie sprawdzania faktów.
And little Kulka drinking from the tap:

From Not Another Science Cat Page: This is TRUE science!

From a friend who’s into weather but doesn’t understand this:

From both Barry and Leo

Titania’s back tweeting again. Here she touts an article on She Who Will Not Be Mentioned. It’s a pretty good piece on SWWNBM, too!

From Simon:

A heartbreaking story related to Masih by an Iranian woman, a tale involving an “honor stabbing.” All because this woman wanted to stay home and study for an exam, which would leave her alone in the house with her mother’s cousin (clearly a male).

From GInger K. I may have posted this before but so what? I LOVE the Northern Lights, though I’ve never seen them in person.

Tweets from Matthew. Here we have crested ducks, which are simply a mutation in the white form of the mallard (the “Pekin duck”).

You likely don’t know what the “Baldwin effect” is, but you can read about it here. It used to be touted as a refutation of neo-Darwinian evolution because some people thought it showed that environmentally acquired behavioral traits could be inherited through the DNA (i.e., “Lamarckian inheritance”). But it doesn’t show that. Richard explains below. Yay for ex-Muslims posting about evolution!

Matthew loves capybaras and I love ducks, so this is the perfect tweet for both of us—if you ignore the rodent’s farting, which appears to frighten one duckling! (Sound up.)

And to end, the last words of James Joyce. Was he referring to Finnegans Wake?

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

Loading ... Loading ...

*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

November 13, 2021 • 6:30 am

It’s Saturday, a Sabbath for felids, and the weekend is here on this chilly November 13, 2021: National Indian Pudding Day. To me, this uniquely American dessert is one of the best of the world’s treats, but you rarely find it. My favorite version used to be at the Durgin-Park restaurant in Boston, but, tragically, it went out of business a few years ago.  The pudding, made from cornmeal, molasses, butter, and spices, has a unique earthy flavor that comes from its ingredients. Not everyone likes it, but everyone should try it. A good recipe is here. It is best eaten warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top: the way Durgin-Park used to serve it. (I hear the pudding is still on offer at the nearby Union Oyster House). This is how it looks:


It’s also Actor’s Day (which actor?), Wine Tourism DaySadie Hawkins Day, and World Kindness Day. You will recall Sadie Hawkins Day if you’re old enough to remember the Li’l Abner comic strip, which depicted the annual day when, in a reversal of roles, the women of Dogpatch chase after the men:

News of the Day:

*As I expected (and hoped), a federal grand jury indicted Steve Bannon yesterday on two contempt of Congress charges. Can he avoid jail by giving in and testifying? Would he even do that, given that it would anger his pal Trump? Bannon is expected to turn himself in on Monday and perhaps appear in court later that day. From the NYT:

The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies in a matter that legal experts said was not settled law.

This refers to Bannon’s (and Trump’s) claims that their testimony and papers are protected by “executive privilege.” For a reader’s pessimistic analysis of the situation (i.e., nothing happens to Bannon), see yesterday’s comment by David Jorling.

*Perhaps we’ll see an end to the Kyle Rittenhouse trial very soon. Highlights: Rittenhouse’s dramatic breakdown on the stand, the admission of one of his victims that he (the victim) was already pointing a gun at Rittenhouse when the latter fired, and the repeated and heated clashes between the judge and the prosecution. I’m betting Rittenhouse will be found not guilty—if the judge doesn’t declare a mistrial before the verdict. Rittenhouse faces five felony charges (and one misdemeanor charge) that could land him in prison for life. Closing arguments start on Monday.

*I thought the headline below from the Washington Post was funny. Will each of the two companies be named “Johnson”? Click on screenshot to read. The company will split into a consumer division (Johnson, Jr.?) and the Big Daddy, a medical-products/pharmaceutical division (Johnson Senior).

*In his latest Weekly Dish column, Andrew Sullivan gives a number of narratives covered by the mainstream media that, he claims, were reported in a false and distorted way (one of them is the early report that Kyle Rittenhouse committed two unprovoked murders). What bothers him is that the narratives all exculpate the Left or buttress Left-wing sentiments.:

We all get things wrong. What makes this more worrying is simply that all these false narratives just happen to favor the interests of the left and the Democratic party. And corrections, when they occur, take up a fraction of the space of the original falsehoods. These are not randos tweeting false rumors. They are the established press.

. . . I still rely on the MSM for so much. I still read the NYT first thing in the morning. I don’t want to feel as if everything I read is basically tilted through wish-fulfillment, narrative-proving, and ideology. But with this kind of record, how can I not?

We need facts and objectivity more than ever. Trump showed that. What we got in the MSM was an over-reaction, a reflexive overreach to make the news fit the broader political fight. This is humanly understandable. It is professionally unacceptable. And someone has got to stop it.

*It appears to be big news that Britney Spears’s conservatorship, headed by her father, has ended, and she’s back in control of her life (her dad started the issue 14 years ago, citing Spears’s mental health problems) The streets outside the courtroom were packed and everyone cheered when the announcement was made. I’m puzzled why this is such big news, though. I know she was a music star years ago, but is that the sole reason? Or has this become some kind of symbolic human-rights issue? Perhaps if I were a fan I’d understand.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 761,354 an increase of 1,120 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,107,127, an increase of about 8,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 13 includes:

  • 1002 – English king Æthelred II orders the killing of all Danes in England, known today as the St. Brice’s Day massacre.
  • 1841 – James Braid first sees a demonstration of animal magnetism by Charles Lafontaine, which leads to his study of the subject he eventually calls hypnotism.
  • 1940 – Walt Disney‘s animated musical film Fantasia is first released, on the first night of a roadshow at New York’s Broadway Theatre.

“Fantasia” is a brilliant film. Here’s just a bit: Mickey as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”:

It’s a semiautomatic rifle that is now manufactured everywhere, and comes with 20- and 30- round magazines. The “47” in the name comes from the year that Mikhail Kalashnikov invented it. Wikipedia notes that about 15% of all the 500 million firearms in the world are in the Kalashnikov family. An early model:

Here are some scenes from that first World Cup:

It’s a beautiful spot and a sad one, bearing the names of 58,320 members of the military killed in Vietnam (these include eight women). I remember when young Maya Lin, then an undergraduate at Yale, submitted the winning design. Now she’s 62!  Here’s a photo; curiously, though I’ve been to D.C. many times (it was the only place before Chicago I thought of as “home,” I’ve never visited it).  I think it would upset me because every name represents a person who died in a war that achieved nothing.

