Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 18, 2022 • 7:00 am


Posting will be lighter today as I have my semiannual tooth cleaning appointment, and it’s downtown.

Greetings on the cruelest day: Tuesday, January 18, 2022: National Peking Duck Day. Not only is that cultural appropriation, but it’s DUCK! I do not eat my friends.  It’s also Rid the World of Fad Diet and Gimmicks Day, Printing Ink Day, Thesaurus Day, and Winnie the Pooh Day (A. A. Milne was born on this day in 1882). The worst thing that ever happened to Milne’s stories is that they were bought by Disney, and the Disney cartoon didn’t even come close to the splendor of Milne’s original. Milne’s stories also included the best drawing of my spirit animal, Eeyore, who can now be portrayed since the Milne copyright just expired:

EEYORE’S NEW HOME! (Colorized)

Here are the original stuffed animals on which Milne modeled his stories. They were the toys of his son, Christopher Robin Milne, and can be seen in the New York Public Library.

Caption from Wikipedia; arrows are mine to the original Pooh bear and, of course, Eeyore.

Original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwise from bottom left: Tigger, Kanga, Edward Bear (“Winnie-the-Pooh”), Eeyore, and Piglet. Roo was lost long ago.

Wine of the Day: This garnacha from Spain (“garnacha” = “grenache”) is from 2019, and with good ratings and a paltry $8 price tag, I bought five bottles.

Here’s the review from Robert Parker’s site (he gives it a 90–an excellent score for such an inexpensive wine):

The 2019 Evodia is pure Garnacha from old head-pruned vines in the Sierra Santa Cruz in Calatayud. It fermented with around 20% full clusters in concrete and matured mostly in concrete with just 20% of the blend put in used oak barrels for three months. There is a component that matured in concrete egg that I was able to taste separately that seems to bring a touch of freshness to the final blend, something welcomed in a warm year like 2019, which seems like a fresher version of 2017, when the wines achieved quite good ripeness. The nose opens up nicely in the glass and is quite aromatic and floral, exuberant, with a heady touch of ripe fruit. It’s young and tasty, tender and pleasant to drink, with a forward personality. A real bargain. I hope there are more wines like this in Aragon, where the wealth of Garnacha vineyards would make it possible quite easily.

And if that doesn’t make you want to buy it, read Jeb Dunnuck’s review (he’s also a critical rater). Emphasis is mine:

Based on 100% Garnacha, the 2019 Evodia is a killer value that delivers incredible Garnacha flair at a crazy good price. Kirsch, blackberry, acacia flower, violet, and sandalwood notes give way to a medium to full-bodied, seamless, beautifully layered wine with fabulous tannins, no hard edges, and a great, great finish. This is the finest wine at this price point in the world. 

Coming from Dunnuck, that’s both high praise and likely to be accurate.

I have no idea how it will age; I may keep the last bottle around for a few years. It was indeed excellent (not great as in Petrus ’61 “great”, but you don’t get that kind of “great” for $8), with peppery and vegetal overtones along with the ripe fruit. It’s not overly tannic nor sweet.

I had it with chicken thighs, rice, and green beans, and it went very well. Indeed, it could be used as a general house red to go with almost everything that ain’t fish. I recommend this highly because of its high quality/price ratio. If you see it around $8, get some!

News of the Day:

Reader Avis in New Mexico found MY license plate (below)! Not only that, but she said that she risked her neck to take the picture—while she was driving. Now if someone can wring some significance out of “916” I’ll be delighted (it does read the same way upside down).

*Who betrayed Anne Frank and her family to the Germans? An article in the BBC did due diligence and came up with someone having high priors  (h/t Divy):

A team including an ex-FBI agent said Arnold van den Bergh, a Jewish figure in Amsterdam, probably “gave up” the Franks to save his own family.

The team, made up of historians and other experts, spent six years using modern investigative techniques to crack the “cold case”. That included using computer algorithms to search for connections between many different people, something that would have taken humans thousands of hours.

Van den Bergh had been a member of Amsterdam’s Jewish Council, a body forced to implement Nazi policy in Jewish areas. It was disbanded in 1943, and its members were dispatched to concentration camps.

But the team found that van den Bergh was not sent to a camp, and was instead living in Amsterdam as normal at the time. There was also a suggestion that a member of the Jewish Council had been feeding the Nazis information.

“When van den Bergh lost all his series of protections exempting him from having to go to the camps, he had to provide something valuable to the Nazis that he’s had contact with to let him and his wife at that time stay safe,” former FBI agent Vince Pankoke told CBS 60 Minutes.

The team said it had struggled with the revelation that another Jewish person was probably the betrayer. But it also found evidence suggesting Otto Frank, Anne’s father, may himself have known that and kept it secret.

In the files of a previous investigator, they found a copy of an anonymous note sent to Otto Frank identifying Arnold van den Bergh as his betrayer.

*Curiously, as I was reading the NYT right after writing this, I see that there’s a new book about the Anne Frank betrayal issue, which the reviewer calls “important’ and “a strong new lead.”

*I was stunned to find on the Washington Post front page (e-page) two articles pretty critical of Biden and the Democrats. I won’t reprise them, but I will cite them for you:

a.) “Democrats are being dragged down by their discontent.” A disturbing piece by Paul Waldman.

b.) Headline article at top left: “The left dreamed of remaking America. Now it stares into the abyss as Biden’s plans wither.”

We have to come up with some good Democratic candidates for 2024. Biden will be too old and Harris hasn’t done much, but who has? I am very worried that Trump will take the reins again. As for the Congress this fall, I’m already assuming that the Democrats will lose both houses. (A pessimist is never disappointed.)

Up north at the Toronto Star, Bernie Farber, described as “former CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress and chair of the Canadian AntiHate Network”, talks some sense to the American libereal media, just now coming around to accepting the facts about the hostage situation in Texas (h/t Claudia):

Why is antisemitism so hard to believe, even when it stares us straight in the face? Nowhere is this more obvious than in this past weekend’s events in Colleyville, Tex. It was in this tiny Dallas suburb where an international terrorist chose to invade the town’s tiny synagogue demanding the release of a fellow terrorist, a woman associated with al Qaeda being held in a nearby federal prison.

Surely there were more significant targets. Large department stores, government and municipal buildings, but this extremist honed in on a small Jewish house of worship, where only a sprinkling of congregants were in attendance due to COVID restrictions. Indeed, as he burst into the small sanctuary the service itself was being live streamed. Many congregants following the services at home were horrified with what played out on their screens.

The banal explanation by the FBI following the safe release of all the hostages that in fact the storming of the Beth Israel House of Worship “ … was not related to the Jewish community …” is frankly mind-boggling. The terrorist was trying to free a fellow extremist whose views on Israel and the Jewish people leaped over the line of anti-Israelism to Jew hatred.

The imprisoned fellow terrorist, Aafia Siddiqui, charged with attacking American servicemen as an al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan, was a bitter antisemite. When she was captured her first words were that the case against her was a “Jewish conspiracy.”

. . . Are we to believe that a fellow al Qaeda terrorist determined to free Siddiqui would be unaware of her virulent Jew hatred? Are we to accept the word of the FBI that the extremist who stormed the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath had no idea who was in the building and in fact that it was a Jewish house of worship?

. . . This time the small group of Jews in that Texas synagogue were lucky. Next time — and there will be a next time — perhaps not. Antisemitism is a clear and present danger that can no longer be simply explained away.

Yes, we were asked to accept that, and the fact that we were expected to swallow that hokum shows how deep the rot of anti-Semitism has infected America. I’m not sure how vigorously Biden has decried anti-Semitism in the past two days, but there’s virtually nothing coming from the so-called “progressive” Democrats. But what do you expect when “anti-Zionism” is a plank of that group?

*The Wall Street Journal has a good article about how to use a password manager to stop using the same password over and over again (yes, we all do that), which exposes us to data breaches. To find out if you’ve been subject to a breach, read below, and then do what author Nicole Nguyen recommends in her article:

To find out if your credentials are exposed, plug your email address into Haveibeenpwned.com, a website by security expert Troy Hunt, to reveal which breaches contained your data. It doesn’t ask for your passwords (and you shouldn’t give them out to random sites anyway!).

You’re not gonna like the results (well, at least I didn’t). There’s more:

Hackers commonly employ an attack called “credential stuffing”: They take usernames and passwords leaked from one breach and enter them at other sites in the hope that people reused them.

This is why security experts always say don’t reuse passwords, especially those for important logins like your bank, your email and your work accounts. But it also means you’ll quickly end up with more passwords than you can remember.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 850,750 an increase of 1,961 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,565,445, an increase of about 6,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 18 includes:

  • 1701 – Frederick I crowns himself King of Prussia in Königsberg.
  • 1778 – James Cook is the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he names the “Sandwich Islands”.
  • 1788 – The first elements of the First Fleet carrying 736 convicts from Great Britain to Australia arrive at Botany Bay.

A lithograph from Wikipedia, labeled “the First Fleet entering Port Jackson, 26 January 1788, by Edmund Le Bihan”:

  • 1871 – Wilhelm I of Germany is proclaimed Kaiser Wilhelm in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles (France) towards the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Wilhelm already had the title of German Emperor since the constitution of 1 January 1871, but he had hesitated to accept the title.
  • 1911 – Eugene B. Ely lands on the deck of the USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay, the first time an aircraft landed on a ship.

Here are genuine photos of the takeoff and landing:

  • 1943 – Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: The first uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.
  • 1967 – Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler”, is convicted of numerous crimes and is sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • 1977 – Scientists identify a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of the mysterious Legionnaires’ disease.
  • 1981 – Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield parachute off a Houston skyscraper, becoming the first two people to BASE jump from objects in all four categories: buildings, antennae, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).

Sadly, I can’t find a video of any of these jumps, but here’s a photo of a participant:

From Wikipedia:

James Francis Thorpe (Sac and Fox (Sauk): Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as “Bright Path”; May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won two Olympic gold medals in the 1912 Summer Olympics (one in classic pentathlon and the other in decathlon). He also played American football (collegiate and professional), professional baseball, and basketball.

He lost his Olympic titles after it was found he had been paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the contemporary amateurism rules. In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) restored his Olympic medals with replicas, after ruling that the decision to strip him of his medals fell outside of the required 30 days. Thorpe is to date listed as co-champion in both the decathlon and pentathlon events according to official IOC records.

Here he is, a great athlete at the 1912 Olympics. After sports, his life was rough, and even when he was playing his contests were often billed as “Indians against whites”. He died in poverty.


  • 1990 – Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is arrested for drug possession in an FBI sting.
  • 1993 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is officially observed for the first time in all 50 US states.
  • 2008 – The Euphronios Krater is unveiled in Rome after being returned to Italy by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Krater is a vessel used for mixing wine and water. This one was looted from an Etruscan tomb and sold to the Met in 1972.  It’s back where it belongs now, and here are a few words about it:

The Euphronios Krater (or Sarpedon Krater) is an ancient Greek terra cotta calyx-krater, a bowl used for mixing wine with water. Created around the year 515 BC, it is the only complete example of the surviving 27 vases painted by the renowned Euphronios and is considered one of the finest Greek vase artifacts in existence. Part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972 to 2008, the vase was repatriated to Italy under an agreement negotiated in February 2006, and it is now in the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Cerveteri as part of a strategy of returning stolen works of art to their place of origin

Here are both “sides”:

How do we know the artist? He was one of the very first artists in history to sign his work, and he also had a distinctive style. Here’s a piece with his signature:


Notables born on this day include:

  • 1779 – Peter Mark Roget, English physician, lexicographer, and theologian (d. 1869)
  • 1782 – Daniel Webster, American lawyer and politician, 14th United States Secretary of State (d. 1852)

Webster (he looks mean):

Ehrenfest was a great friend of Einstein and mentor of many famous physicists, including Heisenberg, Fermi, and Dirac. A depressive, he was only 53 when he shot his son (who had Down Syndrome) to death and then killed himself. Here he is in 1910.

Here are Milne, Christopher Robin, and Pooh Bear, 1926!


  • 1904 – Cary Grant, English-American actor (d. 1986)

Real name: Archibald Alec Leach. “Archie Leach” wasn’t a good name for an actor back then. . . .

  • 1911 – Danny Kaye, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 1987)
  • 1955 – Kevin Costner, American actor, director, and producer

Those who went West on January 18 include:

  • 1862 – John Tyler, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 10th President of the United States (b. 1790)
  • 1878 – Antoine César Becquerel, French physicist and academic (b. 1788)
  • 1936 – Rudyard Kipling, English author and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865)

An old chestnut. At a dinner party:

Guest 1: “Do you like Kipling?”
Gust 2: “I don’t know; I’ve never kippled.

Real name: Jerome Lester Horwitz. Here’s his tombstone:

Read his travel book In Patagonia. 

  • 2016 – Glenn Frey, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (b. 1948)

Here’s a compendium of clips of Frey’s songs. He and Don Henley wrote most of the Eagles’ hits.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is upset. Malgorzata explains: “Hili likes to hide on the windowsill behind the curtain when it’s closed. She is always hissing or meowing when we open the curtain to see whether she is there.”

Hili: I have to tell you something.
A: What?
Hili: You are not to peek behind the curtain.
In Polish:
Hili: Muszę ci coś powiedzieć.
Ja: Co takiego?
Hili: Że nie masz tu zaglądać za firankę.

Paulina photographed little Kulka in the snow:

From Facebook:

From Simon:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Titania:

From Barry, who comments, “Oh, you want a little taste? Here you go.” Is this unusual behavior from a cat? It sure looks like it to me. (Though I don’t understand what the Bill Murray comment is all about.)

Neither do I!

From cesar, who notes, “This is what I think the Art Institute will bring about after the re-hiring and training of new docents……”

Whatever it is, it’s lunacy. Second tweet: Hogarth Wokeified!

From Simon. Make sure the sound is up to hear Elvis go Bollywood:

Tweets from Matthew. If you read this site, you should get the humor in this one:

Tweet of the month! Try this with your cat!

From Matthew and Barry. Yes, it presumes an afterlife but it’s still ineffably sweet.

Someone should inform Ziya Tong that I’m an Earthling too:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 15, 2022 • 7:00 am

Greetings on the Cat Sabbath, Saturday January 15, 2022, and it’s also a federal holiday: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s also National Strawberry Ice Cream Day, National Bagel Day, National Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice Day, Humanitarian Day, National Hat Day, and Wikipedia Day (see below undr 2001). (I think we’re into year 5 waiting for Greg Mayer’s apocryphal article “What’s the matter with Wikipedia?”.)

News of the Day:

I’ve received my 23andMe replacement kit for free after the company couldn’t do PCR on my sample (that’s my guess). I’m about to spit in the tube and will chew on my cheeks a bit as a reader recommend to up the titer of DNA. If this one fails, I’m out $99 with nothing to show for it. Seriously, everyone has DNA, I have a Ph.D. and can follow instructions, so kits should be unlimited until you get a result!

*Holy September 1, 1939, Batman! According to the New York Times, the White House claims that Russia is doing exactly what the Nazis did to created a pretext to invade Poland:

The Biden administration accused Moscow on Friday of sending saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to stage an incident that could provide President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with a pretext for ordering an invasion of parts or all of the country.

The White House did not release details of the evidence it had collected to back up its charge, though one official said it was a mix of intercepted communications and observations of the movements of people. In an email, a U.S. official wrote that “Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.”

The Pentagon also considers this information “very credible.” It doesn’t mean, of course, that Russia is determined to invade Ukraine, but it makes the priors higher, as Putin is giving himself an option. Talks are still going on, but they also seem to be going nowhere. Let’s have another poll:

Will Russia invade Ukraine in the next two months?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

*Over in Australia, number #1 ranked men’s tennis star Novak Djokovic, in the country for the Australian Open, has had his visa revoked for the SECOND time. This morning he’ll be detained again and then will go to court on Sunday morning to appeal the decision. He says he’s had Covid, but lied about his activities before he came to Australia. The Australian Open starts Monday morning, so things better move quickly. NOBODY should get an exemption from the rules because they’re a great tennis player. LOCK HIM UP!

*The U.S. government announced that, starting next Wednesday, January 19, a federal website will open at which every American household can order up to four rapid test kits. Don’t expect them to arrive rapidly! Here’s the link, so save it:

Orders for up to four tests per household can be placed using the website COVIDtests.gov. The administration will also set up a phone number so those without access to computers or high-speed internet can place orders.

*I love reader Ken’s news items because I can post them without change, and they have links. Also, he has considerable legal expertise. Here’s his latest:

The Ohio Supreme Court (the seven members of which are elected — currently four Republicans, three Democrats) has struck down the ruthlessly gerrymandered partisan congressional map drafted by the Republican-controlled state legislature. Although Ohio’s voting history is nearly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, the map would have created 12 GOP-dominated districts to the Democrats’ three.

You can read a synopsis of the case here, or access the full opinion here.
The case was decided 4-3. The majority based its decision on the Ohio constitution, so it would not appear that the losing party will have recourse to SCOTUS.
*There has been a volcanic eruption in Tonga causing a smallish tsunami (2.8-foot waves); fortunately, nobody was injured (h/t Matthew for tweet):

The eruption at 0410 GMT on Friday of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 65km (40 miles) north of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2-metre tsunami, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

The eruption – captured in satellite images that show a huge plume of ash, steam and gas rising from the ocean – was heard and felt as far away as in Fiji and Vanuatu, where people reported feeling the ground and buildings shake for hours.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage in Tonga, but videos posted to social media showed huge waves in coastal areas, swirling around homes and buildings. Here are three tweets with videos of the eruption and tsuami:

Translation of tweet below: “Video of a large-scale volcanic eruption in Tonga … Tsunami forecast is out in Japan too (Tonga Islands).:

Some flooding:

This is an amazing compilation of photos:

*From FIRE: A computer-science professor at the University of Washington put a land acknowledgment on his syllabus that angered the administration. Those who see such acknowledgments as performative wokeness will find this amusing, for Professor Stuart Reges wrote this:

“I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.”

That’s not really insulting the Salish people; it insults the University, which says that you can put a land acknowledgment on your syllabus, but only a University-approved one. (UW is a public school and therefore must adhere to the First Amendment.) Nevertheless, Reges was censured; his Director, Magdalena Balazinska, told him to remove the statement because it was offensive, saying this to the press:

The statement [that Allen School Professor] Stuart Reges included in his syllabus was inappropriate, offensive and not relevant to the content of the course he teaches. The invocation of Locke’s labor theory of property dehumanizes and demeans Indigenous people and is contrary to the long-standing relationship and respect the UW has with and for the Coast Salish peoples and the federally recognized tribes within the state of Washington.

FIRE notes this:

Balazinska’s commentary compounds her violations of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate such hamfisted, transparent attempts to force professors to adopt or parrott  university viewpoints. UW cannot boost its land acknowledgment statement at the expense of its faculty’s right to free expression.

And FIRE has written the UW President a strong letter explaining whey their dictatorial practice violates the First Amendment. Will they cave, or is UW bucking for a lawsuit.

*Things to read:

a. Two articles from the new American Free Speech Union, which deserves yur support: “Sowing the wind,” a critique of an Oklahoma bill which would give every parent the right to demand removal of one “offensive” book from a school library (objecting librarians will be punished.  Also, “Knaves or fools?“, a discussion of why anti-CRT-teaching bills should not be passed by states.

b. John McWhorter’s NYT column on Sidney Poitier after his death this week. It’s largely about “black English”, and how those actors who “made it” didn’t speak that way. Poitier was one, but served as a “bridge”:

Poitier was certainly a pioneer — but in the sense that he was transitional. In a mid-20th-century America that feared and scorned Blackness and especially Black maleness that came with a hint of sexuality, the first real Black matinee idol was almost inevitably going to be someone who didn’t talk (or move) in modes more typically associated with American Black men. A more local, less global Black voice would have made (or have been assumed to have made) white audiences back then too uncomfortable for a big studio to have greenlighted Poitier’s classic films. He was, quietly but decisively, different. He was from somewhere else, even if you only thought of that subconsciously — as we do to a major degree about language in all of its facets.

But he was a bridge. He was Black, after all, and his Caribbean cadences certainly weren’t white-sounding. He helped pave the way not only for other Black actors, but also for acceptance of more varied Black speech. In the 1960s, the Black Power movement and the Black Is Beautiful movement — proud displays of Blackness in aesthetic mediums including clothing and hairstyles — became part of the Black mainstream and increasingly (if not widely) accepted by the broader society. Language norms transformed alongside, and from then on, American Black English was more acceptable in the public sphere than ever before.

I still remember during the O.J Simpson trial when Johnnie Cochrane, incensed, argued that there was no way anyone could identify a black person by the way they spoke alone.

c. Andrew Sullivan’s weekly Friday piece, with the header “The trans movement is not about rights anymore.” It’s a well-written and fair piece–unless you think that it’s “transphobia” to see some relevant differences between biological women and trans women. One bit:

The truth is: the 6-3 Bostock decision places trans people in every state under the protection of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s done. It’s built on the sturdy prohibition on sex discrimination. A Trump nominee wrote the ruling.

What the trans movement is now doing, after this comprehensive victory, is not about rights at all. It is about cultural revolution. It’s a much broader movement to dismantle the sex binary, to see biology as a function of power and not science, and thereby to deconstruct the family and even a fixed category such as homosexuality. You can support trans rights and oppose all of this. But they want you to believe you can’t. That’s the bait-and-switch. Don’t take it.

Sullivan also criticizes Biden for his latest speech

 The appeal of Biden was that he understood the Senate, represented a moderate middle, and wouldn’t polarize the country with divisive, incendiary rhetoric, as his predecessor had. The reality of Biden is that he has lost the Senate’s trust, has been an enabler of the far left, and is now seeking to call all those who object to a Democratic wishlist of electoral reforms the modern equivalents of the KKK. The speech was disgusting. It will do nothing but further alienate the Senators he needs. It sure alienated me. It could have been written by a Vox intern on Adderall.

Remember, Sullivan voted for Biden and there’s something to what he says above about Biden’s being “an enabler of the far left.” I do like that last sentence!

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 848,542, an increase of 1,928 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,549,236, an increase of about 8,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 15 includes:

  • 1559 – Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, London.

A painting, with the caption “Elizabeth I in her coronation robes, patterned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine.”

Here’s Nast’s cartoon:

  • 1889 – The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, is incorporated in Atlanta.
  • 1892 – James Naismith publishes the rules of basketball.

Here’s “the original 1891 “Basket Ball” court in Springfield College. It used a peach basket attached to the wall.” Presumably the written rules came later.

Here’s Luxemburg, one of Chrisopher Hitchens’s heroes:

Of course you’ll want to know about this, but read the Wikipedia link:


After (caption: “Twenty one people were killed on Commercial Street in the North End when a tank of molasses ruptured and exploded. An eight foot wave of the syrupy brown liquid moved down Commercial Street at a speed of 35mph. Wreckage of the collapsed tank visible in background, center, next to light colored warehouse. Elevated railway structure visible at far left and the North End Park bathing beach to the far right.”)

  • 1936 – The first building to be completely covered in glass, built for the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, is completed in Toledo, Ohio.
  • 1947 – The Black Dahlia murder: The dismembered corpse of Elizabeth Short was found in Los Angeles.

Here’s Short when she was alive. If you search the internet you can find photos of her bisected and mutilated corpse. The perpetrator was never found:

  • 1962 – The Derveni papyrus, Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript dating to 340 BC, is found in northern Greece.

Here are some fragments of the papyrus, which contains a Macedonian poem:

  • 1967 – The first Super Bowl is played in Los Angeles. The Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35–10.
  • 1976 – Gerald Ford’s would-be assassin, Sara Jane Moore, is sentenced to life in prison.

As per federal law, Moore was subject to parole after serving 30 years of a life sentence. She was released in 2007 at age 77, and is still alive.

And here’s a plot (from Wikipedia, of course) of the number of Wikpedia articles over time:

  • 2019 – Theresa May’s UK government suffers the biggest government defeat in modern times, when 432 MPs voting against the proposed European Union withdrawal agreement, giving her opponents a majority of 230.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1623 – Algernon Sidney, British philosopher (probable) d. 1683)
  • 1842 – Josef Breuer, Austrian physician and psychiatrist (d. 1925)
  • 1877 – Lewis Terman, American psychologist, eugenicist, and academic (d. 1956)

“Eugenicist” has been added to a number of Wikipedia entries since 2020.

  • 1908 – Edward Teller, Hungarian-American physicist and academic (d. 2003)
  • 1909 – Gene Krupa, American drummer, composer, and actor (d. 1973)

Here’s a recording of Krupa drumming on “Sing Sing Sing” with the Goodman band at their famous Carnegie Hall concert in 1938.

Herzog was the leader of the French Annapurna I team in 1950, and he summited. However, he lost all of his toes and most of his fingers. His book, Annapurna, is a classic of mountaineering literature. The bit that recounts the snipping off of his digits, one by one, on the long trip home will make you cringe.

  • 1929 – Martin Luther King Jr., American minister and activist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1968).

Tomorrow is the official holiday that marks his birthday.

  • 1941 – Captain Beefheart, American singer-songwriter, musician, and artist (d. 2010)

Those who meowed their last meow on January 15 include:

  • 1896 – Mathew Brady, American photographer and journalist (b. 1822)

Here are pictures of Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee, both taken by Brady:

(From Wikipedia): Photo Montage of Union general Ulysses S. Grant Taken June 1864 and CS General Robert E. Lee taken April 1865 (See Frassanito “Grant and Lee The Virginia Campaigns”)..
  • 1909 – Arnold Janssen, German priest and missionary (b. 1837)
  • 1916 – Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian playwright and translator (b. 1850)

His brother, a braggart named Immodest Tchaikovsky, never wrote any plays.

Both were murdered on the same day.

  • 1955 – Yves Tanguy, French-American painter (b. 1900)

Here’s Tanguy’s “My life, white and black”:

  • 1987 – Ray Bolger, American actor, singer, and dancer (b. 1904)
  • 1994 – Harry Nilsson, American singer-songwriter (b. 1941)

Here’s a music video of Nilsson singing “Everybody’s Talkin'”, a great song despite his other debacle, “Put the lime in the coconut” or whatever it was called.  This song became famous because it was part of the sound track of “Midnight Cowboy,” but it would have been a big hit on its own:

  • 1998 – Junior Wells, American singer-songwriter and harmonica player (b. 1934)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Kulka catches Hili in an arrant lie!

Hili: I come in peace.
Kulka: Nobody would believe you.
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Hili: Przynoszę pokój.
Kulka: Nikt ci nie uwierzy.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)

From Facebook. I need one!

From Bruce:

From David:

Titania tweets only rarely these days:

From Barry: a photo of the world’s handsomest man and his staff:

From Simon, who comments: “”Interesting thread – I wasn’t aware of the Chinese expression that describes both Trump and the woke.” Theres more on the thread itself.

From Ginger K., video (photo montage, I suspect) of the Parker Solar probe going through the Sun’s corona:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a great eared nightjar (Lyncornis macrotis) :

Now this is what I call a buttload of whales!

Smart kitty!

Thursday: Hili dialogue

January 13, 2022 • 7:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, January 13, 2022:  National Peach Melba Day. Named after the Australian soprano Nellie Melba, it consists of peaches, raspberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream. The dessert sounds lovely, but I’ve never had it. Here’s the dessert followed by Nellie:




It’s also National Rubber Ducky Day, Korean-American Day, Public Radio Broadcasting Day. and Stephen Foster Memorial Day. (Hasn’t he been canceled yet? After all, he wrote “Hard Times Come Again No More“, “Camptown Races“, “Old Folks at Home” (“Swanee River”), and “Old Black Joe“.)

News of the Day:

*If you’re an American and have been to the grocery store lately (and who doesn’t go?), you’ll know that prices on food have shot up. But this of course is part of a general inflation in America, now reported at 7% for 2021—the highest in a decade:

Steep increases in the cost of housing, and used cars and trucks, powered the overall rise in prices. Economists have been especially worried about rising home and rent costs, which can get locked in through a long-term contract and may not improve after the pandemic abates or supply chains clear up.

. . .Overall, economists aren’t worried about inflation, on its own causing a recession, as the economy grew rapidly throughout 2021 and created some 6.4 million jobs. Rather, the concern is that the Federal Reserve would be forced to combat inflation with sudden and aggressive interest rate increases, and the rising cost of borrowing could choke off the economic recovery.

Indeed, rising inflation prompted the Fed to make its strongest move yet to tackle inflation, moving up the timeline for what could be as many as three interest rate increases starting as soon as March. More generally, officials within the Fed and Biden administration have said they expect high inflation will persist through much of 2022.
But Americans vote their pocketbook more than anything else, and if Uncle Joe doesn’t get his Build Back Better Bill passed, which seems more and more unlikely all the time, the Democrats may take a drubbing in November.

*The NYT has a longish article reporting that Penelope Cruz has once again teamed up with director Pedro Almodóvar; and this time the film is really good (or so they say).

What do you do when you feel a connection that’s both natural and supernatural all at once? If you’re Cruz and Almodóvar, you eventually give in to it and make seven movies together. Their latest, “Parallel Mothers,” is also one of their greatest, starring Cruz as a mother wrestling with a terrible secret. Her finely calibrated performance won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival and best actress honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics; it may also earn the 47-year-old Cruz, an Oscar winner for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” her fourth Academy Award nomination.

Here’s the Rotten Tomato rating compendium so far, and below that is the trailer (click below to see the details and individual critic’s takes:

*As our demographic profile of readers suggests, there will be more than a few of you who remember Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of the Ronettes. Her last name, of course, comes from her marriage to Phil Spector, who produced the group and created for them his famous “Wall of Sound.” Spector died yesterday of cancer; she was 78. Big hair, big sound, and a lot of mascara, as well as good music, which largely preceded the golden years of Soul Music. To see them singing one of their biggest hits live, click below (Ronnie’s the lead singer, of course.)

They were married in 1968, and, given Phil Spector’s temper and behavior towards women, it was amazing that the marriage lasted four years (he recently died in jail after being convicted of murdering a woman). Here’s a chilling note from Ronnie’s Wikipedia bio:

Spector revealed in her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby, that after they married, Phil subjected her to years of psychological torment and sabotaged her career by forbidding her to perform. He surrounded their house with barbed wire and guard dogs, and confiscated her shoes to prevent her from leaving. On the rare occasions he allowed her out alone, she had to drive with a life-size dummy of Phil.  Spector stated that Phil installed a gold coffin with a glass top in the basement, promising that he would kill her and display her corpse if she ever left him.She began drinking and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to escape the house.

*Prince Andrew, aka “Randy Andy”, has lost a round in his fight to avoid being sued in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, but don’t expect to see him in prison any time soon. (Has any royal in the last 150 years seen prison time?) In fact, his suit is a civil one: he’s being sued by Virginia Giuffre, who argued that the Prince had sex with her (arranged by Ghislaine Maxwell), when she was just 17.

A judge in New York refused to dismiss the civil suit in these very early rounds, but on technical grounds, ruling that Giuffre had not signed away her right to sue anybody else when she reached a $500,000 settlement with Epstein.

Since the judge’s ruling dealt only with a few preliminary issues, there is a lot more ground to cover before the case gets to trial.

Andrew’s lawyers could appeal the ruling. They will have opportunities to try to get the case dismissed on other grounds.

As the case develops, the two sides must exchange potential evidence — such as emails, text messages and telephone records — and submit to depositions at which lawyers can question potential trial witnesses.

Giuffre has been through many such depositions before in lawsuits against Maxwell and other people, but Andrew has never been questioned about the matter under oath — something he may want to avoid at all costs.

Once the exchange of evidence concludes, defense lawyers often make a new request to toss out the case judging by what they’ve learned. The judge then makes rulings that may help lawyers understand the risks of going to trial.

The outcome? Already preordained: rather than expose his doings to the light of day, R. A. will settle the case. The royals have deep pockets, and do you think the Queen would even allow Andrew to fight the accusations against her son?

 Here’s Andrew with Giuffre, with Maxwell standing handily nearby:

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 843,327, an increase of 1,827 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  Will we reach a million deaths? Remember when 200,000 deaths was an inconceivable figure? The reported world death toll is now 5,532,597, an increase of about 9,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 13 includes:

It’s a lovely flag, isn’t it?

No, Brydon wasn’t the “sole survivor”; the article reports “Out of more than 16,000 people from the column commanded by Elphinstone, only one European (Assistant Surgeon William Brydon) and a few Indian sepoys reached Jalalabad.” Don’t sepoys count? (These are Indians fighting for the British army.)

Here’s one of them, created from “agricultural plastic” due to a shortage of steel during the war. I don’t know if any were ever sold; this is probably a prototype:

Here’s a set of clips of live ejections: pilot’s making rapid egress from their failed planes. Today they use rocket-propulsion to get the pilot out and way away from the plane:

  • 1953 – An article appears in Pravda accusing some of the most prestigious and prominent doctors, mostly Jews, in the Soviet Union of taking part in a vast plot to poison members of the top Soviet political and military leadership.

Here’s a cartoon from the Soviet magazine Krokodil showing the Jewish plotter (note the schnoz) hiding under a doctor’s mask. The charges were all confected by Stalin to get rid of his opponents, which in this case he saw as mostly Jews:

The search of Coolidge’s vehicle was deemed illegal, but he was tried and found guilty anyway. He served 20 years.

  • 1966 – Robert C. Weaver becomes the first African American Cabinet member when he is appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • 1990 – Douglas Wilder becomes the first elected African American governor as he takes office as Governor of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia.

Wilder, still with us at 91.

Notables born on this day include:

Chase promoted the successful placing of “In God We Trust” in U.S. coins. Here’s his instructions (caption from Wikipedia):

Salmon P. Chase, Treasury Secretary, scribes “In God is our Trust,” scratches out “is our” and overwrites “We” to arrive at “In God We Trust” in a December 9, 1863, letter to James Pollock, Director of the Philadelphia Mint.

Imagine if you invited him for dinner: you’d be able to say, “We’re having Salmon for dinner.”

Soutine painted no cats that I could find, but here’s a portrait of a pastry cook:

Caption from the New Yorker: Soutine met Remi Zochetto, the subject of “Le Pâtissier de Cagnes,” in Céret, where he was a member of the local hotel kitchen staff.

Mr. “Anything goes” in the philosophy of science. He looks mean.

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

Here’s Bishop, one of the successful climbers who summited Mount Everest in the first American expedition in 1963.  He lost all his toes from frostbite on that one, which pretty much ended his climbing career, but he went on to get a Ph.D. in geography from The University of Chicago:

  • 1955 – Jay McInerney, American novelist and critic
  • 1961 – Wayne Coyne, American singer-songwriter and musician

I don’t know this guy, but he’s the lead singer of The Flaming Lips, a band I also don’t know. But. . . he’s a Coyne!

Have you seen a photo of Nate? Here he is:

Those who expired on January 13 include:

  • 1599 – Edmund Spenser, English poet, Chief Secretary for Ireland (b. 1552)
  • 1864 – Stephen Foster, American composer and songwriter (b. 1826) See above.
  • 1929 – Wyatt Earp, American police officer (b. 1848)
  • 1941 – James Joyce, Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet (b. 1882)

Here’s Joyce and his family, with Nora Barnacle second from left and his children to the right:

  • 1956 – Lyonel Feininger, German-American painter and illustrator (b. 1871)

I think I’m one of the few people around who really likes Feininger. Here’s a painting: “Markwippach, 1917”:

  • 1978 – Hubert Humphrey, American pharmacist, academic, and politician, 38th Vice President of the United States (b. 1911)
  • 2017 – Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, English photographer and sometime member of the British royal family (b. 1930)

Armstrong-Jones of course had access to the royals and many other notables. Here’s his scandalous photo of his wife, Princess Margaret, in the bathtub wearing a tiara:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s being a curmudgeon, but at least allows Kulka to eat next to her. The picture is by Paulina.

Paulina: Meals together lead to friendship.
Hili: Not always.
In Polish:
Paulina: Wspólne posiłki prowadzą do przyjaźni.
Hili: Nie zawsze.

A meme from Bruce. How true!

From Stash Krod:

From Jesus of the Day:


This God is an atheist God!

From Simon. Did you know this?

From Anna, who is flummoxed by being on the same side as Pope Francis:

A tweet from Ginger K., showing a rather salacious anatomical comparison:

Tweets from Matthew. Now here’s an example of extremely polygeny: over 12,000 segregating sites associated with height variation in humans. And they account for nearly all the genetic variation we see in height. (“GWAS” are “genome-wide association studies”, described in my review of Kathryn Paige Harden’s new book.) Usually we get only a fraction of the total segregating variation, but this study had a huge number of subjects.

This adorable puppy has a long way to go. . .

Matthew was fascinated by the anterior position of this possum’s testicles. (I don’t know the species):

CUNK IS BACK! I can’t wait to see Philomena again! What is airplanes?

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 11, 2022 • 7:30 am

Welcome to the cruelest day, Tuesday, January 11, 2022: National Hot Toddy Day, and perfectly appropriate for Chicago’s current temperature of 8ºF (-13ºD). It’s also National Milk Day, National Shop for Travel Day (a good idea), Girl Hug Boy Day, Secret Pal Day, and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

News of the Day:

*Is the New York Times all that liberal and progressive? Not when it comes to their bottom line! As the Guardian reports, they’re opposing a union of their own employees:

The New York Times is one of America’s most vital totems of mainstream liberalism, right up there with expensive coffee and defensive explanations for sending your kids to private school. The New York Times is also, it turns out, one of America’s very best examples of how a boss is a boss. Because even as the paper pontificates about the dangers of inequality and gives sympathetic coverage to major union drives, the leaders of the company’s business side are busily trying to undermine their own unions.

Last April, 650 tech employees at the New York Times announced that they were unionizing. Rather than applauding them and proceeding to negotiate a contract, the company instead refused to voluntarily recognize the union. This is despite its own editorial board supporting a bill that would have made it legally binding for employers to voluntarily accept union requests when they are backed by a majority of the staff.

As the paper’s own editorial explained: “Under current law, an employer can reject the majority’s signatures and insist on a secret ballot. But in a disturbingly high number of cases, the employer uses the time before the vote to pressure employees to rethink their decision to unionize.” Now, this is what the New York Times company is accused of doing to its own employees.

. . .If you find this sort of anti-union behavior from the New York Times surprising, remember that another unit of unionized workers at the paper, those who worked for the product review section Wirecutter, had to go on strike during the busy Black Friday shopping weekend in order to secure a minimally fair contract. So while most of the editorial employees at the Times have been unionized for decades, the company is still exhibiting a chesty commitment to doing everything possible to keep any more of its workers from securing the same sort of benefits.

Bunch of hypocrites!

*You’re probably aware that there have been several interspecific heart transplants to humans from chimps (“xenotransplants”), and all failed within hours. We now have a better strategy: genetically modify an animal to minimize the probability of rejection and use animals hearts , like those from pigs, that are more similar to humans than those of chimps—and more readily available and modifiable. A xenotransplant was in fact done from a genetically modified pig to a human on Friday, and so far it’s working well, though we’re only four days in:

A 57-year-old man with life-threatening heart disease has received a heart from a genetically modified pig, a groundbreaking procedure that offers hope to hundreds of thousands of patients with failing organs.

It is the first successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human being. The eight-hour operation took place in Baltimore on Friday, and the patient, David Bennett Sr. of Maryland, was doing well on Monday, according to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it is his heart,” said Dr. Bartley Griffith, the director of the cardiac transplant program at the medical center, who performed the operation.

“It’s working and it looks normal. We are thrilled, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. This has never been done before.”

. . . Pigs offer advantages over primates for organ procurements, because they are easier to raise and achieve adult human size in six months. Pig heart valves are routinely transplanted into humans, and some patients with diabetes have received porcine pancreas cells. Pig skin has also been used as a temporary graft for burn patients.

Well, you’re surely asking, “How was the pig genetically modified?” The answer is a stunner:

The pig had 10 genetic modifications. Four genes were knocked out, or inactivated, including one that encodes a molecule that causes an aggressive human rejection response.

A growth gene was also inactivated to prevent the pig’s heart from continuing to grow after it was implanted, said Dr. Mohiuddin,who, with Dr. Griffith, did much of the research leading up to the transplant.

In addition, six human genes were inserted into the genome of the donor pig — modifications designed to make the porcine organs more tolerable to the human immune system.

The team used a new experimental drug developed in part by Dr. Mohiuddin and made by Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals to suppress the immune system and prevent rejection. It also used a new machine perfusion device to keep the pig’s heart preserved until surgery.

If you’re not astonished by all that, you’ve lost your capacity for wonder.

*And another piece from the Guardian, this time even more disturbing. A new study from Canada indicates that, even after controlling for age, comorbidity, and the nature of the operation, women operated on by male surgeons die 32% more often than men operated on by male surgeons. That’s a big difference! A few quotes:

Women are 15% more liable to suffer a bad outcome, and 32% more likely to die, when a man rather than a woman carries out the surgery, according to a study of 1.3 million patients.

The findings have sparked a debate about the fact that surgery in the UK remains a hugely male-dominated area of medicine and claims that “implicit sex biases” among male surgeons may help explain why women are at such greater risk when they have an operation.[JAC: n.b., the study was among Canadian patients in Canada.]

“In our 1.3 million patient sample involving nearly 3,000 surgeons we found that female patients treated by male surgeons had 15% greater odds of worse outcomes than female patients treated by female surgeons,” said Dr Angela Jerath, an associate professor and clinical epidemiologist at the University of Toronto in Canada and a co-author of the findings.

. . . “Implicit sex biases”, in which surgeons “act on subconscious, deeply ingrained biases, stereotypes and attitudes”, may be one possible explanation, she said. Differences in men’s and women’s communication and interpersonal skills evident in surgeons’ discussions with patients before the operation takes place may also be a factor, she added. And “differences between male and female physician work style, decision-making and judgment”.

You’re probably thinking, “What about female surgeons? Do men do better with them, too?” The answer is no: the outcomes for male patients are about the same regardless of the sex of their surgeon.

Now remember, death after surgery isn’t that common, so a difference between 1% and 1.4% mortality is reported as an increase in 40%. Still, this finding disturbs me, because, according to the Guardian, the researchers seem to have controlled for everything but sex of the surgeon. If that makes a difference, it’s worrisome. After all, one unnecessary death is already one too many. You can find the paper, published in JAMA Surgery, here, and I hope some readers will go through it. I want an explanation!

*Every day I rethink my opinion about whether Russia will invade Ukraine. Most of the time I think they will, then I read something about “progress’ in the news and I think, “Well, maybe the Russians are bluffing.” And this ambivalence is exactly what Russia wants us to feel. But their demands are too far out of the U.S.-interest ball park, like withdrawing NATO lines back to decades ago, and our threatened “sanctions” are laughable.  Today, with progress very slow, I think Russia will invade. Ask me again tomorrow.

*Over at Medium, Peter Burns (who apparently has stolen my joke about pea color), has a good summary piece called “The Shameful Decline of Scientific American.”  There’s not much new here, though it does call attention to one of the most ludicrous papers in “studies” that pretends to be scientific, and you can read it here. It is a paradigmatic example of conflating science and “studies”, and I just remembered that I wrote about it here. If you want a good laugh, read the paper. (h/t Anna)

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 837,911. an increase of 1,653 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,514,603, an increase of about 6,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 11 includes:

  • 630 – Conquest of Mecca: The prophet Muhammad and his followers conquer the city, Quraysh surrender.
  • 1569 – First recorded lottery in England. Wikipedia has an interesting description:

the first recorded official lottery was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, in the year 1566, and was drawn in 1569. The 400,000 tickets issued cost £0.50 each (roughly three weeks of wages for ordinary citizens), with the grand prize worth roughly £5,000. This lottery was designed to raise money for the “reparation of the havens and strength of the Realme, and towardes such other publique good workes”, including the rebuilding of ports and new ships for the royal fleet. Each ticket holder won a prize, and the total value of the prizes equalled the money raised. Prizes were in the form of both “ready money” and valuable commodities such as silver plate, tapestries, and fine linen cloth. Additionally, each participant was granted immunity from one arrest, “so long as the crime wasn’t piracy, murder, felonies, or treason.” The lottery was promoted by scrolls posted throughout the country showing sketches of the prizes

  • 1759 – The first American life insurance company, the Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed Presbyterian Ministers and of the Poor and Distressed Widows and Children of the Presbyterian Ministers (now part of Unum Group), is incorporated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • 1879 – The Anglo-Zulu War begins.  Here’s a photograph of Cetshwayo kaMpande in 1875, who led the Zulus during the Ango-Zulu War. The Zulus lost.

  • 1908 – Grand Canyon National Monument is created.
  • 1922 – Leonard Thompson becomes the first person to be injected with insulin.

Thompson was 14 at the time and lived 12 more years, dying of pneumonia at 26. Here’s a photo:

Here’s the plane she used: her reliable Lockheed Vega, now residing in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Northern Virginia:

Hoxha died in 1985, having been President for Life well, for life.  He did some good stuff, but was also an autocrat, reportedly killing 25,000 of his own people:

  • 1972 – East Pakistan renames itself Bangladesh.
  • 1973 – Major League Baseball owners vote in approval of the American League adopting the designated hitter position.

BAD DECISION. Everybody who plays should take their turn at bat!

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1755 – Alexander Hamilton, Nevisian-American general, economist and politician, 1st United States Secretary of the Treasury (d. 1804)

Hamilton is on the American tenner. He died in agony after he was shot in the lower abdomen by Aaron Burr during a duel (he lived 31 hours after he was shot):

  • 1842 – William James, American psychologist and philosopher (d. 1910)

Here he is. His brother was the author Henry James:

  • 1889 – Calvin Bridges, American geneticist and academic (d. 1938)

A student of T. H. Morgan, and therefore my distant academic cousin, Bridges was a terrific fly geneticist and also very handsome. I won’t recount his many exploits, including with women, but I recall he was once arrested for violating the Mann Act. Here he is inspecting dipterans:

You can see part of his story in the excellent movie Ford v. Ferrari, which came out a few years ago.  Here’s his most famous car, the Cobra (this model is the AC427:

  • 1946 – Naomi Judd, American singer-songwriter and actress

Those who cashed in their chips on January 11 include:

As the brewer of Canada’s most famous beer, Molson’s name will be immortal, eh? Here’s his funeral monument in Montreal:

Here’s a Canadian ad for Molson’s: “I am Canadian.” You can put the Molson’s into a Canadian, but you can’t take the Canadian out of a Canadian!

  • 1843 – Francis Scott Key, American lawyer, author, and songwriter (b. 1779)
  • 1882 – Theodor Schwann, German physiologist and biologist (b. 1810)

Here’s Schwann, famous for arguing, correctly, that animals as well as plants have cells:

  • 1928 – Thomas Hardy, English novelist and poet (b. 1840)

Here’s the cottage Hardy grew up in, followed by the graves of two of his cats (Snowdrop and Kitsy) in his larger and later home nearby (he carved the stones himself, and there are several other buried moggies), followed by the manuscript draft of his most famous novel. I photographed these while staying in Dorset in 2006. Hardy, to his credit, was a big-time cat lover.


  • 1941 – Emanuel Lasker, German mathematician, philosopher, and chess player (b. 1868)
  • 1966 – Alberto Giacometti, Swiss sculptor and painter (b. 1901)

Here’s Giacometti’s sculpture “Cat,” which is how every house cat would like to present itself at dinnertime:

  • 1988 – Isidor Isaac Rabi, Polish-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1898)
  • 2008 – Edmund Hillary, New Zealand mountaineer and explorer (b. 1919)

Here’s Hillary’s ice axe with which he summited Mt. Everest; I photographed it in Wellington, NZ a few years ago:

  • 2015 – Anita Ekberg, Swedish-Italian model and actress (b. 1931)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili is surprised and peeved:

Paulina: There is no meat.
Hili: What do you mean, there is no meat?
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Paulina: Nie ma mięsa.
Hili: Jak to nie ma mięsa?
(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
And a picture of little Kulka from Andrzej:

From Facebook:

Posted by Seth Andrews:

From Jesus of the Day:

Heartwarming: from the days when Jews and blacks used to be friends:

From John Cleese, who doesn’t listen to his doctors:

From Barry: a tweet showing state senator Scott Baldwin of Indiana, who later walked back his position (or rather, lack of a position). See him extricate his metatarsals from his mouth here.

From Ginger K. (I may have posted this before):

From reader Frank: a cowardly d*g tries to sneak into a cat’s bailiwick:

From reader Barry, who says “What is going on here?” I wrote my ant-biologist friend Phil Ward, who responded, ” These two ants are weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina), but I have no idea what they are doing with that plant structure and why. I guess they are treating it as a possible food item.”

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is really cool:

Here’s a video that purports to be a visualization of the nascent nebula, but surely part of it, if not all of it, is animated. Correct me if I’m wrong:


Monday: Hili dialogue

January 10, 2022 • 7:00 am

Welcome to Monday, January 10, 2022: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day.  It’s also National Oysters Rockefeller Day, National Gluten-Free Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day, Save the Eagles Day, and, in the Falkland Islands, Margaret Thatcher Day.  She’s a big deal there since she was PM during the war with Argentina, and here’s a photo of her statue (on Thatcher Drive) that I took in Stanley while visiting in November, 2019:

News of the Day:

*At last a journalist agrees with me: we ailurophiles are getting fed up with the Bidens’ lame promises of a First Cat—promises that have been constant since before he took office. A moggy was identified was vetted before the First D*g, and they even got rid of that problematic d*g. Then they adopted a German Shepherd puppy. Where’s the damn cat? It’s been over a year now. Crickets. . . .

Click to read from New York Magazine:

A quote

President Biden has a problem with expectation-setting. He has yet to fulfill lofty promises on the pandemicvoting rights, and Build Back Better. Most egregiously, his administration has toyed with America by promising a White House cat that has yet to materialize.

Monday appeared to finally bring an end to this Long National Nightmare, but as always with this White House and cats, nothing was straightforward.

. . . So, where does this leave those of us who got a little too excited about the second coming of Socks the Cat? Well, kind of in the same place we’ve been for more than a year. I’d like to trust the Bidens when they say this cat’s arrival is imminent, just as I want to believe that the administration is going to ship out free COVID-19 tests in a timely fashion and find a way to salvage the president’s agenda. But I’ve been burned before, so I won’t believe it until I see claw marks on the Oval Office curtains.

Yes, we ailurophiles are hissing mad. Here are two others:

And here’s the latest empty promise from CNN’s White House correspondent:


*I swear, how horrible does a regime have to be before we stop getting in bed with it because of oil?  Saudi Arabia is a notorious human rights violator, and three years ago put a princess in jail (along with her daughter) for criticizing the regime. But that’s not the only way to get in stir in Saudi. Get a load of this story:

A Saudi princess, a critic of her country’s government who was jailed nearly three years ago after publicly questioning government policy, has been released, a legal adviser to her family said on Sunday.

The princess, Basmah bint Saud, returned home on Thursday with her daughter Suhoud al-Sharif, who was imprisoned with her, according to the legal adviser, Henri Estramant.

But it remained unclear whether the women would be allowed to travel abroad, a pressing issue because Princess Basmah needs medical care not available in Saudi Arabia for a heart condition, Mr. Estramant said.

Princess Basmah was among a number of prominent Saudi activists, dissidents and members of the royal family either jailed or put under house arrest during the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has consolidated his grip on the kingdom since his father, King Salman, ascended to the throne in 2015.

Prince Mohammed is one of the most divisive rulers in Saudi history. He has earned plaudits at home and abroad for loosening social restrictions and seeking to diversify the economy away from oil. But also punctuating his rise have been a disastrous military intervention in Yemen and a disregard for human rights, including the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

The Princess, shown below from the NYT, never stood trial for anything:

*A horrible fire yesterday in a Bronx apartment building killed at least 19, including 9 children, and injured at least 63. The building was 19 floors high, and there were victims on every floor. Firefighters showed up within three minutes but it was already too late: people died from smoke inhalation. The fire was apparently caused by a malfunctioning space heater. It’s one of the deadliest fires in New York history.

*This is unbelievable. In an article about a car/van crash in the West Bank that killed 8 Palestinians and injured two, the Associated Press manages to work the “Occupation” into it somehow, even though it’s totally irrelevant. I’m going to give you the whole short article:

JERUSALEM (AP) — A truck and a van collided on a narrow two-lane highway in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, killing eight Palestinians and injuring another two, according to Israeli medics.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Friday a day of mourning for the victims, who he described as “martyrs of trying to make a living.” Thousands of Palestinian laborers work in Jewish settlements along Highway 90, which runs through the Jordan Valley.

Videos circulating online appeared to show the truck slamming into the van head-on as the van sought to make a left turn off the highway.

Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service confirmed the seven deaths and said three people were evacuated by military helicopter for medical treatment. Israeli and Palestinian media later reported that one of the injured had died.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, and Palestinian want it to form the main part of their future state.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians work in Israel and Israeli settlements, where wages are much higher than in the parts of the West Bank administered by Abbas’ Palestinian Authority. The economic disparity largely stems from Israel’s 54-year occupation of the territory and the restrictions it imposes on the more than 2.5 million Palestinians living there. [JAC: and from the Palestinians’ refusal to accept half a dozen peace proposals. They want the erasure of Israel far more than they want prosperity.]

The Palestinians and most of the international community view the settlements, home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers, as illegal and an obstacle to resolving the decades-old conflict.

This is all gratuitous Israel-bashing; imagine the level of Israel-hatred necessary to report a vehicular crash this way, even despite the Israelis trying to rescue the victims! And imagine the AP thinking that this way of reporting is okay.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 836,236 an increase of 1,559 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,507,83,, an increase of about 4,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 10 includes:

Ceasar wasn’t supposed to leave his province, Cisalpine Gaul, to enter into Italy proper, which was ruled by Rome. This meant civil war.  And what he said has itself become famous, “The die is cast.”:

A first edition of this puppy, bound with Paine’s other pamphlets, will run you a mere $60,000:

Here’s the old magnate in 1922—with 15 more years to live:

Here’s the “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop, photographed exactly 120 years ago (from Wikipedia):

On 10 January, they needed to replace the dull fishtail drill bit. While lowering the pipe down the hole, they only got to about 35 joints of pipe, or about 700 feet (210 m), before a low rumble sent mud, and then drill stem out of the hole. This was followed by silence, an explosion of more mud and gas, more silence, a flow of oil, and then a loud roar. On January 10, 1901, at a depth of 1,139 ft (347 m), what is known as the Lucas Gusher or the Lucas Geyser blew oil over 150 feet (50 m) in the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d) (4,200,000 gallons). Nine days passed before the well was brought under control using a Christmas Tree devised by the Hamills.

Spindletop was the largest gusher the world had seen and catapulted Beaumont into an oil-fueled boomtown. Beaumont’s population of 10,000 tripled in 3 months and eventually rose to 50,000. Speculation led land prices to increase rapidly. By the end of 1902, more than 500 companies had been formed and 285 wells were in operation.

  • 1920 – The Treaty of Versailles takes effect, officially ending World War I.
  • 1927 – Fritz Lang‘s futuristic film Metropolis is released in Germany.

Here’s the whole movie (silent):

  • 1984 – Holy See–United States relations: The United States and Holy See (Vatican City) re-establish full diplomatic relations after almost 117 years, overturning the United States Congress’s 1867 ban on public funding for such a diplomatic envoy.
  • 1985 – Sandinista Daniel Ortega becomes president of Nicaragua and vows to continue the transformation to socialism and alliance with the Soviet Union and Cuba; American policy continues to support the Contras in their revolt against the Nicaraguan government.

Notables born on this day include:

Although the place was pricey, I’d dine out there when I could afford it as a graduate student in NYC. Their corned beef and pastrami were incredible, and copious(see below). And you got a huge bowl of pickles with your sammy (I preferred the half sours.)

The deli’s corned beef and pastrami, celebrated by smoked meat connoisseurs nationwide, were cured in the store’s cellar using Steiner’s own recipe in a two-week-long curing process. The Carnegie Deli used a half-ton of brisket to prepare a week’s supply of corned beef by the time of his death. Steiner admitted, “You could eat it after seven days, but if you wait until the 13th you’re in heaven.” The Carnegie Deli was the favorite hangout of comedian Henny Youngman, and Adam Sandler included a reference to the deli in “The Chanukah Song” in 1996. Steiner was eulogized by comedian Henny Youngman as “the deli lama.”

Here’s one of their pastrami sandwiches, would would provide three meals for a hungry and impecunious student.  Any comment saying “That’s disgusting” or “Too much food” will be expunged, for it shows your ignorance of delis:

  • 1939 – Sal Mineo, American actor (d. 1976)

A screen test for “Rebel Without a Cause” with Mineo, James Dean, and Natalie Wood:

Godfrey: Nice guy and mentor to many of my British friends in evolutionary biology:

  • 1945 – Rod Stewart, British singer-songwriter
  • 1948 – Donald Fagen, American singer-songwriter and musician

There aren’t many videos of Fagan and Steely Dan performing live, especially in their prime years. They were always a studio band. But here’s a good one, a whole 45-minute concert. Sample it at your leisure. There’s patter as well as some of my favorites from this incomparable group (“Bad Sneakers” is my favorite, though the great guitar solo is missing, with “Kid Charlemagne” coming second.) Click on the links to go the song on YouTube:

00:00:00 – FM (No Static at All) 00:01:16 – Introduction 00:01:44 – Questions 1 00:04:06 – Peg 00:08:28 – Questions 2 00:09:48 – Kid Charlemagne 00:14:43 – Intro to Bad Sneakers 00:15:14 – Bad Sneakers 00:19:02 – Questions 3 00:21:20 – Piano interlude 00:21:50 – Josie 00:26:25 – Do It Again 00:28:09 – Questions 4 00:30:50 – Cousin Dupree 00:35:56 – Questions 5 00:39:22 – What a Shame About Me

  • 1949 – Linda Lovelace, American porn actress and activist (d. 2002)

Here’s Lovelace, her husband, Larry Marchiano, and their son in 1986. Free at last (until she died after a bad car crash.)

  • 1953 – Pat Benatar, American singer-songwriter
  • 1981 – Jared Kushner, American real estate investor and political figure

Those who began singing with the Choir Invisible on January 10 include:

  • 1778 – Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist and physician (b. 1707)
  • 1862 – Samuel Colt, American engineer and businessman, founded Colt’s Manufacturing Company (b. 1814)
  • 1917 – Buffalo Bill, American soldier and hunter (b. 1846)
  • 1951 – Sinclair Lewis, American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1885)

Lewis, below, was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. I’m not a big fan, though this novels are fun reads.

  • 2016 – David Bowie, English singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (b. 1947)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cynical Hili is chuckling:

A: We have more and more reasons for optimism.
Hili: An excellent joke.
In Polish:
Ja: Mamy coraz więcej powodów do optymizmu.
Hili: Świetny dowcip.
From Malgorzata, a photo of baby Kulka:
And there is a strange picture of Kulka. She put her head behind the blind and Andrzej took the picture.

From Only Duck Memes:

A cartoon from Bruce. The good news is that although such people exist, you won’t have to listen to them for eternity:

From Facebook:

A tweet from Barry. Cats aren’t usually this awkward!

From Simon, who added:

Would a cat ever even consider that it had “sinned”? I’m pretty sure catholic guild is not a gift that keeps on giving in felids.

I responded that perhaps the priest was confessing to the cat (priests, after all, use confessors, too):

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. Look at the triumphant belly slide at the end!

From a vaccination medical researcher. The predictions aren’t happy, but in the fifth of these six tweets he suggests a solution to the pandemic.

Real leaves—8,000 years old—not fossils! Preserved in anaerobic conditions.


Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 9, 2022 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the Christian Sabbath: Sunday, January 9, 2022: National Apricot Day. This isn’t even apricot season, but apricot nectar, my favorite fruit juice, is available year ’round.

It’s also National Sunday Supper Day (Is this still a tradition? It was in my family), International Choreographers Day, National Word Nerd Day, National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (not for the young people), No Pants Subway Ride Day (yes, people do this), National Static Electricity Day, Play God Day (all cats participate), and—a holiday that I think is unique to India—Non-Resident Indian Day, which celebrates Indians who live outside their natal country but help it anyway. .

Here are people riding the subway with no pants (we’re using the American version of “pants”, known as “trousers” in the UK). If people doffed their “pants” in the UK (American “underpants”), they’d be naked.

News of the Day:

*According to the New York Times, the Biden administration has assembled a laundry list of sanctions to apply to Russia should Putin and his military thugs decide to invade the country. These “financial, technology and military sanctions”  would “go into effect within hours of an invasion of Ukraine”. They include these:

The plans the United States has discussed with allies in recent days include cutting off Russia’s largest financial institutions from global transactions, imposing an embargo on American-made or American-designed technology needed for defense-related and consumer industries, and arming insurgents in Ukraine who would conduct what would amount to a guerrilla war against a Russian military occupation, if it comes to that.

Such moves are rarely telegraphed in advance. But with the negotiations looming — and the fate of Europe’s post-Cold War borders and NATO’s military presence on the continent at stake — President Biden’s advisers say they are trying to signal to Mr. Putin exactly what he would face, at home and abroad, in hopes of influencing his decisions in coming weeks.

What we have here is a high-stakes game of “chicken” (see Steve Pinker’s new book Rationality), but we, or rather Ukraine, has more to lose than Russia. I still think the invasion will take place, and Putin will ignore the relatively paltry sanctions.

*Number-one-ranked male tennis star Novak Djokovic has been refused entry into Australia to play in the Australian Open after his visa wasn’t accepted. (He had said he had a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid, but according to the Aussie government it wasn’t kosher. He has appealed, but I see no grounds for letting him in just because he’s a tennis star: in the game of pandemic suppression, no animals is more equal than others. If they let him play, it will be an act of arrant unfairness.  So, as he should be, he’s warming his tuchas in a hotel in quarantine. As Lindsay Crouse wrote in the New York Times,

The conversation is as much about fairness as it is about public health. Why should a player get a free pass when other players, and the fans keeping them in business, have to be vaccinated and abide by travel restrictions? Workplaces around the world are filled with Djokovics, difficult but valued or essential employees who expect special accommodations in order to come to work — even when the accommodations they seek are grounded in anti-science views that might put their colleagues at risk.

When it comes to athletes, what they do in public health situations matters even more. Beyond the social influence that comes with their platforms, star athletes are symbols of good health, success and leadership — that’s why they’re sought after as the public face of performance apparel and shoe companies, breakfast cereals and countless other brands.

. . . The Australian Border Force did what sports bodies are failing to do: say no. If athletes don’t like restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated, they could just get a shot like millions of other people — a privilege that millions more are still waiting for.

*Yay for humanity and science! We know now that the mirrors of the Webb Space Telescope have unfolded successfully!

Webb’s gold mirror began to take shape as the first of the two primary wings was unfolded and latched on Friday. These wings are side panels that hold three mirror segments each. This was followed by the unfolding and latching of the second panel on the other side Saturday.
While the deployment of the mirrors took only a few minutes each, the complicated “latching” together took several hours. What is so remarkable about this event, as contrasted to others, is that for the scope to unfold properly nothing could afford to go wrong. It’s a moment to be proud of humanity, and of science.

*By all rights of fairness, transgender female swimmer Lia Thomas from Penn should not be competing against collegiate women swimmers. She clearly has a muscle and strength advantage gained at puberty, and has bested biological women swimmers by huge margins. Yet both her school and the NCAA have stood behind her, though on bogus grounds:

Thomas has the support of her school, which said Thursday that she “has met or exceeded all NCAA protocols over the past two years for a transgender female student-athlete to compete for a women’s team. She will continue to represent the Penn women’s swimming team in competition this season.”

The Ivy League also backed Thomas.

“Over the past several years, Lia and the University of Pennsylvania have worked with the NCAA to follow all of the appropriate protocols in order to comply with the NCAA policy on transgender athlete participation and compete on the Penn women’s swimming and diving team,” it said in a statement Thursday.

“The Ivy League reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form,” it added.

The problem is that Thomas still has a clear advantage since she transitioned only a few years ago, well after puberty. If you look up the NCAA policy for transgender females to compete against biological women, you get this:

A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.

But no maximum levels of circulating testosterone are given, nor would they work anyway. We’ve now learned that testosterone-suppression for a year, even according to Olympic standards, cannot overcome the physiological and physical advantages acquired at puberty. Even three years isn’t sufficient; the advantage appears to be permanent, especially given the transitory nature of an athletic career.

And this NCAA statement is, as we saw the other day, flatly wrong:

According to medical experts on this issue, the assumption that a transgender woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence.

(h/t Divy).

*Matthew directs us to a Guardian article reporting what must be a record for postal slowness, even in a country famous for it. The U.S. postal service delivered a letter written by a soldier in WWII to his mother—76 years late!

Army Sgt John Gonsalves, 22 at the time, wrote to his mother in Woburn in December 1945 after the official end of the second world war, WFXT-TV reported Wednesday.

The letter would sit unopened for more than 75 years before being found in a US Postal Service distribution facility in Pittsburgh.

“Dear Mom, Received another letter from you today and was happy to hear that everything is okay,” the letter reads. “As for myself, I’m fine and getting along okay. But as far as the food it’s pretty lousy most of the time.”

He signed the letter: “Love and kisses, Your son Johnny. I’ll be seeing you soon, I hope.”

Gonsalves died in 2015. His mother has died as well. But the USPS found an address for his widow, Angelina, whom the soldier met five years after he sent the letter.

. . . Angelina Gonsalves, 89, spent another holiday without her husband, but she said this year, “It’s like he came back to me, you know?”

Ms. Gonsalves reading the Lost Letter:

*Great news: Winnie-the-Pooh (the mid 1920’s A. A. Milne version, is now in the public domain. Screw the Disney makeover; I love the original and all its illustrations, which can now be reproduced. Especially Eeyore, my dysthymic spirit animal.

Luke McGarry began drawing a nude Pooh Bear as soon as he heard the news. The original, nearly 100-year-old “bear of very little brain” from the Hundred Acre Wood had rung in this new year by entering the public domain. Now quite humbly, McGarry’s creative appetite felt rumbly.

The Los Angeles-based artist sat and penned his Winnie-the-Pooh idea in four panels, announcing the 1926 character’s free-for-all status as of Jan. 1, with a winking if satirically speculative interpretation: “Disney still owns their version of me. … But as long as I don’t put a little red shirt on, I can do as I like” — a reference to how the character’s attire regularly began to be depicted beginning in the 1930s.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 835,835 an increase of 1,524 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,503,741,, an increase of about 4,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 9 includes:

An artistic envisioning:

(From Wikipedia): Joan of Arc is interrogated by The Cardinal of Winchester in her prison, 1431. Painting by Paul Delaroche (1797–1856),

Here’s the Davy lamp, with the flame enclosed within wire to prevent ignition of mine gases:

There’s a photo of the boat leaving on its treacherous journey to South Georgia (24 April, 1916). They all made it, Shackleton got help and his men were eventually rescued safely.

  • 1916 – World War I: The Battle of Gallipoli concludes with an Ottoman Empire victory when the last Allied forces are evacuated from the peninsula.  

Here’s a scene from the 1981 movie Gallipoli showing a futile charge to death. Then a photo of the real thing:

  • 1957 – British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden resigns from office following his failure to retake the Suez Canal from Egyptian sovereignty.
  • 2005 – Mahmoud Abbas wins the election to succeed Yasser Arafat as President of the Palestinian National Authority, replacing interim president Rawhi Fattouh.

Abbas was elected for a four-year term, but, without any further election, he’s still President of the PA. Is this a dictatorship or not?

  • 2007 – Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the original iPhone at a Macworld keynote in San Francisco.

Here’s Jobs making that announcement:

  • 2015 – The perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris two days earlier are both killed after a hostage situation; a second hostage situation, related to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, occurs at a Jewish market in Vincennes.

Notables born on this day include:

When I was young I read all of Halliburton’s books, which were full of adventure. He swam through the Panama Canal, paying a 36¢ toll.  And that was one of his many exploits. Sadly, he was lost at sea in 1939.

Here he is after swimming the canal:

  • 1908 – Simone de Beauvoir, French philosopher and author (d. 1986)
  • 1913 – Richard Nixon, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 37th President of the United States (d. 1994)
  • 1922 – Har Gobind Khorana, Indian-American biochemist and academic, Nobel laureate (d. 2011)

Born in India, Khorana shared the Nobel Prize with two others for helping unravel the genetic code:

  • 1941 – Joan Baez, American singer-songwriter, guitarist and activist

Baez singing a Bob Dylan song at Sing Sing Prison in 1972. This is my favorite rendition of that song:

  • 1944 – Jimmy Page, English guitarist, songwriter, and producer
  • 1982 – Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Those who became food for worms on January 9 include only one person I consider “notable”:

  • 1923 – Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand novelist, short story writer, and essayist (b. 1888)

A great writer (and expat Kiwi) who should have had more time, she died of TB at 34, suffering a pulmonary hemorrhage after she ran up the stairs. As she was carried to her room, she said, “I’m going to die.” She did. Her short story “Bliss” (free here) is one of the finest pieces of short fiction in English.


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, today’s Hili dialogue is arcane, so Malgorzata gives an explanation:

This is understandable only in Poland. Our government introduced with fanfare an economic program named Nowy Ład (which I translated into “New Order),  which was supposed to help the country with the effects of the pandemic and to help middle- and low -ncome people. It’s a disaster. For example, teachers got a drastic cut in their (already low) salaries.

With that in mind, the dialogue:

Hili: I’m coming to establish a new order.
Paulina: Do not frighten people and cats.
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Hili: Przychodzę zaprowadzić nowy ład.
Paulina: Nie strasz ludzi i kotów.
(Zdjęcie Paulina R.)
And a shot of Kulka and Szaron:

Posted by Seth Andrews:

From Divy: The big conundrum of Christianity:

From Science Humor:

From Simon: An Indian variant on the usual donut-shaped vada, a snack made with lentil flour. As he says, “I imagine the cure for this one would be yogurt.:

From Barry, who feels sorry for the ants (as do I). Yes, this is a real phenomenon:

From Dom, the world’s smallest known snail  (0.5 mm is about 0.02 inches, meaning fifty of these snails, lined up, would extend only an inch). You can read the paper about it here.

From Ginger K., who loves Freddie Mercury:

From a hashtag started by Masih Alinejad asking Muslim women to weigh in on the hijab, #LetUsTalk:

Tweets from Matthew. Furtive petting!

I’d recommend watching this. Dr. Stavrakopoulou is not only a Biblical scholar who is an atheist, and has debunked a lot of Biblical myths, but she also has a wicket sense of humor.  It’s free, too.

Get the Zoom link here.

Great biological gargoyles!

Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 8, 2022 • 7:00 am

Welcome to the second Caturday of 2022: Saturday, January 8, 2022, when all cats have their Sabbath. (Remember that the Sabbath was made for cats, not cats for the Sabbath.) It’s National English Toffee Day, another celebration of cultural appropriation. It’s also Argyle Day, the day to wear those socks and sweaters, Bubble Bath Day, Earth’s Rotation Day, celebrating the day in 1851 when French physicist Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault demonstrated Earth’s rotation with a simple pendulum-and-sand experiment, National Man Watcher’s Day, and World Typing Day. Here’s the world’s fastest typist, revealed in a contest:

Today’s Google Doodle, a YouTube animation using Stephen Hawkings‘s robo-voice, is in celebration of what would be his eightieth birthday. Click on the screenshot to watch the 2.5-minute video:

News of the Day:

*The Washington Post reports that all three convicted murderers of Ahmaud Arbery have been sentenced to life in prison, with father and son Greg and Travis McMichael getting no possibility of parole, while their neighbor, William Bryan, has at least the possibility of parole, as he showed some remorse after the murder went down/

Georgia law prescribes a minimum sentence of life in prison for murder, which left the question of parole up to [Judge] Walmsley. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. All three men were convicted of felony murder, or committing felonies that caused Arbery’s death; Travis McMichael, now 35, was also convicted of malice murder, which requires intent to kill, but faced the same punishment as his 66-year-old father and 52-year-old Bryan.

You can see a video of the judge’s sentence at the head of the WaPo article.

In Georgia, those serving life sentences for serious violent crimes such as murder are not considered for parole until they have served 30 years.

*Reader Ken produced another news item—in fact, two of them:

Looks like there could be a problem with the guilty verdict from the Ghislaine Maxwell trial, in that one of the jurors failed to disclose that he had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse, even though that specific question was asked of potential jurors, under oath, during the voir dire selection process conducted in the judge’s chambers before trial. See also here.

If this turns out to be the case, Maxwell will be entitled to a new trial.
In response to my query about whether an alternate juror (they have to sit with the whole jury throughout the trial) could go in on new deliberations, Ken said this:
Alternate jurors are generally excused at the end of trial, before jury deliberations begin. Although Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 24(c)(3) gives a federal trial judge discretion to recall an alternate if a sitting juror must be excused during deliberations (a procedure I think is bogus, since there’s no way the other jurors can begin their deliberations anew with the alternate, as they must be instructed to do), there’s absolutely no way in which an alternate could be substituted in after a verdict has been reached.

Still, one way or the other, Maxwell’s getting the silver hammer.

*And Ken on the abortion beat:

South Dakota has enacted a new rule making it more difficult — which is to say, requiring a woman to make three visits to a provider — to get medical abortion pills. This appears to be a direct reaction to a federal Food and Drug Administration decision last month removing the requirement that women seeking abortion pills pick them up in person.

*Reader Nicole’s comment on this Guardian article was unprintable; let us just say it starts with an “m” and ends with an “s!”.  It reports about a new law in England that allows hunters going after game birds to shoot wild birds that endanger game birds being bred for shooting. What sense does that make. Under new peril: carrion crows, jackdaws, magpies and rooks.

A Defra spokesperson said the change was made after gamekeepers asked for more clarity about whether game birds counted as livestock.

The new language makes it clear that wild predatory birds cannot be shot under this licence in order to protect wild game birds that are not dependent on food and shelter from humans, but they can be shot under the licence if they are.

. . . Conservation groups raised concerns that the update could mean an increase in the killing of wild birds.

The RSPB’s head of site conservation policy, Kate Jennings, said: “If this update to the livestock general licence goes beyond a reclassification of terminology and implies that it will lead to an increase in the killing of wild birds to protect game bird interests, then given the nature and climate emergency we find ourselves in, this would be a massive backward step for nature conservation in this country.”

*Pope Francis doesn’t often put his foot in it, but he surely did this time. According to the Guardian, the Pontiff recently said this:

“Today … we see a form of selfishness. We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality.”

Good Lord! Yes, he heads The Church of Breeders, but there are more pet owners than Catholics, and they let the Pope hear about it:

Pet owners have reacted angrily to the comments, made during a general audience at the Vatican. They argue that animals have a lower environmental footprint than children, enable them to lead a life that is different but equally rewarding, and compensate for financial or biological difficulties in having children, rather than directly replacing them.

On social media, people pointed out that the pope himself chose not to have children and said there was hypocrisy in such comments, coming from an institution which has grappled with a legacy of child sexual abuse.

Guardian readers who responded to a call-out asking for their views were similarly critical of the pope’s comments, which were branded “out of touch” and “sexist”.

There’s more select vituperative at the Guardian site.  (h/t Ginger K.)

* Over at the NYT, John McWhorter is back with a provocative column called, “I can’t brook the idea of banning ‘Negro’.” (As I’ve mentioned before, they’d have to ban the name of the long-time estimable organization, “The United Negro College Fund.”)

wrote recently that William Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony” is “smashing,” one of the most stirring pieces of classical music I know. But I hear from an experienced conductor that several orchestras have turned down his requests to perform or record it with them, out of wariness of the word “Negro” in its title. In 2020, in the Princeton Summer Journal (part of a summer journalism program for high school students), a student wrote an essay titled “White Teachers: Stop Saying ‘Negro.’” I know of two cases in the past two years of white college professors having complaints filed against them by students for using the word “Negro” in class when quoting older texts. Activists in Vermont have been calling for “Negro Brook,” a stream in Vermont’s Townshend State Park, to be renamed.

Never mind that “Negro” was what Black Americans readily and often proudly called ourselves throughout much of the 20th century, until the preference evolved to “Black” during the civil rights era. And never mind that the issue in these instances isn’t Black people being referred to as “Negroes” today — that would be offensive — but utterances or written reproductions of the word when referring to older texts and titles. The new idea seems to be that saying or writing “Negro” is not simply archaic, but a contemptuous insult in all contexts.

If that’s so, then we’re at a point where, presumably, the filmmakers who titled the well-received James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” will have to revise the title. The title’s purpose was to elide the N-word in the Baldwin quote that it was based on. A few years ago, the poet Laurie Sheck, who was teaching at The New School in New York, was the subject of a student complaint that she had used the N-word in reference to Baldwin’s actual statement — in a discussion about the implications of the film’s title. The New School investigated and eventually dropped the case, but one wonders if today some students would consider it inappropriate if she had only used the documentary’s bowdlerized title.

And he has a few pungent remarks about the performative nature of equating “Negro” with the “n-word”:

What purpose does it serve to generate this new lexical grievance? I’m not saying we should revert to everyday use of “Negro” — it is indeed out of date. But does Black America need yet another word to take umbrage at and police the usage of? Do we, in Black America, need fellow travelers — sorry, allies — to join us in this new quest, eager to assist in the surveillance out of some misguided sense that this is “doing the work”?

. . . To extend this approach to the antiquated but at one time acceptable word “Negro” amounts to a kind of language policing — recreational, sanctimonious or both — that distracts all of us from real work in the real world. To wit: What do you think Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph or Mary McLeod Bethune would have thought about people deeming it social justice to crusade against any instance of the word “Negro” instead of combating actual racism?

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 835,150, an increase of 1,499 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,491,637, an increase of about 7,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 8 includes:


The chief was stabbed to death, supposedly while trying to escape. From Wikipedia:

Crazy Horse, even when dying, refused to lie on the white man’s cot. He insisted on being placed on the floor. Armed soldiers stood by until he died. And when he breathed his last, Touch the Clouds, Crazy Horse’s seven-foot-tall Miniconjou friend, pointed to the blanket that covered the chief’s body and said, “This is the lodge of Crazy Horse.”

Hollerith’s sorting machine and one of the punched cards it sorted:

  • 1940 – World War II: Britain introduces food rationing.
  • 1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “War on Poverty” in the United States.
  • 1973 – Watergate scandal: The trial of seven men accused of illegal entry into Democratic Party headquarters at Watergate begins.

Can you name the “Watergate Seven”?  Here they are: H. R. HaldemanJohn EhrlichmanJohn N. MitchellCharles ColsonGordon C. StrachanRobert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson/

  • 1994 – Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov on Soyuz TM-18 leaves for Mir. He would stay on the space station until March 22, 1995, for a record 437 days in space.
  • 2011 – Sitting US Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is shot in the head along with 18 others in a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords survived the assassination attempt, but six others died, including John Roll, a federal judge.
  • 2016 – Joaquín Guzmán, widely regarded as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker, is recaptured following his escape from a maximum security prison in Mexico.

Eventually El Chapo (“Shorty”: he was 5’6″) was extradited to the U.S., convicted, and is now spending life in prison in the Supermax ADC Florence in Colorado: America’s toughest prison.  He was also ordered to turn over 12.6 billion dollars. Here’s his U.S. Mugshot:

Notables born on this day include:

Wallace in Singapore, 1862, after he was already famous:

  • 1902 – Carl Rogers, American psychologist and academic (d. 1987)
  • 1911 – Gypsy Rose Lee, American actress, dancer, and author (d. 1970)

The Queen of Burlesque:

  • 1926 – Soupy Sales, American comedian and actor (d. 2009)
  • 1935 – Elvis Presley, American singer, guitarist, and actor (d. 1977)
  • 1942 – Stephen Hawking, English physicist and author (d. 2018)

See above for a Google Doodle honoring his achievements.

Krieger, who of course became famous with the Doors, is shown here reprising some of his greatest guitar bits (he co-wrote many of the Doors hits, like “Light My Fire” and “Touch Me”):

  • 1947 – David Bowie, English singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (d. 2016)
  • 1967 – R. Kelly, American singer-songwriter, record producer, and former professional basketball player

Kelly has been found guilty of multiple charges of child trafficking, statutory rape, and other such crimes. He’ll be sentenced on May 4, and it will be life in prison.

Two autocrats:

Those who “passed” on January 8 include:

Here’s a portrait of Giotto by Uccello, painted between 1490 and 1550, after Giotto’s death:

  • 1642 – Galileo Galilei, Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher (b. 1564)

Here’s a portrait of Galileo done in 1636 by Justus Sustermans, when the great man (under house arrest) was still alive:

Part of the patent for the device that made Whitney famous:

Verlaine, dead at 51 from abusing every substance known to the French:

Who remembers Bellows except for his painting “Stag at Sharkey’s”? Yet he was quite famous in his time. Here’s his “Riverside,” painted in 1915:

  • 1941 – Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, English general and founder of the Scout movement (b. 1857)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s not warm enough, so she demands wood. (She’s the Queen!)

Hili: If the fireplace is going to warm me you will have to carry in more wood.
A: I’m afraid that you are right.
In Polish:
Hili: Jeśli kominek ma mnie ogrzać musisz przynieść więcej drewna.
Ja: Obawiam się, że masz rację.
And a photo of Kulka by Andrzej:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

About time, too! I’ve been hungering for a tender toddler for a long while!

This could have been a tweet by Richard Dawkins, but wasn’t:

From Stephen Fry:

From Simon, who sent this on Jan. 3, “back to work” day:

Also from Simon, the lovely Nigella (who’s Jewish) Frenchifies the microwave. Simon also gives us some bonus information

It makes me feel a little younger to know that I was born the same week as her.What you probably know is that her father Nigel Lawson was chancellor under Thatcher, in a time of relatively high unemployment.His name is an anagram of “we all sign on” – which if it needs translation is English for applying for unemployment benefits.

Sound up!

From Barry: Can a cat get any stealthier?

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a touching story of sacrifice. Phenol was injected directly into the heart.

Tweets from Matthew. Look at this poor schlemiel!

THREE stealth cats, all wiggling their butts:

A vociferous and chirping cat:

Finally, one of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 4, 2022 • 7:00 am

Welcome to the first Cruel Day of the year: Tuesday, January 4, 2022: National Spaghetti Day, National Trivia Day, World Hypnotism Day, Dimpled Chad Day (when Congress declared W’s victory over Al Gore in 2001), the eleventh of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and World Braille Day.

News of the Day:

*In a new NYT essay, a professor of constitutional law at Columbia, maintains that “The Republican Party is succeeding because we  are not a democracy.” What? It’s all about the Electoral College system, he says:

The arcane scheme that Mr. Trump’s lawyers hatched to disrupt congressional certification of the vote and perhaps persuade Republican state legislatures to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in states like Pennsylvania was conceivable only because the Electoral College splinters presidential elections into separate contests in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and skews the totals toward small states. In a simple system of majority rule, Mr. Biden’s thumping margin of more than seven million votes would have been the last word. For that matter, so would Hillary Clinton’s national margin of nearly three million votes in 2016: Mr. Trump would not have had a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address in which to barricade himself in 2020.

Would Mr. Trump’s big lie about election fraud have sent the rioters to the Capitol anyway, even without his lawyers and fixers trying to overturn the results? Maybe. But there would have been no constitutional machinery to jam. And even the big lie received a huge constitutional assist. Thanks to the Electoral College, Mr. Trump could have tied Mr. Biden and forced the election into the House of Representatives by flipping just 43,000 votes in three close states, a gap narrow enough that any number of toxic fables can claim to bridge it.

I agree that the Electoral College is anachronistic and we need to go to the one-person one-vote system, but does anybody really think that Trump wouldn’t have hatched another scheme if the Electoral College didn’t exist?  It would have been a more difficult scheme, but his supporters are, I suspect, willing to call “vote fraud” in any election.

UPDATE TO ITEM BELOW: I wrote this before I learned that Holmes was convicted of four of the 11 counts with which she was charged:

*Jurors in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, accused of 11 counts of wire fraud, have reported that they are deadlocked on three counts. The judge, as usual, told them to keep deliberating, and there’s no hint of what’s going on with the other 8 counts. This is not normal:

This is a highly unusual situation, said Stanford Law School professor Robert Weisberg, an expert in criminal law. Typically, when a jury reports that they are deadlocked on some counts, they announce their verdict on the other counts, he said.

But until the jury announces its verdict to the judge, they are not bound to any preliminary vote on the other eight charges and can still change their mind, said Weisberg, who isn’t involved in the case.

The Wall Street Journal gives a bit more information:

After 46 hours of deliberations over nearly seven days, jurors were stuck on three counts, according to a note read by the judge in court Monday morning. The note suggested they may have reached a unanimous verdict on the remaining eight.

. . . Even if the jury remains deadlocked on the three counts, it still can return a unanimous verdict on the other eight. If any of those eight include a guilty verdict, Ms. Holmes would face a possible prison sentence, determined by the judge. Each fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison plus fines and restitution.

While I predicted some guilty verdicts here, I now have no idea what’s happening. All I know is that if she walks, an injustice will have been done.

*The New York State investigation into Donald Trump’s finances proceeds apace, and is getting closer to The Donald. The AP reports that in fact Trump himself has been subpoenaed along with his two oldest kids, Ivanka and Donald, Jr. If any of these wind up being convicted, they can’t be pardoned by any President, because they’re investigating violations of state and not federal law. Trump may think he’s above the law and refuse to appear in court, but then he could be sent to the slammer depending on what they find and what to do about it.

[Attorney General Letitia] James, a Democrat, has spent more than two years looking at whether the Trump Organization misled banks or tax officials about the value of assets — inflating them to gain favorable loan terms or minimizing them to reap tax savings.

The Trumps have indicated they will fight the subpoenas and are expected to file court papers through their lawyers seeking to have them thrown out. A similar legal fight played out last year after James’ office subpoenaed the testimony of another Trump son, Eric Trump.

Trump sued James in federal court last month, seeking to put an end to her investigation. Trump, in the lawsuit, claimed that James had violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”

A state court judge who handled that dispute agreed Monday to entertain arguments over the recent subpoenas.

I don’t often beef when courts follow the law, but a little voice inside of me whispers, “Lock him up!”

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 826,063, an increase of 1,276 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,467,767, an increase of about 5,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 4 (a rather dull day in history) includes:

  • 871 – Battle of Reading: Æthelred of Wessex and his brother Alfred are defeated by a Danish invasion army.
  • 1853 – After having been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South, Solomon Northup regains his freedom; his memoir Twelve Years a Slave later becomes a national bestseller.

Here’s an 1841 bill of sale of Northup and two others to a slaveholder—after he was kidnapped.  “Platt” is Northup

And a first edition of Northup’s work, which you can buy for $11,500:

They killed Topsy because they had trouble controlling her. The video is one of the cruelest and most horrific things I’ve ever seen one to an animal. I won’t post it, but if you want to watch it, you can see it here.

  • 1999 – Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as governor of Minnesota, United States.
  • 2004 – Spirit, a NASA Mars rover, lands successfully on Mars at 04:35 UTC.

Notables born on this day include:

Ussher is most famous to us for calculating the date of creation by counting back using the Bible, and for years his calculations were considered accurate, and of course supportive of young-earth creationism. As Wikipedia notes:

Ussher now concentrated on his research and writing and returned to the study of chronology and the church fathers. After a 1647 work on the origin of the Creeds, Ussher published a treatise on the calendar in 1648. This was a warm-up for his most famous work, the Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti (“Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world”), which appeared in 1650, and its continuation, Annalium pars posterior, published in 1654. In this work, he calculated the date of the Creation to have been nightfall on 22 October 4004 BC.

Ironically, Ussher served as The Primate of All England.

  • 1643 – Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist (d. 1727). 

Weirdly, Wikpedia gives his birth date not as January 4, but as December 25, 1642 (was it a calendar change). Neil DeGrasse Tyson uses his Christmas birth as an introduction to a talk when people think he’s talking about Jesus.

Braille himself was totally blind after an accident with an awl as a child. But the system he invented then is virtually unchanged today. I am curious about how languages without the Latin-style alphabet that most Western countries use. There surely must be a Braille system in Arabic, Malayalam (a palindrome, too!), and other such languages.

His real name was Charles Stratton, and as a “liitle person” (formerly midget), he was a big attraction at P. T. Barnum’s shows, for he could also sing, dance, and do impressions. Here’s his wedding to Lavinia Warren in 1863. Caption from Wikipedia:

The Fairy Wedding group: Stratton and his bride Lavinia Warren, alongside her sister Minnie and George Washington Morrison Nutt (“Commodore Nutt”); entertainers associated with P.T. Barnum.
  • 1900 – James Bond, American ornithologist and zoologist (d. 1989)

This is the real Bond—James Bond. Ian Fleming knew of his work (e.g.,  Birds of the Caribbean) because Fleming himself lived in Jamaica and was an avid birdwatcher. The real Bond thought that Fleming using his name for the fictional secret agent was a good bit of fun.

  • 1943 – Doris Kearns Goodwin, American historian and author
  • 1960 – Michael Stipe, American singer-songwriter and producer

Whatever happened to Stipe and REM?

Those who were no more on January 4  include:

  • 1877 – Cornelius Vanderbilt, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1794)
  • 1961 – Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1887)

Here’s the grave of Schrödinger and his wife in Austria. Notice the equation at the top; do you recognize it?

Here’s Eliot (who was born in America) reading what I consider his best poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“. Like Dylan Thomas, he reads in a monotone. It’s amazing that he wrote this poem when he was 22 years old.

  • 2021 – Tanya Roberts, American actress (b. 1955)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej have a deep conversation:

Hili: From a safe place the world looks less threatening.
A: It depends on what you avert your eyes from.
In Polish:
Hili: Z bezpiecznego miejsca świat wygląda mniej groźnie.
Ja: To zależy od czego odwracasz oczy.
And Kulka on the kitchen table:

From Twitter. Now they want to stiff the old people because the younger ones don’t want crap wages:

A New Year meme from Bruce:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

Sabine learns the difference between American English and British English. It’s a long video, as it’s one of her regular ones:

From Laura Helmuth, editor of Scientific American. I think she’s conflating the “gender binary” with the “sex binary”, which is to all intents and purposes, is binary.

From Simon: The Invasion of the Nose Eaters:

From Ginger K.; what can one say?

Tweets from Matthew. Yes, there is a cat in this photo. Can you spot it? The reveal is below the fold:

I love this video. The gerenuk male is so considerate, and both gazelles are ineffably graceful. Of course, Matthew and I wondered if the female’s noms are just a side effect of the male trying to get food, and he’s not a gentleman at all:

I would kill to try a ’61 Petrus, perhaps the greatest first-growth Bordeaux from a very great vintage. I’m not sure how this method works as I couldn’t see what the guy without the tongs is doing, but I’m sure an astute reader could tell me.

This poor kitty can’t catch a break.

Oh hell, two more (There are 12 on the thread, so go have a look.)

To see the cat from Matthew’s first tweet above, click “continue reading”:

Continue reading “Tuesday: Hili dialogue”

Saturday: Hili dialogue and New Year’s wishes from Leon and Kulka

January 1, 2022 • 7:00 am


It’s 2022!!! A new year has begun on This Saturay, January 1, 2022. (Don’t forget to stop writing 2021 on your checks-— if anybody’s still writing checks.) And a HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL; let us hope it will be better than 2*21, the unspeakable year of misery.

Of course it’s National Bloody Mary Day.

It’s also Apple Gifting Day, Commitment Day, Ellis Island Day, Euro Day (see below), Fruitcake Toss Day, National Hangover Day, Polar Bear Plunge Day (is anybody gonna do this?), Global Family Day, the last day of Kwanzaa (n.b. not “Coynezaa”, Emancipation Day, and the following New Year celebrations:

Here’s Ded Moroz (Santa) and Snegurochka in Belarus, where things are tough right now.

Google’s New Year’s Day gif (click on screenshot);

News of the Day:

*Well, 2021 went out the way it came in: miserably. New covid cases set a record: nearly 600,000 new cases in one day! Worse, Bloomberg reports that, by mid-January, there could be a million new covid cases per day! Are we all going to get the virus before this is over?

*And if you’re flying anywhere in the next few days, expect the worst: the NBC Evening News reported last night that 1,500 flights have been canceled, and now we’re facing terrible weather in the Midwest and Northeast U.S. (It will snow at least four inches in Chicago today.) Many pilots are out sick, and United Airlines has offered triple pay for pilots willing to fly extra legs. I’m very glad I didn’t go anywhere for the holidays.

*Along with this goes the cancellation of many New Year’s festivities throughout the world, though the Big Ball is going to drop in Times Square in New York. But in Las Vegas (of course), 300,000 people are predicted to crowd the Strip and there are no restrictions, including masks or proof of vaccinated (both required in New York City).

*I posted yesterday about Betty White’s unexpected death at 99. People that are centenarians or close to it are often asked about their “secret to longevity”, and it’s always something like “do what I did.” In Betty White’s case, Food & Wine Magazine posted her answer on December 29—just two days before she died (oy!):

Of course, Betty White – who turns 100 on January 17 – doesn’t need any help making headlines. And clearly, the lifelong actress knows a thing or two about entertaining answers for interviews. So what was White’s response when People recently asked about her dietary regimen at 99 years old? “I try to avoid anything green,” she joked. “I think it’s working.”

This was a woman after my own heart. Plus she loved animals!

*Speaking of animals, what about that cleaner in Florida who climbed a fence at night, snuck over to the tiger cage at a zoo, stuck his arm through the cage, and was grabbed by a rare Malayan tiger named Eko.  The schlemiel called the cops, who came and had to shoot that magnificent animal dead. The zoo is mourning Eko, who was much loved, while the guy is in the hospital in serious condition. The zoo closed on Friday so that the employees could mourn, and there was even a grief counselor available. It’s not yet clear whether authorities will bring criminal charges against the man.

*Need cheering up by now?Click on the screenshot to read a story about animals that has a great headline and a happy ending:

*Marshall Mathers, better known as the rapper Eminem, has just opened a faux-Italian restaurant in Detroit called “Mom’s Spaghetti”. (It’s a reference to his hit song “Lose Yourself”.)  The New York Times reviewed it (verdict: meh), and there’s a video below. The joint features an $11 “spaghetti sandwich”: a glop of pasta between two pieces of white bread. Gag me with a spoon!

*And the royal worshipers in the UK are all agog about Kate Middleton playing the piano at a Christmas gala at Westminster Abbey; she accompanied a Scottish singer. Some of the headlines are over the top. This video, for example, is titled “Kate Middleton DAZZLES during impressive piano performance.”  From what I can see, it’s not very dazzling. Note how the guy who sang with her osculates the bum of the Firm:


From the Daily Fail:

I’ll never understand the view of the UK public (I know, some of you don’t share this) that the royals are akin to demigods. And yet many smart and thoughtful people argue strenuously that we should keep the royals.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 823,903 an increase of 1,242 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,454,900, an increase of about 6,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 1 includes:

  • 153 BC – For the first time, Roman consuls begin their year in office on January 1.
  • 45 BC – The Julian calendar takes effect as the civil calendar of the Roman Empire, establishing January 1 as the new date of the new year.
  • 42 BC – The Roman Senate posthumously deifies Julius Caesar
  • 1500 – Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral discovers the coast of Brazil.
  • 1700 – Russia begins using the Anno Domini era instead of the Anno Mundi era of the Byzantine Empire.
  • 1739 – Bouvet Island, the world’s remotest island, is discovered by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier.

Here’s where it is, and a few words from Wikipedia:

Bouvet Island (Norwegian: Bouvetøya [bʉˈvèːœʏɑ] or Bouvetøyen) is a Norwegian uninhabited protected nature reserve. As a subantarctic volcanic island, it is situated in the South Atlantic Ocean (54°25′S 3°22′ECoordinates: 54°25′S 3°22′E), at the southern end of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge making it the world’s most remote island. It is not part of the southern region covered by the Antarctic Treaty System.

The island lies 1,700 kilometres (1,100 mi) north of the Princess Astrid Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, 1,900 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of the South Sandwich Islands, 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) south of Gough Island, and 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) south-southwest of the coast of South Africa. It has an area of 49 square kilometres (19 sq mi), 93 percent of which is covered by a glacier. The centre of the island is the ice-filled crater of an inactive volcano. Some skerries and one smaller island, Larsøya, lie along its coast. Nyrøysa, created by a rock slide in the late 1950s, is the only easy place to land and is the location of a weather station.

Here’s that godforsaken island:

  • 1773 – The hymn that became known as “Amazing Grace“, then titled “1 Chronicles 17:16–17”, is first used to accompany a sermon led by John Newton in the town of Olney, Buckinghamshire, England.

Newton wrote the song: in 1772; he was an English poet and Anglican clergyman (1725–1807). I believe Olney is where they have the annual pancake race on Shrove Tuesday (I’ve been there).

The flag, which still retains traces of colonialism:

That lasted until 1922, when the Irish Free State (now just “Ireland” was formed), while Northern Ireland is still allied with the UK.

  • 1808 – The United States bans the importation of slaves.
  • 1863 – American Civil War: The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect in Confederate territory.
  • 1892 – Ellis Island begins processing immigrants into the United States.

Here are some immigrants who passed inspection, and are waiting for a ferry to Manhattan:

(From the NYT) PASSAGES Immigrants at Ellis Island awaiting a ferry to the city. Credit…Bettmann/CORBIS
  • 1898 – New York, New York annexes land from surrounding counties, creating the City of Greater New York. The four initial boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx, are joined on January 25 by Staten Island to create the modern city of five boroughs.
  • 1934 – Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay becomes a United States federal prison.

Even though the island isn’t far from San Francisco, the currents are rough and security was tight. Nobody is known to have successfully escaped. Here’s the island with the prison on it, and a view of the cells (#181, with the open door, was where Al Capone lived):

First the Nazis sterilized these people (not all of the defects were “genetic”), and later began to euthanize them—they were the first victims of the Nazi genocide. (The killing was later stopped after a public outcry. Here’s a poster urging euthanasia; the caption is from Wikipedia:

Propaganda for Nazi Germany’s T-4 Euthanasia Program: “This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too.” from the Office of Racial Policy’s Neues Volk.

And. . . here’s the first Canadian citizen, you hosers! How come everyone didn’t become Canadian instantly?

  • 1958 – The European Economic Community is established.
  • 1959 – Cuban Revolution: Fulgencio Batista, dictator of Cuba, is overthrown by Fidel Castro’s forces.
  • 1971 – Cigarette advertisements are banned on American television.
  • 1990 – David Dinkins is sworn in as New York City’s first black mayor.

Here’s Dinkens, who died about a year ago:

  • 1993 – Dissolution of Czechoslovakia: Czechoslovakia is divided into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic
  • 1995 – The Draupner wave in the North Sea in Norway is detected, confirming the existence of freak waves.

These are often called “freak waves”: here’s one hitting an oil rig in the North Sea:

  • 1999 – Euro currency is introduced in 11 member nations of the European Union (with the exception of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Greece and Sweden; Greece adopts the euro two years later).

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s a genuine Paul Revere dessert spoon from the 1780s; it’s only $18,000 on eBay:

  • 1752 – Betsy Ross, American seamstress, credited with designing the Flag of the United States (d. 1836)
  • 1864 – Alfred Stieglitz, American photographer and curator (d. 1946)

Considered the father of modern art photography, Stiegliz took many great photos, but this may be his best, “The Steerage”, the subject of a whole Wikipedia page.

Some info:

The Steerage is a black and white photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1907. It has been hailed as one of the greatest photographs of all time because it captures in a single image both a formative document of its time and one of the first works of artistic modernism.

“There were men and women and children on the lower deck of the steerage. There was a narrow stairway leading to the upper deck of the steerage, a small deck right on the bow with the steamer.
To the left was an inclining funnel and from the upper steerage deck there was fastened a gangway bridge that was glistening in its freshly painted state. It was rather long, white, and during the trip remained untouched by anyone.
On the upper deck, looking over the railing, there was a young man with a straw hat. The shape of the hat was round. He was watching the men and women and children on the lower steerage deck…A round straw hat, the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right, the white drawbridge with its railing made of circular chains – white suspenders crossing on the back of a man in the steerage below, round shapes of iron machinery, a mast cutting into the sky, making a triangular shape…I saw shapes related to each other. I was inspired by a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life.”

Although Stieglitz described “an inclining funnel” in the scene, photographs and models of the ship (see below) show that this object was actually a large mast to which booms were fastened for loading and unloading cargo. One of the booms is shown at the very top of the picture.

  • 1879 – E. M. Forster, English author and playwright (d. 1970)
  • 1895 – J. Edgar Hoover, American law enforcement official; 1st Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (d. 1972)
  • 1919 – J. D. Salinger, American soldier and author (d. 2010)
  • 1942 – Country Joe McDonald, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1943 – Don Novello, American comedian, screenwriter and producer

Remember Novello as “Father Guido Sarducci” on Saturday Night Live?

  • 1955 – Mary Beard, English classicist, academic and presenter

Those experienced their demise on January 1 include:

  • 1953 – Hank Williams, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1923)

Here’s Williams playing “Hey Good Lookin‘” , written by Williams in 1951. He died at only 29.

  • 1972 – Maurice Chevalier, French actor and singer (b. 1888)
  • 2015 – Mario Cuomo, American lawyer and politician, 52nd Governor of New York (b. 1932)
  • 2017 – Derek Parfit, British philosopher (b. 1942)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is washing herself in Andrzej’s chair, but the dialogue is arcane. Malgorzata explains: “Andrzej is saying (truthfully) that Hili might be more comfortable on the sofa. But his objective is not Hili’s comfort. He wants ro regain his own chair and Hili knows it. A situation in which you suggest something which is to your advantage (even if it’s also to the advantage of the other person involved) Hili calls populism and demagoguery.”

Hili: Taking care of one’s cleanliness is time consuming.
A: You will be more comfortable on the sofa.
Hili: This is populism and demagoguery.
In Polish:
Hili: Troska o czystość jest czasochłonna.
Ja: Na sofie będzie ci wygodniej.
Hili: To jest populizm i demagogia.

And here are Szaron and Kulka doing their business:

Leon has some New Year’s wishes, and he’s all dressed up to convey them:

Leon: Have a good time, do not scare your smaller brethren [this is a literal translation, it means: animals] and may you prosper in the New Year in friendship and love.
In Polish: Bawcie sie dobrze, nie straszcie braci mniejszych i niech Wam się darzy w Nowym Roku, w przyjaźni i miłości.
Kulka also has some wishes, and sits next to Andrzej’s new book, which is illustrated by photos of Kulka taken by Paulina:

On New Year Eve Kulka wishes everybody a nice reading (Picture by Paulina R.)

And the editorial team of “Listy z naszego sadu” wishes our readers everything they wish for themselves and perseverance to carry out these wishes against all obstacles.

In Polish:

Kulka, z okazji Sylwestra, życzy wszystkim miłej lektury (Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
Zaś redakcja “Listów z naszego sadu” życzy wszystkim czytelnikom tego, czego oni sami sobie życzą i wytrwałości, żeby te życzenia wprowadzić w życie wbrew wszelkim przeciwnościom.

A cartoon from Jean:



From Bruce:

Reader Pliny The in Between’s last Far Corner Cafe cartoon of 2021:


A tweet from reader Barry about Betty White and this miserable year:

Two tweets via Ken. Why would the BBC interview Alan Dershowitz about the Ghislaine Maxwell trial when Dershowitz was not only one of Jeffrey Epstein’s former lawyers, but had been accused himself of sexual abuse by one of Epstein’s accusers? Oy!

They realized the error of their ways. . .

From Ginger K:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a marvelous array of bioluminescent corals. Why do they glow? To attract microorganisms? To scare away predators? Who knows?

It’s time to show this once again, a marvelous jazz rendition I call “Nom Nom”:

The sexual displays of male ducks of different species are not only remarkable, but unpredictably varied. Look at this one: what is the male showing to the female about his desirability as a mate?

With her tail!

On the Importance of Wild Felids:

Friday: Hili dialogue

December 31, 2021 • 7:00 am

Good morning on the last day of a bad year: Friday, December 31, 2021: National Vinegar Day. Why is the last day of the year Vinegar Day? Well, I suppose the whole year left a sour taste in our mouths.

It’s also National Champagne Day, Universal Hour of Peace Day, and Unlucky Day, plus all the stuff below connected with New Year’s Eve:

Google has an animated Doodle for New Year’s Eve; click on it to see where it goes:

News of the Day:

* Covid-19 is headlining all the news these days, so you probably know that today’s U.S. daily total of new virus cases, averaged over a week, is the highest yet: 265,427 cases a day on average, according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s a million new cases every 4 days or so.  However, hospitalizations are not rising nearly as fast:

The seven-day average of hospitalizations, though increasing, is below both the pandemic peak of 137,510 on Jan. 10, 2021, and the smaller peak of 102,967 on Sept. 4, 2021, during the Delta surge.

This is probably because a substantial number of infections are breakthrough infections, and because omicron seems increasingly less dangerous than the previously-prevalent Delta variant. The latter view is supported by South Africa just reporting that it’s passed its four surge of the virus, but with very few deaths.

“The speed with which the Omicron-driven fourth wave rose, peaked and then declined has been staggering,” said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. “Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two. This Omicron wave is over in the city of Tshwane. It was a flash flood more than a wave.” The rise in deaths over the period was small, and in the last week, officials said, “marginal.”

Some scientists were quick to forecast the same pattern elsewhere.

“We’ll be in for a tough January, as cases will keep going up and peak, and then fall fast,” said Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington epidemiologist who is a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist. While cases will still overwhelm hospitals, he said, he expects that the proportion of hospitalized cases will be lower than in earlier waves.

And some good news: the J&J booster seems to provide “strong protection against the Omicron variant.” Will this be the fourth shot we’lll get?

*This was on the NBC Evening News last night, and now is in the Guardian. At a Florida zoo, cops had to kill a tiger that had grabbed a man’s arm that, against all rules, he stuck into the tiger enclosure after hours. What a moron! And it was a rare subspecies of tiger, too:

Authorities in the US have shot and killed a critically endangered tiger after it bit the arm of a man who entered an unauthorized area of the tiger’s enclosure in a Florida zoo.

The man, who is in his 20s and worked for an external cleaning service at the Naples zoo in Florida, suffered serious injuries after an eight-year old Malayan tiger named Eko bit him, authorities said on Wednesday.

“Preliminary information indicates that the man was either petting or feeding the animal, both of which are unauthorized and dangerous activities,” the Collier county sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.

It added that the third-party cleaning service which the man worked for is only responsible for cleaning restrooms and the gift shop, not the animal enclosures.

“Initial reports indicate that the tiger grabbed the man’s arm and pulled it into the enclosure after the man traversed an initial fence barrier and put his arm through the fencing of the tiger enclosure,” the statement said.

The animal, named Eko, was a Malayan tiger, a critically endangered subspecies of Panthera tigris that is native to the Malaysian peninsula. Only 80-120 mature individuals are estimated to survive in the wild.  When I think about the cops killing this animal because it had hold of the man’s arm, I wonder if it was necessary to kill the animal to make it let go. Would a shot fired in the air scare it away? Or a shot in the leg? Is death always to be the fate of such animals when weighed against the loss of part of arm? I hope the man is arrested and fined (or his company fined) a substantial amount of money.

*Sent verbatim from reader Ken:

An Oklahoma state senator has introduced a bill that would require public-school librarians to remove any book within 30 days of a single parent requesting that the book be removed. The bill requires that any librarian who fails to do so be fired and be banned for two years from employment with the state’s public school system. It further provides that the parent could collect $10,000 per day from the school system if the book is not removed as requested.

This seems unconstitutional to me, and Ken’s link says that the parents are targeting LGBTQ+ books. To give any parent the right to get a book heaved out of the library is a violation of the First Amendment, it seems to me. And, in a short time, most of the books will be removed, because, you know, every book will offend at least one parent.

*Re yesterday’s woeful op-ed in Scientific American calling E. O. Wilson (and others, notably Gregor Mendel) “racists”, the editors of the magazine should be rethinking that article after seeing these tweets:

*I urged Jean, one of the members of Team Duck, visit the “Make Way for Ducklings” monument on the Boston Common; she did and look what she found: ducks and ducklings in winter wear! Yarn-bombed! (Photos by Jean):

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 822,719, an increase of 1,221 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,448,536, an increase of about 7,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 31 includes:

How did they do it? The Rhine was frozen over: