Monday: Hili dialogue

April 12, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a wet Monday, April 12, 2021: National Grilled Cheese Day (the sandwich must be paired with tomato soup, as the combination for some reason is not only felicitous, but also imperative). It’s also National Licorice Day, Drop Everything and Read Day, and International Day of Human Space Flight, honoring the exploration begun on this day by Yuri Gagarin when he orbited the earth once in 1961. Since there were no provisions for a safe re-entry of his Vostok capsule, he parachuted out by himself at 8000 feet and landed safely.

This is the 60th anniversary of Gagarin’s orbit; here’s a very brief documentary:

Wine of the Day: Here’s an Italian red made from the Freisa grape, a varietal I haven’t had. The first link goes to where I bought it for about $20 and some tasting notes. I drank it with homemade turkey chili (I didn”t go meatless for a week as I’d planned). It was delicious, full of fruit and the taste of cherries; the only problem was that it was pretty tannic, a problem that may resolve after I let the remnants sit overnight. Also, it was the first alcohol I’ve had since I went to Texas.

News of the Day:

With talks underway in Vienna for the U.S. to resume its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (as I’ve said, a “deal” will accomplish nothing to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons), a mysterious blackout hit the Nantanz nuclear facility, now being rebuilt. It looks as if Israel is sending a message to Iran, as it may have done with the mysterious fire that occurred there a year ago.

Empathy in the animal world: the Washington Post reviews a new book about animal behavior, “When Animals Rescue: Amazing True Stories about Heroic and Helpful Creatures,” by writer Belinda Recio. Her thesis is that animals are feel humanlike emotions, like altruism and kindness, far more often than we think. The reviewer, a journalist, says that the treatment is too anecdotal, and there may be other explanations for these behaviors, but concludes:

If it is anthropomorphic to say that animals genuinely care for one another, then why isn’t it also anthropomorphic to say that they are hungry or thirsty or sexually aroused? Yet those who hesitate to attribute “higher” ethical motives to other species rarely have a problem discerning in them the more “primitive” drives that humans are also subject to.

Wisely, Recio stays out of this contentious debate. She lets the stories speak for themselves. We cannot help but be delighted by them, if not transformed.

But the readers should be informed by Recio about possible alternative explanations for the behaviors. If these might not rest on a shared set of emotions with animals, then we can’t be “transformed.” It is not a particularly trenchant review. I’d recommend Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (h/t: Barry)

Important squirrel news: the Washington Post has a piece about how an amateur wildlife photographer, Dani Connor, became famous overnight by taking the video (below) of a red squirrel emitting noises of pleasure as it eats seeds.  The squirrel was one of an litter orphaned when its mother was killed by a car, and she cared for the four babies. Now she has a Patreon account and can make a living from her photography. Good for her!

When the pandemic began hitting the U.S. and Europe hard, I predicted that India, with a poor and crowded population and insufficient medical facilities, would be hit even harder. I was pleased that it wasn’t: there is even a New Yorker article by Sid Mukherjee about this anomaly. Now, however, the pandemic is beginning to hit my beloved India, with reported cases undergoing the biggest surge ever. As Reuters notes:

New cases in the world’s second-most populous country have totalled the most of anywhere in the world over the last two weeks. India’s overall tally of 13.21 million is the third-highest globally, just shy of Brazil and below the worst affected country, the United States.

The second surge in infections, which has spread much more rapidly than the first one that peaked in September, has forced many states to impose fresh curbs but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has refused to impose a national lockdown given the high economic costs.

Here’s a daily graph of daily new cases, which reached about 169,000 yesterday.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 561,527, an increase of just 294 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,950,823, an increase of about 10,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on April 12 includes:

This is considered the beginning of the Civil War, and happened soon after Lincoln took office in March. I can’t find a date for the formal declaration of war, but you can still visit the ruined fort in Charleston Harbor:

  • 1928 – The Bremen, a German Junkers W 33 type aircraft, takes off for the first successful transatlantic aeroplane flight from east to west.  This is a year after Lindbergh’s solo flight, and the Bremen had a three-man crew, ergo it’s not remembered so much. Here’s the plane that made it, landing in a peat bog in Newfoundland:

If you’re in Georgia, as I was in 2013, I recommend visiting the house in Warm Springs where Roosevelt died. (He was with his mistress Lucy Mercer when stricken with a fatal cerebral hemorrhage, and Lucy was hustled out of the house before Eleanor arrived.) Here are a few photos of the cottage that I took.

The house:

A poignant message on the wall from FDR’s cook:

The room in which he was sitting when stricken by the hemorrhage:

The bed in the next room where he died:

  • 1955 – The polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, is declared safe and effective.
  • 1961 – Cold War: Space Race: The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight, Vostok 1.
  • 1983 – Harold Washington is elected as the first black mayor of Chicago.

Washington was a good mayor, and I especially liked him because he was fond of the monk parrots who nested in a tree across from his apartment, which was in Hyde Park. He died the year after I moved to Chicago.

  • 1999 – United States President Bill Clinton is cited for contempt of court for giving “intentionally false statements” in a civil lawsuit; he is later fined and disbarred.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1777 – Henry Clay, American lawyer and politician, 9th United States Secretary of State (d. 1852)
  • 1883 – Imogen Cunningham, American photographer and educator (d. 1976)

An underappreciated photographer, Cunningham was one of the first women to photograph nudes, which was considered scandalous. Here’s one of her famous pictures, “Three Dancers, Mills College. 1929.” © The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012.

And I can’t resist adding this photograph by Judy Dater showing an aged Cunningham (she was 90) with her camera and a nude, “Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud at Yosemite
1974.” (It has its own Wikipedia entry.) Wikipedia notes, “The photo was the first adult full frontal nude photograph published in Life magazine.”

  • 1916 – Benjamin Libet, American neuropsychologist and academic (d. 2007)
  • 1923 – Ann Miller, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 2004)

Here’s Miller, a great dancer now forgotten, paired with Fred Astaire in “Easter Parade.” Judy Garland gives them the stinkeye:

  • 1932 – Tiny Tim, American singer and ukulele player (d. 1996)
  • 1947 – David Letterman, American comedian and talk show host
  • 1981 – Tulsi Gabbard, American politician

Those who kicked the bucket on April 12 include:

  • 1912 – Clara Barton, American nurse and humanitarian, founded the American Red Cross (b. 1821)
  • 1945 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, American lawyer and politician, 32nd President of the United States (b. 1882)
  • 1981 – Joe Louis, American boxer and wrestler (b. 1914)
  • 1988 – Alan Paton, South African historian and author (b. 1903)
  • 1989 – Abbie Hoffman, American activist, co-founded Youth International Party (b. 1936)

Here’s the famous Yippie the year he died (he committed suicide with an overdose of phenobarbital):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a plea:

Hili: Education is important.
A: That’s true.
Hili: How to teach Kulka that my bowls are sacrosanct and untouchable?
A: It’s not possible.
In Polish:
Hili: Edukacja jest ważna.
Ja: To prawda.
Hili: Jak nauczyć Kulkę, że moje miseczki są święte i nietykalne?
Ja: To nie jest możliwe.

Paulina photographed Szaron and Kulka out on the tiles:

Caption: Night, cats, and Paulina with her camera.  (In Polish: Noc, koty i Paulina z jej aparatem.)

From Pyers:

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day. This happens to be true.

This is what’s called a “burn.” Apple Martin, Gwynnie’s daughter, isn’t keen on her mother’s “morning routine”, though Apple has one too. See more here.


When you get roasted by your gen z daughter… #motherdaughter #goop #fyp #gwynethpaltrow

♬ original sound – Goop


And I found this, too, which is one reason I dislike Gwynnie. She actually had a video made about getting ready for the Met Gala and posted it on Twitter!

From Barry.  Whipped cream sounds are to d*gs as opening tuna cans are to cats.

Second tweet: what is that cat drinking??

Tweets from Matthew, who says to notice the little nose nudge at the end to get things just right. But I’m disturbed by the bear’s personal pronoun, “they”. Is this a genderfluid bear?

I could tell you what this is, but that would deprive you of the joy of discovery. Check out the thread itself.

If this swarm can really move faster than a single caterpillar, I don’t understand why. Is this true?

Coincidence—or corporate collusion?

Friday: Hili dialogue

April 9, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Friday, April 9, 2021: National Chinese Almond Cookie Day. I’m home after my jaunt to Texas, and am starting my kale juice cleanse! (Only kidding—but I’m going vegetarian for at least a week.) Yes, I am home, and the anxiety is already creeping in, much of it related to ducks.

News of the day:

Prince Philip died at 99.

Good for Uncle Joe, who declared some modest gun-control measures via executive action yesterday. These include banning “ghost guns” (guns that can be made from kits, lacking the serial numbers that make them traceable), as well as “closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and stripping gun manufacturers of protection from lawsuits.” Republicans, of course, are incensed, and too bad for them. I just wonder if these measures could be derailed by the courts. The NYT however, did do a fact-check on Biden’s claims, and found some errors or misrepresentations, including his claim that only gun manufacturers can’t be sued (they can for certain things, and some tech companies can be immune from lawsuits).

An article in Quillette called “Diversity, inclusion, and academic freedom: the case of gender biology,” tells a harrowing tale of how a seemingly respectful lecture by a pediatric endocrinologist on disorders of sexual development, particularly congenital adrenal hyperplasia, led to an explosion of outrage that led to the doctor’s being replaced in his course. Gender and medicine is a minefield these days.

Important news from HuffPost! (Click on screenshot):

Irresponsible undergraduate students at my university have created a big outbreak of Covid-19 on campus . According to CBS2 News, and reports sent to us at the University of Chicago, more than 50 undergraduates have just tested positive for the virus, most of them having attended “parties held at off-campus fraternities” over the last week. Severe restrictions have been imposed on all undergraduates, including include 7-day mandatory quarantining for all students in residence halls, no in-person classes for undergraduates for at least a week, and no lab work for those undergrads doing research. The student government has called for disciplining those who facilitated the parties, but the U of C has been loath to punish anyone for violating the “Health Pact” that we all had to sign.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 559,575, an increase of 595 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,917,645, an increase of about 13,400 over yesterday’s total.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is wheedling for a snack:

Hili: What’s the time?
A: A quarter to.
Hili: So it’s time now.
In Polish:
Hili: Która godzina?
Ja: Za kwadrans.
Hili: A, to już pora.
Kulka and Szaron are on the steps outside, and it looks as if a little butt-sniffing is going on:

A meme from Facebook. Canada geese are the worst!

From Jesus of the Day:  I hope this is real. If it is, Matthew needs to go to this hotel!

From Nicole. Again, I wonder if this is real. I know that every country in Scandinavia makes fun of every other country in Scandinavia. I once had a Danish officemate, for instance, who told me, “The Finns drink gasoline, you know—regular on weekdays and unleaded on Sundays.”

A tweet from Barry. I’m told that these lizards can really make a mess of you.

Tweets from Matthew. I’m not sure whether this book involved “moveable” type, with each character re-used, or was simply engraved in toto. I’m too lazy to look it up.

Matthew calls this one “Stalin,” and he’s pretty much on the money:

Look at this fat hamster get under a door!

Ah, the beautiful wood ducks. They and their congeners, the Mandarins, are the world’s most beautiful ducks. We had a female and two male wood ducks for a few weeks last fall on Botany Pond:

Cod and chips please; hold the chips:

A duck nesting on a seventh floor balcony. If you worry about how the ducklings get down, read the next tweets.

Monday: Hili dialogue

April 5, 2021 • 6:30 am

Howdy from Georgetown, Texas on Monday, April 5, 2021: National Caramel Day.

News of the Day:

I’m woefully deficient on the news, and I haven’t turned on the t.v. since I’ve been in Texas and don’t listen to the radio as I drive (I have Siri giving me directions). All I know is what I get from websites, which most of you know already. So I try to find odd bits and bobs.

Some lagniappe: If you’re a Beatles fan, the Guardian has a good article on Astrid Kirchherr, once engaged to the ex-Beatle Stu Sutcliffe, and who photographed, mothered, and molded the style of the Beatles (i.e., suggesting their “mop top” haircuts) when they played in Hamburg before they were famous. She also received lots of letters from the Beatles, One is below, along with a photo of her with Ringo and John.

Kirchherr died in 2020, and the letters are up for auction. (h/t: Jez)

Letter from Paul McCartney to Astrid, 1963. Photograph: Melike Cinpolat/TBC

I’ve been asked a few times if the severity of side effects you get with the second Pfizer or Moderna jab is positively correlated with your subsequent degree of protection from the virus. (This is based on the theory that a strong reaction to a second shot means that your immune system is well primed to attack the virus.) Well, The New York Times says “no”, that there’s no relationship. To support that, they say this:

A lack of side effects does not mean the vaccine isn’t working, said Dr. Paul Offit, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel. Dr. Offit noted that during the vaccine trials, a significant number of people didn’t report side effects, and yet the trials showed that about 95 percent of people were protected. “That proves you don’t have to have side effects in order to be protected,” he said.

Well, yes, fewer than 95% of people have significant side effects, yet your chance of not being infected is 95%.  So yes, just because you don’t have side effects doesn’t mean you’re not protected. But that’s not the way to look at the issue. Suppose that every one of the 5% of doubly vaccinated people who nevertheless got infected in the trials (that’s about 1500 people) had no big side effects. That would show that Offit is wrong: that a lack of side effects does suggest that you’re less protected. (We don’t know the answer to this.) To answer the question, you need to show that the proportion of people having weak side effects is the same in vaccinated people who catch the virus as in vaccinated people who don’t catch the virus.

In a totally blah column in today’s NYT, writer Jennifer Finney Boylan gives us the answer to her title: “I know why I am here on Earth“. I thought it would involve God, but it doesn’t, for she doesn’t know what she believes. Instead, the answer turns out to be “because my mother and father mated with each other.” I’m not kidding! Oh, and there are flowers, too:

Did Christ rise from the dead? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But I know that I am here on earth because my father loved my mother. There are hyacinths rising in my garden. I know what it is like to be loved.

Is “love” a euphemism here? Because, you know, love is not enough.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 554,579, an increase of just 277 deaths over yesterday’s figure—a sign that the pandemic is waning. The reported world death toll stands at 2,867,681, an increase of about 6,300.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has a dialogue with Paulina, who lives upstairs and is the staff for Kulka (and half of Szaron). Paulina took the photo, too.

Paulina: You look very threatening.
Hili: That was my intention.
In Polish:
Paulina: Strasznie groźnie wyglądasz.
Hili: Taki był mój zamiar.

And a photo of kitten Kulka. Look how big she’s grown! Here’s she’s sitting in Malgorzata’s chair in the kitchen.

Caption: At the Easter table.

Caption in Polish: Przy wielkanocnym stole.

Some memes, including leftover Easter memes.

From Divy:

From Barry:

From Bruce:

A tweet from Titania which is the first one I remember in which she tacitly admits she’s spoofing:

From Merilee, who found it on Facebook. I’m afraid that with my extreme love of Marshmallow Peeps, I’d gnaw that dress to nothing in a few minutes flat:

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up on this one. He says, “I don’t care about basketball but this is exciting.” This is the UCLA/Gonzaga game in which Gonzaga sunk a three-pointer in the final seconds of overtime to win 93-90. See below what was happening on the court.

Can you believe it: a gecko that squirts foul-smelling fluid from holes in its tail! I had no idea.

This is a good one. I don’t know the conductor, but I’m sure at least one reader will.

This artist must have been very busy!

Caterpillars that group stand a better chance of individual survival than if they strike out on their own. The translation of this tweet from the Portuguese:

Popular mourning pink butterfly, Heraclides anchisiades caterpillars stay close together to ensure greater chances of survival against parasitism and predation.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 31, 2021 • 6:45 am

Good morning on the last day of the month: Wednesday, March 31, 2021. The month is going out like a lamb, at least in Texas. And it’s National Oysters on the Half Shell Day. I’m in San Antonio, and have more food and travel adventures to describe in a post today.

News of the Day:

I haven’t of course been following the news, but did dip into the papers this morning to discover that

a. A trial showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective against coronavirus in children 12-15 (figures weren’t given). This is important because we need those kids getting vaccinated if we’re to attain herd immunity.

b. The Washington Post has a painful tale of an eleven-year-old boy who got the keys to his dad’s gun safe, opened it, pulled out a loaded revolver, and shot himself through the head. He died, of course. The dad had several guns, and had even bought the boy a .22 rifle at the age of ten. Gun sales shot up during the pandemic, and these unintended killings, which outnumber the “intended” use of home firearms, are on the increase. This story is part of an upcoming book by John Woodrow Cox, Children Under Fire: An American Crisis.

c. Here’s a story from Reuters (click on screenshot) about escalating migration. Despite Biden’s pleas that people “stay home,” immigrants are hearing that the “door is open,” but may close in a few months, spurring desperate attempts to get into the U.S. now:

d. France appears likely to have its third national coronavirus lockdown as hospitals across the country are experiencing a flood of patients. I know these thoughts are selfish, but I wonder if I’ll ever get back to France again.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 549,552, an increase of “just” 685 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands a 2,806,709, an increase of about 6,400 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s been reading about Critical Race Theory:

Szaron: What did you come here for?
Hili: I’m enjoying my partly white privilege.
In Polish:
Szaron: Po co tu przyszłaś?
Hili: Korzystam z mojego częściowo białego przywileju.

Little Kulka climbed the beams of the veranda—just like Hili used to do!

Caption: Kulka discovered that it’s possible to jump up on the beam under the roof.

In Polish: Kulka odkryła, że można wskoczyć na belkę pod sufitem.

From Jesus of the Day, and I have to admit that I find this pretty damn funny:

A meme from Nicole:

A tweet from Barry, who says, “Every one is a beautiful runway model.”

From Luana. Check out the linked Spectator article, which is about the worst example of wokeness I can imagine:

An excerpt:

Last Wednesday, Brauer College in rural Victoria forced its male pupils, some only 12 years old, to stand at a school assembly, face the girls and apologize for rape, sexual harassment and all the other facets of male wickedness. All this was apparently some ghastly effort to promote gender reconciliation through gender self-incrimination.

‘I had girls behind me crying,’ one student said. ‘We had to apologize for stuff we didn’t actually do.’

‘I don’t think it’s OK to be sexually assaulted. I felt a bit under pressure to stand up and if I didn’t I felt like I was a bad person,’ said another.

Yes, it happened, but the school later apologized for making the boys do something that the school considered “inappropriate.”

From Matthew: Two not-so-funny sea jokes:

An anniversary from yesterday. I wouldn’t agree that Sgt. Pepper is the Beatles’ best album.

This is what’s known as a “bad-ass mouse”. Sound up to hear the screaming.

Monday: Hili dialogue

March 29, 2021 • 6:30 am

It’s Monday, March 29, 2021: Jerry Goes to Texas Day! Posting may be very light for the next ten days or so, but I’ll certainly post the Hili dialogues and will try to post BBQ pictures. The photo below represents my first destination, and don’t kvetch about the saltines, which are common in Texas BBQ joints. Brisket and sausages are de rigueur, and your sides back then included either a pickle or whole raw onion.

It’s also National Chiffon Cake Day, but bugger that, for if all goes well I’ll be stuffing barbecued brisket into my maw before the sun goes down. Besides that, it’s Texas Love The Children Day (well, they putting them in pods at the border), National Vietnam War Veterans Day, Smoke and Mirrors Day, and Piano Day.

News of the Day:

First, a pet peeve: The news on television last night did not say, as it should have, “yesterday 3.3 million people were vaccinated.” No, they said, “Yesterday there were 3.3 million shots in arms.” This is both a neologism and synecdoche.  (A similar example is “boots on the ground”  for “soldiers”.) Does the news do this to seem cool, using a particular language fad?

The violence continues in Myanmar, with dozens more people reportedly gunned down, including mourners attending the funeral of a civilian killed the day before. Meanwhile, the thug generals attended a gala celebrating Armed Forces Day. Over 400 citizens have been killed in the latest protests.

The New York Times reports that the editor of the Journal of the American Association (JAMA) has been placed on leave for a remark made not by him, but by a deputy editor, a remark considered racist:

The controversy began when Dr. Ed Livingston, a deputy editor, said on a Feb. 24 podcast that structural racism no longer existed in the United States.

“Structural racism is an unfortunate term,” said Dr. Livingston, who is white. “Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many people like myself are offended by the implication that we are somehow racist.”

The podcast was promoted with a tweet from the journal that said, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?” The response to both was swift and angry, prompting the journal to take down the podcast and delete the tweet.

Livingston resigned, but now main editor above him has been deep-sixed.

Franco is still dead, and the container ship “Ever Given” (no, not “Evergreen,” which is the company, not the ship) is still stuck in the Suez Canal. Dredging and tugboats moved the ship an angle of two degrees—about 100 feet), but the bow is still stuck fast. Officials hope that the spring tide associated with a full moon will help. But some ships have already bailed and headed for Cape of Good Hope:

Some ships have already decided not to wait, U-turning to take the long way around the southern tip of Africa, a voyage that could add weeks to the journey and mean more than $26,000 a day in fuel costs.

If the Ever Given breaks free by Monday, the shipping industry can absorb the inconvenience, analysts said, but beyond that, supply chains and consumers could start to see major disruptions.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 548,867, an increase of “just” 487 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands a 2,797,380, an increase of about 6,500 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 29 includes:

  • 845 – Paris is sacked by Viking raiders, probably under Ragnar Lodbrok, who collects a huge ransom in exchange for leaving.
  • 1806 – Construction is authorized of the Great National Pike, better known as the Cumberland Road, becoming the first United States federal highway.
  • 1857 – Sepoy Mangal Pandey of the 34th Regiment, Bengal Native Infantry mutinies against the East India Company’s rule in India and inspires the protracted Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny.
  • 1867 – Queen Victoria gives Royal Assent to the British North America Act which establishes Canada on July 1.
  • 1871 – Royal Albert Hall is opened by Queen Victoria.
  • 1945 – World War II: The German 4th Army is almost destroyed by the Soviet Red Army.
  • 1951 – Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage.

This photo was taken at the courthouse after the conviction. They were both executed by electrocution on June 19, 1953.

  • 1961 – The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, allowing residents of Washington, D.C., to vote in presidential elections.
  • 1971 – My Lai Massacre: Lieutenant William Calley is convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.
  • 1973 – Vietnam War: The last United States combat soldiers leave South Vietnam.
  • 1974 – Terracotta Army was discovered in Shaanxi province, China.

There are more than 8,000 life-sized figures in this army, which were made and buried with  Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, in the third century BC. Here’s one of the three pits containing the figures:

  • 2014 – The first same-sex marriages in England and Wales are performed.
  • 2017 – Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, formally beginning the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. 

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1790 – John Tyler, American lawyer and politician, 10th President of the United States (d. 1862)
  • 1867 – Cy Young, American baseball player and manager (d. 1955)
  • 1899 – Lavrentiy Beria, Georgian-Russian general and politician (d. 1953)
  • 1916 – Eugene McCarthy, American poet and politician (d. 2005)
  • 1918 – Sam Walton, American businessman, founded Walmart and Sam’s Club (d. 1992)
  • 1929 – Richard Lewontin, American biologist, geneticist, and academic

Dick is 92 today. Here’s a photo from 2017, when I paid a visit to Dick at his assisted living facility and showed him proper homage:

  • 1943 – Eric Idle, English actor and comedian
  • 1955 – Marina Sirtis, British-American actress

Here’s Counselor Troi in 2012, pointing out her tattoo of my own favorite team, Spurs:

Marina Sirtis at the 2012 Phoenix Comicon.
  • 1964 – Elle Macpherson, Australian model and actress
  • 1972 – Priti Patel, British Indian politician, Secretary of State for the Home Department

Those who succumbed on March 29 include:

  • 1772 – Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedish astronomer, philosopher, and theologian (b. 1688)
  • 1912 – Robert Falcon Scott, English lieutenant and explorer (b. 1868)
  • 2016 – Patty Duke, American actress (b. 1946)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili remains mum for fear of being canceled:

Hili: I will not comment.
A: Why?
Hili: I could say too much.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie będę się wypowiadała.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Bo mogłabym powiedzieć za dużo.

Three pictures by Paulina of Kulka making mischief:

From Bruce. Well, the morphology is close. . .

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:

A tweet from Barry. Who says that animals don’t play or experience pleasure?

Tweets from Matthew. The first is a lovely nature post he retweeted, showing that ducks always have the right of way:


Two Tik Toks, but Matthew wanted me to see the second one. OPOSSUM WINS!

Matthew loves capybaras as much as I love ducks:

As Matthew says, “MEEP! MEEP!”

Lots of good cat tweets on this thread:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

March 28, 2021 • 5:30 am

Good morning on Sunday, March 28, 2021: National Black Forest Cake Day. It’s also the beginning of PassoverSerfs Emancipation Day in Tibet, National Hot Tub Day, and, most important, Respect Your Cat Day. Remember, though you must respect your cat, your cat will not respect you.

News of the Day:

The damn container ship Ever Given is still stuck in the Suez Canal, and they’re contemplating offloading some of the TWENTY THOUSAND CONTAINERS to lighten it. But that has to be done very carefully lest it capsize.  Over 300 cargo ships are in the queue behind it, and despite workers having freed the rudder and dredged 18 meters near the bow, there’s still no guess as when it will be freed, though prognostications are a week or so. And this is grim:

With the ship sagging in the middle, its bow and stern both caught in positions for which it was not designed, the hull is vulnerable to stress and cracks, both experts said.

Oy! Other reports say that huge numbers of sheep (and possibly cattle) are stranded on the waiting ships, and they could run out of food and water.

A pathetic photo of dredging:

And there’s still trouble in Myanmar, with soldiers and police firing into crowds and brutally beating protestors calling for democracy. Over 110 people were killed yesterday, and local diplomats from many countries, including the U.S., are condemning the violence. But the junta doesn’t care.

Over at the NYT, Frank Bruni has written one of his more forgettable columns, claiming that America is reluctant to give up its guns because the phrase “gun control”. That, he argues, smacks of repression, and we need a new term that emphasizes “gun safety.” Is the man nuts? Does he think the NRA will be gulled by new euphemisms to allow us to pry weapons from their warm, living hands?

The AP reports that there’s a rash of corvid thefts, with rapacious ravens plundering the groceries of shoppers in an Anchorage, Alaska Costco. They even went for short ribs. An excerpt:

Rick Sinnott, a former wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, said hundreds of ravens fly to Anchorage in the winter for food. After winter turns to spring, most of the ravens leave, Sinnott said.

But before they do, the ravens stick around to pluck assorted meats, fruits and vegetables.

“For years, decades, they’ve watched people in parking lots of grocery stores with all this food,” Sinnott said. “They know what a piece of fruit looks like in a grocery cart because they’ve seen it on the ground or seen it in a garbage can.”

(h/t: Martin).

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 548,377, an increase of “just” 777 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands a 2,790,890, an increase of about 9,900 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 28 includes:

Five men claimed the title of emperor that year! Three were killed.

  • 1842 – First concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Otto Nicolai.
  • 1871 – The Paris Commune is formally established in Paris. The government served from March 18 to May 21.

Here’s a barricade erected by the Communards on March 18:

The Communards lost, and many were executed:

  • 1939 – Spanish Civil War: Generalissimo Francisco Franco conquers Madrid after a three-year siege.
  • 1959 – The State Council of the People’s Republic of China dissolves the government of Tibet.
  • 1978 – The US Supreme Court hands down 5–3 decision in Stump v. Sparkman, a controversial case involving involuntary sterilization and judicial immunity.

In this case, the court ruled that judge who ordered a 15 year old to get a tubal ligation could not be sued since he was performing a judicial function.  (The girl was told she was having her appendix removed.)

1990 – United States President George H. W. Bush posthumously awards Jesse Owens the Congressional Gold Medal.

Notables born on this day include:

Bartolomeo: “Christ with the Four Evangelists”

  • 1483 – Raphael, Italian painter and architect (d. 1520)

Here’s a great Raphael (caption below):

  • 1868 – Maxim Gorky, Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright (d. 1936)

Gorky in 1906:

  • 1892 – Corneille Heymans, Belgian physiologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1968)
  • 1905 – Marlin Perkins, American zoologist and television host (d. 1986)
  • 1914 – Edmund Muskie, American lieutenant, lawyer, and politician, 58th United States Secretary of State (d. 1996)
  • 1936 – Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer, politician, journalist and essayist, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1942 – Daniel Dennett, American philosopher and academic

Dan is 79 today. Here’s a photo of him standing in front of Norman Rockwell’s painting, “Freedom of Speech”. Stockbridge, MA. October 25, 2012

  • 1986 – Lady Gaga, American singer-songwriter, dancer, producer, and actress

Those who went the way of the dinosaurs on March 28 include:

Ironically, it was this Mussorgsky who achieved fame despite his name, while his twin, Immodest Mussorgsky, languished in obscurity.

  • 1941 – Virginia Woolf, English novelist, essayist, short story writer, and critic (b. 1882)

  • 1943 – Sergei Rachmaninoff, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1873)
  • 1953 – Jim Thorpe, American football player and coach (b. 1887)
  • 1969 – Dwight D. Eisenhower, American general and politician, 34th President of the United States (b. 1890)
  • 1977 – Eric Shipton, Sri Lankan-English mountaineer and explorer (b. 1907)
  • 1985 – Marc Chagall, Russian-French painter and poet (b. 1887)

Chagall did a number of paintings including cats (see them all here). Here’s one:

. . . and the Trapp Family. Wikipedia caption: “Trapp Family Singers preparing for a concert in Boston in 1941. Maria is the third from left, with a dark suit. The director is probably Franz Wasner.”

  • 2000 – Anthony Powell, English soldier and author (b. 1905)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is offended:

A: Kulka criticized your picture from yesterday.
Hili: Youth today lacks both taste and culture.
In Polish:
Ja: Kulka skrytykowała twoje wczorajsze zdjęcie.
Hili: Dzisiejsza młodzież nie ma ani gustu ani kultury.`


And little Kulka:

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day, a new example of sexual selection in humans:

Andrew Doyle, on an interview show, discusses what he’s trying to do with Titania’s tweets:

From Barry: John Cleese vs some clerics:

From Mayor Pete, now Secretary Peter. Inequity among pedestrians:

Tweets from Matthew. This is a diopsid fly, soon after it “eclosed” (hatched from the pupal case), pumping up its big eyestalks with air.

The marvels of cephalopod camouflage:

Quolls: carnivorous marsupials from Australia and New Guinea—and cute!

It still surprises me that these great songs involved laying down a vocal track atop prerecorded melody:

This first tweet is one of the year’s best. And look at that pervy cat!

Friday: Hili dialogue

March 26, 2021 • 6:30 am

Bottom of the work week to you! It’s Friday, March 26, 2021: National Nougat Day (I never liked the stuff). It’s also National Spinach Day (unlike most kids, I liked it), No Homework Day, Solitude Day, Purple Day (raising awareness of epilepsy) and, in Hawaii, Prince Kūhiō Day, honoring the birthday of the man who wrote the first statehood bill for Hawaii. As Wikipedia notes, “Prince Kūhiō Day is one of only two holidays in the United States dedicated to royalty, the other being Hawaiʻi’s King Kamehameha Day on June 11.”  Here’s the Prince:

Richard Dawkins turns 80 today (see below); here’s the obligatory vanity photo (we were having a discussion, but I can’t remember where). Note his unmatched socks and excellent posture.

News of the Day:

Joe Biden had his first press conference yesterday (watch it here), and there were no real surprises. He doubled his vaccination goal to 200 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration (we’re on schedule for that), defended allowing unaccompanied minors into the U.S., said he planned to run for reelection in 2024, grumbled about the Senate filibuster rule (though not coming clean about his plans), and added that passing gun-control legislation was not “his top priority.” So it goes.

Rutgers has become the first American university to require coronavirus vaccinations for students entering next fall. This is nothing new there, and most American public schools also require some vaccinations before enrollment. An excerpt:

Students will be able to seek an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement “for medical or religious reasons,” Rutgers said. The rule would also not apply to students who are in online programs.

Rutgers already requires new or transferring students to show proof of receiving several vaccines, hoping to prevent on-campus cases of diseases from measles, mumps and rubella to hepatitis B and meningitis.

Medical reasons are okay with me, but religious reasons? Really? People can endanger other people in fealty to the wishes of a nonexistent god? There are times when you must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and Caesar wants SHOTS IN ARMS!

The UK’s new £50 note, set to appear in June, will feature Alan Turing along with a lot of geeky stuff that people won’t understand (note his birthday rendered in binary numbers on the ticker tape!). Here’s what it will look like (h/t Simon):

It’s not just in his honor, but also as reparations for his shabby treatment by the Brits:

As well as honoring his scientific achievements, Turing was also selected to appear on the bank note in recognition of his persecution by the UK government for homosexuality. Turing was openly gay among friends, but in 1952 was arrested and charged with “gross indecency” for homosexual acts, which were illegal in England and Wales until 1967. Despite changes to the law, prosecution of same-sex acts continued in the UK for decades afterwards.

Turing died in 1954 after eating a cyanide-laced apple. Although some think it was murder, it’s much more likely it was suicide.

The New York Times reports that Jensen Karp, a man from Los Angeles, found cinnamon-covered SHRIMP TAILS in his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. The company assured him that they were just misshapen pieces of cereal, but nope, they were shrimp tails. Further inspection revealed what appear to be rat droppings in the box. It may, however, have been tampered with, since the bottom was taped. Here’s Karp’s response to the company’s attempt to exculpate itself

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 546,340, an increase of 1,270 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,768,663, an increase of about 10,500 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 26 includes:

  • 1344 – The Siege of Algeciras, one of the first European military engagements where gunpowder was used, comes to an end.
  • 1812 – A political cartoon in the Boston Gazette coins the term “gerrymander” to describe oddly shaped electoral districts designed to help incumbents win reelection.

The famous “gerrymander” cartoon, with Wikipedia’s caption below it:

Printed in March 1812, this political cartoon was made in reaction to the newly drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the Democratic-Republican Party. The caricature satirizes the bizarre shape of the district as a dragon-like “monster”, and Federalist newspaper editors and others at the time likened it to a salamander.

When I visited Auschwitz in 2013 (and it’s a place one must visit, as it will change you forever), I photographed these suitcases brought to the camp by arriving Jews. Nearly all of them were gassed immediately, and the suitcases confiscated and stored by the Germans:

  • 1945 – World War II: The Battle of Iwo Jima ends as the island is officially secured by American forces.
  • 1971 – East Pakistan declares its independence from Pakistan to form Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Liberation War begins.
  • 1979 – Anwar al-Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter sign the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in Washington, D.C.
  • 1997 – Thirty-nine bodies are found in the Heaven’s Gate mass suicides.

Here’s the Wikipedia account of the bizarre suicide:

To kill themselves, members took phenobarbital mixed with apple sauce or pudding and washed it down with vodka. Additionally, they secured plastic bags around their heads after ingesting the mix to induce asphyxiation. All 39 were dressed in identical black shirts and sweat pants, brand new black-and-white Nike Decades athletic shoes, and armband patches reading “Heaven’s Gate Away Team” (one of many instances of the group’s use of the nomenclature of the fictional universe of Star Trek). Each member had on their person a five-dollar bill and three quarters in their pockets: this was in reference to Huck Finn, in which it’s stated that it costs five dollars and seventy-five cents to ride the tail of a comet to heaven. Once a member was dead, a living member would arrange the body by removing the plastic bag from the person’s head, followed by posing the body so that it lay neatly in its own bed, with faces and torsos covered by a square purple cloth for privacy. In an interview with Harry Robinson, the two surviving members said that the identical clothing was used as a uniform for the mass suicide to represent unity, whilst the Nike Decades were chosen because the group “got a good deal on the shoes”.  [Founder Marshall]  Applewhite was also a fan of Nikes “and therefore everyone was expected to wear and like Nike’s” within the group. Heaven’s Gate also had a saying within the group ‘Just Do it,’ which used Nike’s slogan. They pronounced Do as Doe, to reflect Applewhite’s nickname.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1859 – A. E. Housman, English poet and scholar (d. 1936)
  • 1904 – Joseph Campbell, American mythologist and author (d. 1987)
  • 1911 – Bernard Katz, German-English biophysicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2003)
  • 1911 – Tennessee Williams, American playwright, and poet (d. 1983)

Here’s Williams talking with Dick Cavett about death, religion, and other matters of import.

Corso was the only Beat I ever met besides Gary Snyder (I went to a poetry reading by Snyder at UC Davis). Corso was hanging arounin Ferlinghetti’s bookstore City Lights. Being a fan of the Beats, I recognized him instantly:

  • 1931 – Leonard Nimoy, American actor (d. 2015)
  • 1940 – Nancy Pelosi, American lawyer and politician, 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • 1941 – Richard Dawkins, Kenyan-English ethologist, biologist, and academic

Richard turns 80 today.

  • 1942 – Erica Jong, American novelist and poet
  • 1943 – Bob Woodward, American journalist and author
  • 1944 – Diana Ross, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress
  • 1985 – Keira Knightley, English actress

Those who met their ends on March 26 include:

  • 1797 – James Hutton, Scottish geologist and physician (b. 1726)
  • 1892 – Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, and journalist (b. 1819)
  • 1902 – Cecil Rhodes, English-South African colonialist, businessman and politician, 6th Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (b. 1853)
  • 1923 – Sarah Bernhardt, French actress and screenwriter (b. 1844)

Here’s Bernardt as Cleopatra (1891):

  • 1945 – David Lloyd George, English-Welsh lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1863)
  • 1973 – Noël Coward, English playwright, actor, and composer (b. 1899)
  • 1980 – Roland Barthes, French linguist and critic (b. 1915)
  • 2011 – Geraldine Ferraro, American lawyer and politician (b. 1935)

Ferraro was the forerunner of Kamala Harris, being the first female Vice-Presidential candidate, running with Mondale in 1984.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili can’t be bothered:

A: Hili, I have a question…
Hili: Not now.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, mam pytanie…
Hili: Nie teraz.

Here’s little Kulka resting on the blanket by the window:

From reader Mark:

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

Below: the Palestinian “pay for slay” policy in action: a terrorist murderer of an Israeli soldier, with the terrorist being an Israeli citizen, is released from jail, having netted over half a million bucks while in jail. Now, back in Palestine, he gets an additional yearly stipend and a cushy job.

Why are people not calling attention to this hideous policy?

This tweet was unearthed by reader Ken, who notes, “This person actually sits in the United States senate, formerly hailed as the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Matthew had an epiphany:

More tweets from Matthew. Two examples of insects producing a waxy secretion that hides them and repels predators (Matthew’s guessing it smells bad as well). Be sure to click on the photos to see the whole individual:

What’s going on here is likely to be the same thing going on above.

Here’s a gynandromorph spider: one side male, the other female. It would be interesting to see if it behaved (especially in courtship) as a male, a female, an intermediate, or was completely screwed up:

Watch the video, as Matthew (see below) is fascinated with the penis sheath. No, that waggling hairy thing is not the tail!

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Wednesday, March 24, 2021:  National Cake Pop Day (this is a useless yuppified dessert). It’s also National Cheesesteak Day, National Cocktail Day, National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day , and World Tuberculosis Day. (also called “Rabbit Poo”), and World Tuberculosis Day.

Here’s a great Philly cheesesteak, this one is from the famous Pat’s King of Steaks®. And unless you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you’ll be wanting one of these right now.


News of the Day:

According to the Washington Post, North Korea fired “multiple short range missiles” last weekend, probably in response to joint U.S./South Korean military exercises, even though those exercises are “virtual.” Coyne’s Fifth Law dictates that all countries developing nuclear weapons will eventually produce them, and there’s little Biden can do to stop it.

Is there a new law of physics? The Guardian reports that experiments at the Large Hadron Collider may suggest that something’s wrong with the Standard Model of particle physics (h/t Matthew). A bit from the news:

The mathematical framework that underpins scientists’ understanding of the subatomic world, known as the standard model of particle physics, firmly maintains that the particles should break down into products that include electrons at exactly the same rate as they do into products that include a heavier cousin of the electron, a particle called a muon.

But results released by Cern on Tuesday suggest that something unusual is happening. The B mesons are not decaying in the way the model says they should: instead of producing electrons and muons at the same rate, nature appears to favour the route that ends with electrons.

. . . “If it turns out, with extra analysis of additional processes, that we were able to confirm this, it would be extremely exciting,” Parkes said. It would mean there is something wrong with the standard model and that we require something extra in our fundamental theory of particle physics to explain how this would happen.”

This is above my pay grade, so perhaps a reader or two could explain the significance of these observations.

Yesterday’s poll on whether Bret Stephens will leave the New York Times, whether it be by resignation or firing, gave these results (as of 6 a.m. today). Most say that Stephens’s days are numbered:

And some good news. The BBC reports that the world’s largest painting, by British artist Sacha Jafri, has been sold for £45 million. Jafri painted the 1,600 sq m (17,000 sq ft) piece in a deserted ballroom in Dubai, and, though he planned to sell it in bits, it was bought as a whole by “French cryptocurrency businessman Andre Abdoune.” It is the most expensive painting by a living artist ever auctioned off, and was inspired by drawings that children sent Jafri. As for the dosh and the good news:

Jafri said the money would be spent on healthcare and sanitation for “the poorest communities in the world” and to connect them to the internet so children can have access to educational platforms. “The biggest divide at the moment is those with the internet and those without,” he said.]

Here’s the artist and part of the painting (h/t: Jez):

Meanwhile, a painting by the cryptic artist Banksy, depicting healthcare workers as superheroes and called “Game Changer,” has been auctioned off for £16.7 million ($23 million), more than doubling his previous record. And, more good news according to CNN: “The proceeds from the hammer price will be donated to University Hospital Southampton as well health organizations and charities across the country, according to the auction house.”

Here’s the painting:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 543,479, an increase of just 892 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands 2,747,680, an increase of about 11,000 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 24 includes:

The allegro movement of Concerto in B-flat major is my favorite piece of classical music. Does that mark me as a know-nothing? Here it is by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The violinists are good, and I like the way the tall guy moves around with the music.

Smith, jailed later in Nauvoo, Illinois, was killed by a mob in 1844.

Here’s Koch in his lab:

There were ten events, all in track and field, and here’s the UK’s star athlete of the event, Mary Lines, who won four gold medals (two in relays). She went on to win five more golds in later Olympiads.

  • 1944 – World War II: In an event later dramatized in the movie The Great Escape, 76 Allied prisoners of war begin breaking out of the German camp Stalag Luft III.

76 escaped but 73 were recaptured. Of those, fifty were shot by the Germans after recapture. Three men made it to freedom.

  • 1989 – In Prince William Sound in Alaska, the Exxon Valdez spills 240,000 barrels (38,000 m3) of crude oil after running aground.
  • 2008 – Bhutan officially becomes a democracy, with its first ever general election.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1834 – William Morris, English textile designer, poet, and author (d. 1896)
  • 1874 – Harry Houdini, Hungarian-Jewish American magician and actor (d. 1926)
  • 1884 – Peter Debye, Dutch-American physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1966)
  • 1902 – Thomas E. Dewey, American lawyer and politician, 47th Governor of New York (d. 1971)
  • 1909 – Clyde Barrow, American criminal (d. 1934)

The end for Bonnie and Clyde:

  • 1919 – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet and publisher, co-founded City Lights Bookstore (d. 2021)
  • 1930 – Steve McQueen, American actor and producer (d. 1980)

McQueen, of course, starred in the movie “The Great Escape,” which anyone alive back then has seen:

Here’s the trailer for that movie (1963):

  • 1976 – Peyton Manning, American football player and entrepreneur

Those who relinquished their existence on March 24 include:

This purports to be a de Hooch, and there’s a cat in it. The moggy isn’t bad, either:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s on the hunt.

Hili: Something may be hiding behind this stump.
A: How do you know?
Hili: You never know with such stumps.
In Polish:
Hili: Za tym pniem może się coś ukrywać.
Ja: Skąd wiesz?
Hili: Z takimi pniami nigdy nic nie wiadomo.

Little Kulka’s climbing around in the hallway downstairs:

From Jesus of the Day:

Another bad placement of letters from Bored Panda, sent by reader Su:

From Stash Krod:

From gun nut and open-carry advocate Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and a response:

More of the Titania educates series. She’s really good at riposte:

I retweeted a query that Matthew sent me, with my answer (below). Now if you ask me which example of mimicry I like, that would be hard. Perhaps caterpillars with fake snake heads?

Readers are invited to contribute their favorite adaptation below in the comments.

More tweets from Matthew. This surely isn’t a three-headed ant, but what is it? I asked an ant expert, who said it could be a developmental aberration or a hoax, but the ant appears to be in the genus Camponotus. 

“Finer football” means “a great display of incompetence”:

I haven’t done this, but I would. Matthew, on the other hand, says, “No way!”

A statistics expert takes down two misleading graphs:

[Addendum from GCM: Cairo seems to have gotten this wrong. The guy who made the graph Cairo criticizes was responding to a tweet that said capitalism was racism. So the guy made the graph to show that there wasn’t much of a relationship, and to the extent there was one, it was the opposite of what the ‘capitalism=racism’ tweet said. He reported the r^2 was .14, and was well aware that the relationship explained little. Cairo must not have looked at the context of the tweets.]

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 23, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Tuesday, March 23, 2021: National Chips and Dip Day (make mine ruffled potato chips with sour cream-onion dip, or Doritos with guacamole). It’s also National Melba Toast Day, National Chia Day, National Agriculture Day, National Puppy Day, Cuddly Kitten Day, World Meteorological Day, and Day of Hungarian-Polish Friendship.

News of the Day:

Below is a news video of the fracas at Miami Beach the night before last. The City has now set an 8 pm curfew in South Beach and closed off the area to nonresidents (it’s an island accessed by a causeway)—restrictions that will remain in place until April 12. Maybe it’s the pandemic, but there aren’t many masks to be seen. Maybe these kids won’t get very sick if infected, but they could infect others. And now the number of weapons recovered (WEAPONS?) exceed 100.

Oy vey!  The BBC has a new show on the market of religious relics, many of which are sold on eBay. There are apparently several hundred pieces of the True Cross up for sale (go here to see them, some with “certificates of authenticity”). Lord, are people credulous!

The AstraZenica vaccine, briefly put on hold because of fears of blood clots, has now been cleared again and, as they say, “shots are ready to go into arms.” The vaccine has proven 79% effective at preventing symptomatic cases of coronavirus, a figure between the efficacy of the J&J vaccine on the one hand and the Pfizer and Moderna jabs on the other.

As I write this on Monday evening, there are reports of an active shooter who unloaded his ammo into people at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket. Police were shown on television perp-walking away a shirtless man with a bloody leg, but we weren’t told if he was the suspect, nor how many people were killed or injured. I expect that when I finish this post on Tuesday, we’ll have a death toll. So many shootings, so many guns. . .

And this morning the death toll is reported at 10, one of them a Boulder police officer. There are no details yet on who the suspect is or his motive.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. 542,587, an increase of just 650 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands 2,736,721, an increase of about 8,100 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 23 includes:

  • 1775 – American Revolutionary War: Patrick Henry delivers his speech – “Give me liberty, or give me death!” – at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia.
  • 1806 – After traveling through the Louisiana Purchase and reaching the Pacific Ocean, explorers Lewis and Clark and their “Corps of Discovery” begin their arduous journey home.
  • 1857 – Elisha Otis‘s first elevator is installed at 488 Broadway New York City.

Here’s a patent for an Otis elevator four years later:

  • 1868 – The University of California is founded in Oakland, California when the Organic Act is signed into law.
  • 1919 – In Milan, Italy, Benito Mussolini founds his Fascist political movement.
  • 1933 – The Reichstag passes the Enabling Act of 1933, making Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany.
  • 1956 – Pakistan becomes the first Islamic republic in the world. This date is now celebrated as Republic Day in Pakistan.
  • 1977 – The first of The Nixon Interviews (12 will be recorded over four weeks) is videotaped with British journalist David Frost interviewing former United States President Richard Nixon about the Watergate scandal and the Nixon tapes.

Here are some highlights of those interviews:

  • 1983 – Strategic Defense Initiative: President Ronald Reagan makes his initial proposal to develop technology to intercept enemy missiles.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1882 – Emmy Noether, Jewish German-American mathematician, physicist and academic (d. 1935)

Noether made many contributions to math and physics, the most notable being Noether’s Theorem, which showed that the symmetry of any physical law is invariably associated with a conservation principle (e.g., the conservation of energy). Here’s Noether and her pathbreaking paper (she had many others):

Bannister is of course the first human to run a mile faster than four minutes. (There must be a lower limit limit based on what’s possible given human physiology and morphology, but what is it? You can’t run a mile in 10 seconds, but you can in four minutes. Somewhere in between is the limit.) It was 1954, and he was 25.  Here he is at the finish line:

Those who “passed” on March 23 include:

Here’s Brick and Maggie the cat in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, HIli’s helping everyone get ready for Spring:

Hili: It’s time to rake the leaves and take out the lawn mower.
A: If you say so.
In Polish:
Hili: Pora zgrabić te liście i wyciągnąć kosiarkę.
Ja: Jak tak mówisz.

And cute little Kulka gazes out the window:

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From Merilee:

More tweets from the “Titania educates” series in which her Twitter readers take her seriously.

From Barry: a lovely blue-eyed cat.

From Dom. This woman really loves beeflies, and she should because she’s a fly expert. Beeflies are in the order Bombyliidae (sounds like a Tolkien name), are important pollinators, and often mimic bees and wasps—presumably the result of the evolution of Batesian mimicy that gives mimics an advantage because predators avoid them.

Tweets from Matthew: a lovely marginal sketch of a cat and its toy:

A fluffy lynx strolling down the street. What I wouldn’t give to have seen that. See more photos at the linked Dodo article:

Two videos of the volcano erupting in Iceland. The second shows footage as a drone flies over it.

Google translation: “Here the well-known drone images from above from last night, without the banners that the news media think they have to stick on.”

Who doesn’t love tardigrades? This one looks like an early tetrapod clambering about on land:

Monday: Hili dialogue

March 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Monday, March 22, 2021: One week until I fly to Austin and begin the Great Barbecue Quest. Posting will be light this week as I prepare my innards and outards. It’s World Water Day, as well as National Bavarian Crêpes Day, and National Goof-off Day.

In honor of Goof-of day, here’s Maynard G. Krebs, the biggest goof-off in the history of television. “WORK???!!!!”

News of the Day:

The two biggest items of news, at least on television, are 1) Overcrowding in Florida and 2) Overcrowding at the border. In Florida, the kids on spring break are going wild, running drunk and rampant in the streets, and fighting with the cops. As a result, the Mayor set an 8 pm curfew that will hold until April 13. Even so, crowds refused to disperse and the cops had to fire “pepper balls” at them.

Speaking of which, Europe is not faring well with the coronavirus: outbreaks have forced both France and Poland to institute new lockdowns.

In Poland, non-essential shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities are now closed for three weeks.

Malgorzata reports this about Poland:

There are not enough ambulances to take people to the hospitals and then there are queues of ambulances in front of the hospitals who cannot process the patients quick enough. Some already died in ambulances, waiting. Sometimes fire brigades are used to transport sick people instead of ambulances, because all ambulances are already in use.

And in France, the lockdown will last at least a month, with restaurants and cafes closed.

The new restrictions are not be as strict as the previous lockdown, with people allowed to exercise outdoors.

Non-essential businesses are shut, but schools remain open, along with hairdressers if they follow a “particular sanitary protocol”.

There go my plans to visit Paris and Dobrzyn! And restive citizens are now holding public protests against lockdowns in the UK, France, and Germany.

Immigrants and would-be immigrants continue to accumulate at the U.S.’s border with Mexico, many from Central America. Although DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas has declared firmly that “the border is closed”, that is not the case, at least according to the NBC Evening News, which reported that only about 5-10% of families crossing the border have been sent back.  And Press Secretary Jen Psaki slipped up and told the truth, using a euphemism:

For weeks, Biden administration officials have scrupulously avoided using the word “crisis” to describe the migrant surge on the southern border.

But White House press secretary Jen Psaki did exactly that during a press briefing Thursday.

“There have been expectations set outside of, unrelated