  • 2001 – War on Terror: In the first such act since World War II, US President George W. Bush signs an executive order allowing military tribunals against foreigners suspected of connections to terrorist acts or planned acts on the United States.
  • 2015 – Islamic State operatives carry out a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, including suicide bombings, mass shootings and a hostage crisis. The terrorists kill 130 people, making it the deadliest attack in France since the Second World War.

Notables born on this day include:

Yes, he believed Genesis was literally true but also had metaphorical truth. If someone tells you he saw Genesis as a metaphor, write them off as theological chowderheads. He also believed in angels and was obsessed with classifying them.

Smith was the nephew of the Mormonism founder Joseph Smith. The nephew had six wives and 48 children (!), shown in the photo below from 1901.  Smith is the bearded sage in the middle:

This is the first time I’ve looked for a photo of Stevenson, and he looks pretty much as I imagined. He died of a vascular event on Samoa at age 44, and is buried on a mountain there. The second photo shows him in his house on Vailima, Samoa, which still stands as a Stevenson museum.

Kimura is regarded as the main founder of the “neutral theory” of population genetics, which describes what happens to gene variants when they are not affected by natural selection (it’s a “genetic drift” model). I met him once in Toronto in 1988 and got his autograph on his most famous book, The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution.  (I have a bunch of evolution books and letters that are signed, and some day I will give them away—but to whom?):

  • 1955 – Whoopi Goldberg, American actress, comedian, and talk show host

Her real name is Caryn Elaine Johnson, and she won an Oscar for best supporting actress in the movie “Ghost”.

  • 1969 – Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somalian-American activist and author

Those who said their last farewells on November 13 include:

  • 1868 – Gioachino Rossini, Italian pianist and composer (b. 1792)
  • 1974 – Karen Silkwood, American technician and activist (b. 1946)

Silkwood died under mysterious circumstances, perhaps connected with her attempts to report poor manufacturing practices in a Kerr-McGee nuclear fuel factory.  A photo is below, and then the trailer of the 1983 film “Silkwood,” which starred Meryl Streep as Silkwood and Cher as her friend.

  • 1994 – Motoo Kimura, Japanese biologist and geneticist (b. 1924)

He died on his 70th birthday. See above.

  • 2016 – Leon Russell, American singer-songwriter (b. 1942)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn Hili makes a pronouncement:

Hili: Nature is like a book.
A: Interesting?
Hili: It depends.
In Polish:
Hili: Natura jest jak książka.
Ja: Ciekawa?
Hili: A to różnie.
And a photo taken by Paulina of Szaron and Kulka cuddling:

A meme from Bruce:

From Nicole:

I love this contest; the answers are almost always clever. I remember one from years ago: “Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.” In the list below, I like “Pokemon” best.

A tweet from Yahweh:

From Anna. Apparently the American Mathematical Society has fractured because many people considered it too woke. The offspring society, at the link below (with a list of founders) is the Association for Mathematical Research. Here, “Dr. Abolish the Police” (wouldn’t you know?) demonizes the new anti-woke society.

From Barry; nice pet! (Sound up.)

From Simon. If I saw this sign I’d walk in and say, “I’d like a case of Covid, please.” Note the tweet is from Nate Silver.

From Luana; this is news to me.  “MAPs” are people attracted to minors. I guess they don’t seem themselves as “pedophiles” if they don’t act on their attraction, but I thought pedophile simply means the same thing as “MAP”. Look at the ages of the attractors in the second tweet.

Sound up for the first one:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one reminds me of the nightly foraging exodus of bats from under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas.

Speaking of bats, look at this adorable little guy nomming papaya! This is a wrinkle-faced bat from Central America.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

August 4, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the first Wednesday in August—August 4, 2021: National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. These are infinitely better than oatmeal cookies, which I sometimes mistake for chocolate chip cookies at parties or buffets. Usually you can tell the odious oatmeal cookies because they have raisins in them, but sometimes they disguise them by putting in chocolate chips.  I believe people are under the impression that oatmeal cookies are a healthy snack.

It’s also National White Wine Day, Assistance Dog Day, U.S. Coast Guard Day, Single Working Women’s Day, and Barack Obama Day (he was born on August 4, and is sixty years old today; see below). Wikipedia helpfully adds this:

Twitter users unofficially celebrated Obama Day on June 14, 2020, posting pictures of the former president, with some using the hashtag #AllBirthdaysMatter in response to All Lives Matter. June 14 is also Donald Trump’s birthday.

Today’s Google Doodle is about who can get vaccinated and where, tailored for where you live (yes, they know where you live). Click on screenshot:

News of the Day:

It’s now been 196 days since the Bidens started living in the White House. Where is the First Cat they promised us?  They even had a female moggie picked out who was tested for compatibility with their remaining dog. But there is no litter box, no scratching post, in the First Residence. We were conned! Why doesn’t somebody ask Jen Psaki about this?

New York governor Andrew Cuomo is in big trouble. According to a report by the New York State attorney general, Cuomo not only acted immorally towards multiple women, but also probably broke both state and federal laws. (The 165-page report is here.) A excerpt from the NYT:

The 165-page report said that Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, and his aides cultivated a toxic work culture in his office that was rife with fear and intimidation, and helped enable “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”

The report included at least two previously unreported allegations of sexual harassment from women who accused Mr. Cuomo of improperly touching them, including an unnamed female state trooper and an employee of an energy company. And it highlighted at least one instance in which Mr. Cuomo and his aides retaliated against one of the women who made her allegations public.

The NY state attorney general is now investigating (read “investigating possible charges”), and it looks like Cuomo, who was a golden boy early in the pandemic, might well end up in an orange jumpsuit. Cuomo is fighting back hard, denying every serious charge and asserting that he’s just a touchy-feely kind of guy. Well, read some of the testimony from the 11 complainants and see for yourself.

. . . and I’ve just heard that Biden has said that Cuomo should resign. So has the editorial board of the New York Times. Cuomo can fight, but he can’t fight his way out of this toaster. And if he resigns or is removed from office, the state will have its first woman governor, the present Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

Giving in to the more liberal members of the Democratic Congress, President Biden is now investigating whether there would be ways to extend the pandemic-induced moratorium on evictions, put in place by the CDC, that expired at the end of July. The administration has previously claimed it didn’t have the legal authority to do this unilaterally, based on an opinion by Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, who said that further extension is the responsibility of the Congress. But an extension measure would never pass the Senate given the 60-vote requirement to end a filibuster. This opens up a breach between Biden and members of his own party, so he’s been unable not just to reach across the aisle, but to others within his own section. (UPDATE: I just learned that the CDC has imposed another 60-day freeze on evictions, though the courts may declare that invalid.)

According to the CBC, there’s now talk of changing the name of British Columbia, for, after all, its name is partly derived from Christopher Columbus.

Robert Jago, a writer and consultant from the Kwantlen First Nation and the Nooksack Tribe, says any association with the Italian explorer, who is widely associated with the beginnings of the violent colonization of the Americas, is problematic.

“I think everyone knows this by now, but Christopher Columbus had some issues. Even in his day, he was seen as incredibly violent, genocidal,” Jago told guest host Angela Sterritt on CBC’s The Early Edition.

“To name a jurisdiction after this person is, in this day and age, not something we would do.”

A possible substitute name?

Jago says one possible name for the region, which he described in detail in a recent article for Canadian Geographic, is the name S’ólh Téméxw, pronounced “soul tow-mock.” It means “our land” or “our world” in Halkomelem, the language spoken by the Kwantlen people at Fort Langley, where B.C. was declared a colony in 1858.

I think they should choose another replacement name, for I’m pretty sure Canada will have to change the name of B.C. The article describes other Canadian names that have recently been changed for similar “problematic” reasons, including Dundas street in Toronto. (h/t Rick)

How many times have you bought a ticket online only to be slapped with hidden fees—not just the Ticketmaster fees but “service fees” and “order processing fees” and god knows what else. And that’s not just for tickets: it applies to phone bills and many other items with “hidden charges.” These are known as “drip fees”, and are the topic of a NYT op-ed called “Stop the Hidden Fee Rip-Off” by NYU attorney Max Sarinsky. It turns out that the Federal Trade Commission could stop this rip-off (most consumers just go ahead and pay the feed, assuming that if they’re in for a nickel, they’re in for a dime), but haven’t done squat. Now, however, the FTC is in the hands of Democrats, and agency chair Lina Khan might be ready to demand that full prices be shown upfront, before you begin paying. One can hope. . .

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 614,104, an increase of 371 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,260,635, an increase of about 10,300 over yesterday’s total.

News on this day is a bit thin, and that includes birthdays and deathdays. Stuff that happened on August 4 includes:

  • 1693 – Date traditionally ascribed to Dom Perignon‘s invention of champagne; it is not clear whether he actually invented champagne, however he has been credited as an innovator who developed the techniques used to perfect sparkling wine. Here’s Peignon’s gravestone in the church of Hautvillers, région Champagne.

It’s pretty clear that, in fact, Dom Perignon did not invent champagne, but rather a way to blend grapes before making it (champagne was originally an accident, a byproduct of incomplete fermentation). I once had a bottle of 15 year old Dom; it was very good, but not as good as I’d hoped.

  • 1873 – American Indian Wars: While protecting a railroad survey party in Montana, the United States 7th Cavalry, under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer clashes for the first time with the Cheyenne and Lakota people near the Tongue River; only one man on each side is killed.
  • 1892 – The father and stepmother of Lizzie Borden are found murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts home. She was tried and acquitted for the crimes a year later.

There’s little doubt that Borden did the deed, though she was acquitted. She continued to live in Fall River, though she was ostracized, for the rest of her life. Here’s a photo:

  • 1914 – In response to the German invasion of Belgium, Belgium and the British Empire declare war on Germany. The United States declares its neutrality.
  • 1944 – The Holocaust: A tip from a Dutch informer leads the Gestapo to a sealed-off area in an Amsterdam warehouse, where they find and arrest Jewish diarist Anne Frank, her family, and four others.

Here is the entrance to the “Secret Annexe” where Frank and her family lived for two years (1942-1944) before they were caught. It was up a flight of stairs hidden behind a bookshelf, and you can visit it in Amsterdam (be sure to reserve tickets well in advance; it’s become immensely popular place to visit). The only survivor of the war was the father, Otto Frank, who preserved the diary; Anne and her sister Margot almost certainly died of typhus or typhoid.

Here’s the FBI poster reporting them missing. They were killed by two carloads of Klan members, eight of whom were eventually convicted (one not until 2005).

A missing persons poster displays the photographs of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney and Michael Henry Schwerner after they disappeared in Mississippi in June 1964. It was later discovered that they were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.
  • 1984 – The Republic of Upper Volta changes its name to Burkina Faso.
  • 2020 – At least 220 people are killed and over 5,000 are wounded when 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate explodes in Beirut, Lebanon.

I’m sure you saw the explosion, which produced a visible shock wave and a mushroom-shaped cloud of gas, on television. They still haven’t held anyone responsible, but here’s a video of the explosion that concentrates on the science of ammonium nitrate and why access to it is restricted.

Notables born on this day include:

Died in a boating accident at age 29. “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

  • 1834 – John Venn, English mathematician and philosopher (d. 1923)

Yes, inventor of the Venn diagram, like this one:

Here’s one of my favorite early Armstrong songs, “Struttin’ with some barbecue” (great title), recorded in Chicago by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five on December 9, 1927. The song was written by Lil Hardin, shown below, a member of the group, the pianist, and Armstrong’s wife at the time. I love his laid back trumpet solos.

Obama is sixty today!

  • 1962 – Roger Clemens, American baseball player and actor
  • 1981 – Meghan Markle, American actress and humanitarian, and member of British Royal Family

Those who expired on August 4 include:

Here’s Andersen photographed in 1869, looking exactly as I imagined he would (I hadn’t seen a photo of him before). Lest you forget how prolific this man was, he wrote novels, plays, travelogues, and poems—and of course great fairy tales. Remember these?: “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Nightingale,” “The Steadfast Tin Soldier“, “The Red Shoes“, “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Little Match Girl,” and “Thumbelina.”

  • 1962 – Marilyn Monroe, American model and actress (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is acting like a cat:

Hili: These roses are not fresh anymore.
Andrjez: They need to be thrown away.
Hili: I can throw them on the floor.

In Polish:

Hili: Te róże tracą świeżość.
Ja: Trzeba je już wyrzucić.
Hili: Mogę je zrzucić na podłogę.

And here’s a photo by Paulina of Szaron and his BFF, little Kulka, snoozing together:

From Divy:

From Jean: A monkey playing with ducklings. Be sure to click on the arrow to watch the video. The ducklings are clearly imprinted on the primate, though. Where is their mom?

From Jesus of the Day:

Two from Titania:

Tweets from Simon (I found the second one):

From reader Tom, who says this: “I’m guessing you’ve already seen this, but as a lifelong Yankee fan from north Jersey this was definitely the best part of last night’s game, a brutal loss to the basement-dwelling Orioles.”

No, I hadn’t seen it, but it’s a nice cat and I hope these loose stadium cats find good homes. I always wonder what becomes of them when they’re caught.

Some “home truths” (what does that mean, anyway?) from reader Barry:

Tweets from Matthew, who’s now on “hols”.  First, Kangaroo Words!

Twain, of course, was an atheist:

At last some good news about Wally the Walrus, who lost his way badly and needs to get back to the Arctic. He seems to be heading that way. As the BBC notes in the link below:

Dan Jarvis from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), which has been monitoring the walrus, said a sighting was confirmed on Monday afternoon.

“We are really pleased it has worked out for the best,” he said.

The walrus, thought to be about four years old, has travelled about 2,500 miles (4,000km) along the coast of western Europe, including Spain, Wales and Cornwall since March.

Mr Jarvis said: “The best news would be that he continues to travel north under his own steam.

Where is Wally? Read the tweet:

Wally needs to be with other walruses. I’m glad he survived the heat.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

August 29, 2020 • 6:30 am

We’re rushing toward September: it’s Saturday, August 29, 2020. Actually, today (not yesterday, as I mistakenly reported) is National Chop Suey Day, but we’d best leave that execrable concoction behind. The real holidays today include Lemon Juice DayMore Herbs, Less Salt Day, and International Day Against Nuclear Tests.

News of the Day: The major news include a huge march on Washington for racial justice yesterday (the anniversary of Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech).

It was revealed that Jacob Blake, the man shot in the back in Kenosha (and paralyzed from the waist down), was shackled to his bed in the hospital.  The cops aver that it was because of his previous sexual-assault charge (one of the reasons the police went after him before the shooting), but does that matter for a man who can’t walk? A cop outside the room is sufficient.

I tweeted this sports news. It’s the end of a long and great era, though Barca still has to release Messi from his contract.

An article in the NYT about it:

According to the BBC, and confirmed by a statement on Rowling’s own website, J. K. Rowling has returned the Ripple of Hope award given her last year by the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights organization. Why?  Because Kerry Kennedy, President of the organization, said that  Rowling’s statements about trans women create “a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people.” Rowling’s response in her own statement is strong and uncompromising.

As I predicted and feared, but hoped would not happen, India is now the site of a furious outbreak of coronavirus: From the Washington Post:

It took more than five months for India to reach the bleak milestone of 1 million cases of the novel coronavirus.

The next million came in just 21 days. The third million was faster still: 16 days.

The increase in cases is unlikely to ebb anytime soon, experts say, as a galloping outbreak spreads to new parts of the country and political leaders continue to reopen the economy. This week, India recorded the highest one-day jump in new cases — more than 77,000 — anywhere in the world since the pandemic began.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 181,741, an increase of about 1000 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 836,456, an increase of about 5,500 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on August 29 includes:

  • 1756 – Frederick the Great attacks Saxony, beginning the Seven Years’ War in Europe.
  • 1786 – Shays’ Rebellion, an armed uprising of Massachusetts farmers, begins in response to high debt and tax burdens.
  • 1831 – Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction.
  • 1885 – Gottlieb Daimler patents the world’s first internal combustion motorcycle, the Reitwagen.
  • 1911 – Ishi, considered the last Native American to make contact with European Americans, emerges from the wilderness of northeastern California.

Ishi lived at the University of California at San Francisco for the rest of his life, which was five years. He was often ill as he had no immunity to diseases of non-native-Americans.  Here’s a short documentary on his life:

  • 1930 – The last 36 remaining inhabitants of St Kilda are voluntarily evacuated to other parts of Scotland.
  • 1949 – Soviet atomic bomb project: The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb, known as First Lightning or Joe 1, at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan.
  • 1966 – The Beatles perform their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
  • 1966 – Leading Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb is executed for plotting the assassination of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Qutb, a leader of the Muslim brotherhood, is an important figure in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, which traces the origin of Al Qaeda and the attack on the World Trade Center. (I highly recommend the book.) Wright starts his story on the rise of radical Islam with the life of Qutb, shown below on trial in 1966 for plotting the murder of Nasser.  Qutb had spent two years in the U.S., and was disgusted by our “salacious” culture, which helped radicalize him.

  • 1997 – Netflix is launched as an internet DVD rental service.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1780 – Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, French painter and illustrator (d. 1867)
  • 1915 – Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actress (d. 1982)
  • 1920 – Charlie Parker, American saxophonist and composer (d. 1955)

Here’s a rare video of Parker, showing Bird and Diz in 1951 playing “Hot House”:

  • 1923 – Richard Attenborough, English actor, director, and producer (d. 2014)
  • 1924 – Dinah Washington, American singer and pianist (d. 1963)
  • 1947 – Temple Grandin, American ethologist, academic, and author
  • 1959 – Chris Hadfield, Canadian colonel, pilot, and astronaut
  • 1967 – Neil Gorsuch, American judge

Those who passed on on August 29 include:

  • 1877 – Brigham Young, American religious leader, 2nd President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (b. 1801)
  • 1966 – Sayyid Qutb, Egyptian theorist, author, and poet (b. 1906)
  • 1975 – Éamon de Valera, Irish soldier and politician, 3rd President of Ireland (b. 1882)
  • 1981 – Lowell Thomas, American journalist and author (b. 1892)
  • 1982 – Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actress (b. 1915)

She died on her birthday (see above)

  • 1987 – Lee Marvin, American actor (b. 1924)
  • 2016 – Gene Wilder, American stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author (b. 1933

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, wokeness has made its way to Poland—and to the animals!

A: What are you gazing at?
Hili: The sparrows are quarreling about which one is more woke.
In Polish:
Ja: Czemu się tak przyglądasz?
Hili: Wróble się kłócą, który z nich jest bardziej przebudzony.

And Kulka decided to return to Andrzej’s desk and nap. She’s still very small, but growing fast.

From Leiter Reports, Brian Leiter’s website: “Julia Child little known guide to preparing Chat au vin” (h/t: Greg)

From Jesus of the Day: Yep, he turned 40 on August 26.

From Bad Cat Clothing. I’d totally be that student!

I made a (re)tweet:

A speech tweeted by Andrew Sullivan, from whom we’ll hear later today. It’s a powerful paean to peaceful (rather than violent) demonstrations.

From Simon: one of our profs, but not the Michael Kremer in the U of C news:

From Woody. I hope not all law enforcement in Kenosha is this bigoted and authoritarian!

Tweets from Matthew. Look at these leopards leap to their freedom!

Stoat outwits juvenile fox:

This is not bullshit at all—it’s the way things are supposed to be.

And this shows why the tweet above isn’t bullshit:


Friday: Hili dialogue

July 31, 2020 • 6:30 am

Well, we’ve almost made it through July: it’s July 31, 2020, and so on to August. It’s National Cotton Candy Day (I believe it’s called “candy floss’ in the UK), as well as Shredded Wheat Day, National Avocado Day, National Raspberry Cake Day, and National Talk in an Elevator Day (canceled this year).

Today’s colorful Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates Filipino artist Pactica Abad (1946-2004), famous for her stitched and padded canvases. She’s pictured below the Doodle with one of her works:

News of the Day: For a lift, read Helen Macdonald’s nice essay on swifts—birds that almost never touch down—in the New York Times. Macdonald wrote the excellent bestseller H is for Hawk.

Or, if you want to get angry, read the first tweet below, in which “President” Trump intimates that he might try to delay the election, something he’s not legally entitled to do, because of the phantom possibility of fake “voting by mail.” I also watched, for the first time in months, Trump’s “press conference” on the coronairus. It was full of lies and braggadocio, and was hard to watch. If you listen to the deranged head of the government, you’d think that the U.S. was the best country on Earth in dealing with the coronavirus.

You’ve probably heard that Herman Cain, who challenged Mitt Romney for the 2012 GOP candidacy, died of Covid-19 after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20. He didn’t wear a mask, but it’s not clear whether he contracted the virus at the rally.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 152,431, an increase of about 1200 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 673,583, an increase of about 6400 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 31 include:

  • 1492 – The Jews are expelled from Spain when the Alhambra Decree takes effect.
  • 1588 – The Spanish Armada is spotted off the coast of England.
  • 1658 – Aurangzeb is proclaimed Mughal emperor of India.
  • 1703 – Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet, but is pelted with flowers.
  • 1777 – The U.S. Second Continental Congress passes a resolution that the services of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette “be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general of the United States.”
  • 1790 – The first U.S. patent is issued, to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a potash process.

Here’s that patent:

  • 1941 – The Holocaust: Under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Nazi official Hermann Göring, orders SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired Final Solution of the Jewish question.”
  • 1970 – Black Tot Day: The last day of the officially sanctioned rum ration in the Royal Navy.

The rum ration was  . Here’s the “grog tub” of HMS Cavalier. Although the tot was abolished fifty years ago today (it had gone down to 1/8 of a pint), Wikipedia says it’s still issued sporadically: “Today, a tot (totty) of rum is still issued on special occasions, using an order to “splice the mainbrace“, which may only be given by the Queen, a member of the royal family or, on certain occasions, the admiralty board in the UK

Phelps won a total of 29 medals; Latynina’s record was 18.  Phelps won 13 gold medals in individual events and ten gold medals in team events, so his fully-decorated torso looks like this (he also won 3 silver and 2 bronze events). Phelps is now an eloquent activist for awareness and treatment of mental illness.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1800 – Friedrich Wöhler, German chemist and academic (d. 1882)
  • 1867 – S. S. Kresge, American businessman, founded Kmart (d. 1966)
  • 1912 – Milton Friedman, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2006)
  • 1919 – Primo Levi, Italian chemist and author (d. 1987)

Levi, a great writer, was imprisoned in Auschwitz for a year in 1944-1945 before he was liberated. He committed suicide (though some say his death was due to a fall) in 1987. Here he is in the 1950s.

  • 1951 – Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Australian tennis player
  • 1965 – J. K. Rowling, English author and film producer

Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on July 31 include:

  • 1784 – Denis Diderot, French philosopher and critic (b. 1713)
  • 1886 – Franz Liszt, Hungarian pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1811)
  • 1944 – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French pilot and poet (b. 1900)
  • 1966 – Bud Powell, American pianist (b. 1924)
  • 2012 – Gore Vidal, American novelist, screenwriter, and critic (b. 1925)
  • 2017 – Jeanne Moreau, French actress (b. 1928)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Elzbieta has brought treats for the cats, though Szaron is wary:

Szaron: What is it?
Hili: It’s scrumptious, try it, and it’s from a good hand. You need not be afraid.
In Polish:
Szaron: Co to jest?
Hili: Pyszne, spróbuj i z dobrej ręki, możesz się nie bać.

Some bonus pictures of the kitten Kulka.

Caption from Andrzej: A break in my work to pursue Kulka. (In Polish: Przerwa w pracy na pogoń za Kulką.)

Three cat memes today! Your cat wants you to know this:

From Nicole:

From Su:

I tweeted, but Matthew sent me the original Trump tweet:

A tweet I found on Titania’s site:

From reader Doug, an exploding meteor (see more here):

More insanity from Trump, via reader Ken. This isn’t even a dog whistle—it’s a locomotive whistle!

From reader Barry, a great video of various animals loving on humans. We’ve seen some of these before. I like the big cat ones best, but look at the expression on the face of that horse!

From Simon: a good way to shame a clumsy golfer. Sound up!

Tweets from Matthew. I’m not sure why anyone would WANT tires like this, but I’m sure they could do a better job 60 years later:

Poor Richard!

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

July 29, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Hump Day, except we had the hump in February and everything’s been downhill since then. It’s July 29, 2020:  National Lasagna Day. It’s also National Chicken Wing Day and International Tiger Day. 

Here, have a tiger (from One Green Planet):


News of the day: Take my word for it—the news is all bad. First, a 63-year-old woman, swimming 20 yards offshore in southern Maine, was fatally bitten by a great white shark—only the second shark attack in that state since 1837.

Trump continues to lie about the coronavirus, sharing a video touting the use of hydroxychloroquine as a palliative for the virus, a video which was removed by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  He also claimed that large portions of the country were “corona free.” I’d like to know where they are so I can travel there.

There’s a rise in viral infections in parts of Europe as well, including Spain, Germany, and Belgium.

The discovery of what appears to be van Gogh’s last painting (not “Wheatfield with Crows”) casts doubt on the recent hypothesis that he didn’t shoot himself but was shot by two young ruffians. Read the details here. Here’s the painting: “Tree Roots”:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 149,767, an increase of about 1300 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at,659,273, an increase of about 6700 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 29 includes:

  • 1565 – The widowed Mary, Queen of Scots marries Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Duke of Albany, at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • 1567 – The infant James VI is crowned King of Scotland at Stirling.
  • 1818 – French physicist Augustin Fresnel submits his prizewinning “Memoir on the Diffraction of Light”, precisely accounting for the limited extent to which light spreads into shadows, and thereby demolishing the oldest objection to the wave theory of light.
  • 1836 – Inauguration of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
  • 1921 – Adolf Hitler becomes leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
  • 1948 – Olympic Games: The Games of the XIV Olympiad: After a hiatus of 12 years caused by World War II, the first Summer Olympics to be held since the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, open in London.
  • 1973 – Greeks vote to abolish the monarchy, beginning the first period of the Metapolitefsi.
  • 1976 – In New York City, David Berkowitz (a.k.a. the “Son of Sam”) kills one person and seriously wounds another in the first of a series of attacks.

Berkowitz who killed six and wounded seven, is serving three consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences in the Attica Supermax Prison. Amazingly, he was eligible for parole in 2003, though he’ll never get out. Here he is:

Al Aaronson/NY Daily News/Getty

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1805 – Alexis de Tocqueville, French historian and philosopher (d. 1859)
  • 1869 – Booth Tarkington, American novelist and dramatist (d. 1946)
  • 1883 – Benito Mussolini, Italian fascist revolutionary and politician, 27th Prime Minister of Italy (d. 1945)
  • 1898 – Isidor Isaac Rabi, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize Laureate (d. 1988)
  • 1905 – Clara Bow, American actress (d. 1965)

Here’s “the It girl,” the biggest sex symbol of the Roaring Twenties:

Those who started playing the harp on July 29 include:

See above for some news of van Gogh. Here’s one of my favorite of his paintings: “Noon, Rest from Work” (a copy from Millet):

. . . and the original:



  • 1974 – Cass Elliot, American singer (b. 1941)
  • 1979 – Herbert Marcuse, German sociologist and philosopher (b. 1898)
  • 1994 – Dorothy Hodgkin, Egyptian-English biochemist and biophysicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1910)

Here are two headlines from British papers when she won the Prize.  How things have changed! Crikey, as if “wife” were her distinguishing characteristic. Would they have said, “Nobel prize for a husband from Oxford”?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili read the news today, oh boy:

Hili: Did you read the morning papers?
A: Yes.
Hili: Irritating. Bad news and bad journalism.
In Polish:
Hili: Czytałeś już poranną prasę?
Ja: Tak.
Hili: Irytujące, Złe wiadomości i złe dziennikarstwo.

And you get a treat today: six photos of the new kitten Kulka, who still weighs less than half a kilo (one pound). And she looks pretty much like baby Hili did.

Caption:  This little monster is everywhere. (In Polish: Ten mały potwór jest wszędzie.)

Kulka and Szaron

And Hili as a kitten:

An exchange from reader Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Bad Cat Clothing, a handy fix:

A tweet from Titania:

A tweet from Simon:

From cesar: Nikole Hannah-Jones better decide whether The 1619 Project is history or not history:

From reader Barry. This is adorable; does anybody know the lizard species?

From reader Ken, who says, “Way to stay classy, Donald!” Indeed.

Tweets from Matthew. Eleven? I had 23 this year!

Ducks 1, Pigeon -10:

Two antlion larvae making their cocoons.

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

July 27, 2020 • 6:30 am

Well, here we are back the start of the week:  n = n + 1 on Monday, July 27, 2020. Is anyone dispirited like me, or is everyone ebullient? If so, why? At least we have lots of cat pictures today: all of the Polish cats including Hili, Szaron, Leon, and the tiny new kitten Kulka.

Foodimentary says that it’s National Scotch Day, though I’m not sure Scotch is a food, but make mine a well-aged Springbank. It’s also National Creme Brulée Day (another overrated dessert in the flan family), National Chicken Finger Day (I’ve never had one), and Bagpipe Appreciation Day. In North Korea it’s Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War, marking the signing of the Korean Armistice agreement in 1953 (we’re still technically at war with the DPRK), and in the US it’s National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day.

News of the Day: There are renewed calls to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, as it’s named after a Confederate general and a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. Normally I’d favor the renaming (one suggestion is to rename it the John Lewis Bridge), but the old name is so imbued with history that I think it should stay. The bridge is the site of “Bloody Sunday”—actually three Sundays in 1965 on which civil rights activists tried to march from Selma to Montgomery and were attacked by police. It was the sight of that police brutality that helped propel passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The contrast between the segregationism embodied in the bridge’s name and its role in furthering civil rights suggests that the name should stay not as a memorial to the Confederacy, but to the great struggle for civil rights.

And there was this: John Lewis’s body ferried in a caisson over the bridge where, 55 years ago, police fractured his skull with a billy club.

The name is important here. If it’s renamed, the letters should nevertheless stay.

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he will not vote to confirm any new Supreme Court nominees unless they vow to overturn Roe v. Wade. Although there are no Court openings in the offing, there are rumors that Clarence Thomas could retire, and of course there’s always RBG’s health.  But what about not voting on a President’s nominees in an election year, a Republican strategy that killed Obama’s nominee? Mitch McConnell pulls a 180:

Although no vacancy is imminent, White House officials and some top Republicans have privately discussed the possibility that Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative appointed by George H.W. Bush, could retire.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked then-President Barack Obama from making an election-year appointment to the Supreme Court in 2016. He denied Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a confirmation hearing, saying the next president should make the choice.

But McConnell has said he would push through a Trump nominee this year, should an opening occur. The difference from 2016, he maintains, is that now the same political party controls the White House and Senate.

How is that relevant?

The novel To Kill a Mockingbird is finally getting canceled, including in this piece in the Washington Post, which says that the novel is still “reinforcing and normalizing a culture of oppression.” But what are the truths about white people that, according to author Errin Haines, the novel tells? That white folks are all racist, imbued with privilege, perpetrators of systemic racism, and unwilling to lift a finger to help people of color. This is a shameful piece of propaganda by the Post.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 146,754, an increase of about 400 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 648,465, an increase of about 4400 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 27 include:

  • 1299 – According to Edward Gibbon, Osman I invades the territory of Nicomedia for the first time, usually considered to be the founding day of the Ottoman state.
  • 1794 – French Revolution: Maximilien Robespierre is arrested after encouraging the execution of more than 17,000 “enemies of the Revolution”.
  • 1866 – The first permanent transatlantic telegraph cable is successfully completed, stretching from Valentia Island, Ireland, to Heart’s ContentNewfoundland.

It still amazes me that several thousand miles of cable can be strung between continents without breaking it. But it was done. Here’s a painting of the landing of the cable:

(From Wikipedia): Landing of the Atlantic Cable of 1866, Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, by Robert Charles Dudley, 1866.

According to this biography, which I read recently, van Gogh did not shoot himself, but was shot by a rowdy kid in his village. Read the appendix to see the evidence, which I found pretty convincing.

  • 1919 – The Chicago Race Riot erupts after a racial incident occurred on a South Side beach, leading to 38 fatalities and 537 injuries over a five-day period.

The riots began when a group of black men entered a segregated area of the 29th Street Beach. Things mushroomed from there. Here are two pictures from Wikipedia with its captions:

A fifth picture from the series ; an African American man assaulted with stones during the Chicago Race Riot.[34] A subsequent 6th[1] and 7th[2] pictures show the arrival of police officers and the victim.
A white gang looking for African Americans during the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. This and a subsequent picture at The Crisis Magazine 1919 Vol 18 No. 6 is part of a series of the Chicago race riots of 1919.

Banting, along with John Macleod, won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1923. Charles Best, who co-discovered the hormone, should also have been honored but wasn’t. Best did give him half of his share of the Prize.

  • 1953 – Cessation of hostilities is achieved in the Korean War when the United States, China, and North Korea sign an armistice agreement. Syngman Rhee, President of South Korea, refuses to sign but pledges to observe the armistice.
  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes 27 to 11 to recommend the first article of impeachment (for obstruction of justice) against President Richard Nixon.
  • 1987 – RMS Titanic Inc. begins the first expedited salvage of wreckage of the RMS Titanic.

Some of the artifacts have been auctioned off, including this one, which looks to me like a teapot:

Most of us remember that Richard Jewell was falsely accused of the bombing, which killed one person. Later it was found that Eric Rudolph did the deed, along with other bombings, and Rudolph is serving four consecutive life sentences in a Supermax prison.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1768 – Charlotte Corday, French assassin of Jean-Paul Marat (d. 1793)
  • 1870 – Hilaire Belloc, French-born British writer and historian (d. 1953)
  • 1881 – Hans Fischer, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1945)
  • 1905 – Leo Durocher, American baseball player and manager (d. 1991)
  • 1939 – William Eggleston, American photographer and academic

Eggleston, who owns 300 Leica cameras, was a master at color landscape photography, though the landscapes are urban, like this one:

Here’s a 7.5-minute video of A-Rod’s career highlights. He’s not in the Hall of Fame, perhaps because he used performance-enhancing steroids for a time and was suspended from baseball for a year.

Those who conked on July 27 include:

  • 1946 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, and playwright (b. 1874)
  • 1980 – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iranian king (b. 1919)
  • 2003 – Bob Hope, English-American actor, comedian, television personality, and businessman (b. 1903)
  • 2017 – Sam Shepard, American playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, and director (b.1943)

Here’s Shepard in Terrence Malick’s great film “Days of Heaven” (1978), one of the most beautiful movies ever photographed. This is the scene where locusts take over the farm:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, outside, sees Szaron, inside, napping on her blanket:

Hili: What will it come to?
A: I don’t understand.
Hili: This cultural appropriation.
In Polish:
Hili: Dokąd to dojdzie?
Ja: Nie rozumiem.
Hili: To kulturowe zawłaszczenie.

Upstairs, Paulina plays with the new kittten Kulka, who apparently is now a permanent resident:

Caption: Lady with a fast escaping kitten.

In Polish: Dama z szybko uciekającym małym kotem.

When I was told that Kulka was a fearless kitten, and climbed the lilac bush up to the second floor of the house, I demanded pictures. Paulina obliged with these four.  Kulka weights only half a kilo (one pound!):

Caption: Photos taken by Paulina (on order from Chicago). (In Polish: Zdjęcia zrobione przez Paulinę [na zamówienie z Chicago]). 

And nearby, Leon bewails the new week:

Leon: Monday again?

In Polish: Znów poniedziałek?

A groaner from Bruce:

Two from Jesus of the Day:

From Simon: the world’s best dad:

Tweets from Matthew. First, Duckling Rush Hour at Marsh Farm:

. . . and an adorable kitten breakfast. Sound up to hear the good mews:

A tweet from Matthew showing how Gosling, Wilkins, and Franklin took the photos that helped show that DNA was a double helix. Condoms and paper clips are essential.

More examples of cancel culture. And they didn’t even include Rebecca Tuvel:

Another tweet from Matthew showing a durable Frenchwoman:

Okay, what are these rabbits doing? Mating? Fighting? Or playing?

A monument to Donald Trump in Northern Ireland:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

July 25, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s the weekend, and Sabbath for all Jewish humans and animals (like my ducks): it’s July 25, 2020, and National Hot Fudge Sundae Day. May I recommend Margie’s Candies in Chicago (menu here)? Here’s their famous turtle sundae, which comes with a generous pour-your-own pitcher of their luscious homemade hot fudge. Composition: “two scoops of ice cream (flavors of your choice), caramel, a side of fudge, whipped cream, a wafer cookie, peanuts, a cherry, and a turtle (the candy) on top.”

It’s also National Culinarians Day, National Wine and Cheese Day, and National Day of the American Cowboy. It’s also the 100th birthday of Rosalind Franklin (she died of cancer in 1958); Matthew has promised us a short piece on her and her work for later today.

News of the Day: Some good news: yesterday, by a 5-4 vote (with Roberts again joining the liberals), the Supreme Court rejected the application of a Nevada church to be exempt from pandemic restrictions and attendance limits. Hang in there, RBG!

According to CNN, the pandemic has driven ice cream sales up and deodorant and soap sales down, meaning people are getting fat and smelly. The good news is that few people are nearby to see the increased girth or sniff the odiferous bodies.

Big news: a line of undergarments called “Namastay put” has been ditched after an offended woman said that the name was cultural appropriation. But the offended one wasn’t placated, for the company neither acknowledges nor apologized for its transgression. These days, it’s not enough to get what you want; you must also humiliate your enemy.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 145,376, an increase of about 1100 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 637,159, an increase of about 4000 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 25 includes:

  • 1603 – James VI of Scotland is crowned king of England (James I of England), bringing the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland into personal union. Political union would occur in 1707.
  • 1788 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completes his Symphony No. 40 in G minor (K550).
  • 1797 – Horatio Nelson loses more than 300 men and his right arm during the failed conquest attempt of Tenerife (Spain).
  • 1853 – Joaquin Murrieta, the famous California bandit known as the “Robin Hood of El Dorado”, is killed.
  • 1898 – In the Puerto Rican Campaign, the United States seizes Puerto Rico from Spain.
  • 1909 – Louis Blériot makes the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air machine from Calais to Dover, England, United Kingdom in 37 minutes.

Here are two photos from Wikipedia: Blériot starting the engines and then landing in Dover:

  • 1956 – Forty-five miles south of Nantucket Island, the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria collides with the MS Stockholm in heavy fog and sinks the next day, killing 51.

A photo from Wikipedia, captioned “Harry Trask’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Andrea Doria minutes before she sank.”

  • 1965 – Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, signaling a major change in folk and rock music.

Here’s the moment in which he “went electric”. You can hear the boos and objections:

Of course you’ll want to see that photo, which excited everyone (aliens!), but later photos (below) showed that it was an artifact of poor resolution. There is no “face”:

Here’s Brown then and now (she’s 42 today):

  • 1984 – Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to perform a space walk.
  • 2000 – Concorde Air France Flight 4590 crashes at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, killing 113 people.
  • 2010 – WikiLeaks publishes classified documents about the War in Afghanistan, one of the largest leaks in U.S. military history.
  • 2019 – National extreme heat records set this day in the UK, Belgium and Germany during the July 2019 European heat wave.

Here are the maximum temperatures in Europe (Celsius) on July 25 of last year. Look at Northern France!

Notables born on this day include two great artists:

  • 1844 – Thomas Eakins, American painter, sculptor, and photographer (d. 1916)

Here’s Eakins’s “The Agnew Clinic” (1889):

I love Parrish. Here’s a great illustration for Collier’s: “The Lantern Bearers”:

  • 1894 – Walter Brennan, American actor (d. 1974)
  • 1902 – Eric Hoffer, American philosopher and author (d. 1983)
  • 1906 – Johnny Hodges, American saxophonist and clarinet player (d. 1970)
  • 1920 – Rosalind Franklin, English biophysicist, chemist, and academic (d. 1958) [see above]
  • 1935 – Adnan Khashoggi, Saudi Arabian businessman (d. 2017)
  • 1948 – Steve Goodman, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1984)

Here’s my favorite Steve Goodman song (written by Mike Smith), “The Dutchman”:

  • 1954 – Walter Payton, American football player and race car driver (d. 1999)

Those who went to God on July 25 were few, and include these two:

  • 1834 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English philosopher, poet, and critic (b. 1772)
  • 2008 – Randy Pausch, American computer scientist and educator (b. 1960)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Malgorzata explains Hili’s exchange with Andrzej:

Hili asks a question about the sense/meaning of doing one thing instead of something else. It’s a question equally “deep” as the question, “What’s the meaning of life?” As there is no good answer to such questions, Andrzej’s answer is another way of saying: “Give me a break!”

Hili: What is the sense of sitting in this place and not in any other?
A: It depends on whether you look at this question from a philosophical perspective or a theological one.
In Polish:
Hili: Jaki jest sens siedzenia w tym miejscu, a nie w innym?
Ja: To zależy, czy spojrzymy na tę kwestię z filozoficznego punktu widzenia, czy z teologicznego.
Kulka, the new kitten, is now sleeping and cuddling with Szaron upstairs. It’s still not clear if Kulka’s original owners will reclaim her, but I hope not. LOOK AT THAT SWEET PICTURE (taken by Paulina):


From Facebook. Get it?

The Great Agnostic had a whiskey named after him! Note the Ingersollian prose on the label (h/t: Gregory James): Given that Ingersoll had publicly pronounced against the production and consumption of whiskey, this label is shrouded in mystery.

A meme from reader Bruce:

I tweeted, but the original official Olympics-site tweet was deleted. Matthew sent me both a screenshot of what they took down and Joanne Bell’s righteously angry tweet.

I hadn’t heard Trump talking about his cognition test (he did FANTASTIC, of course), but here’s Sarah Cooper mouthing his words:

From Simon, a tweet about writing new academic courses. He noted, “My postdoc advisor taught gross anatomy to med students. Always said year to year changes were essentially zero.”

From reader Barry, who said, “How is this not child abuse?” Note, it is, but it’s in the name of JEEEBUS.

Tweets from Matthew. (Note: I am not vouching for the veracity of the assertion below.)

I love this irascible moose! Anyone with a mower like that deserves to have it stomped by a moose.

This is a brilliant insight:

Duckling season’s a little late in Saskatchewan:

And some Trump-mocking to finish: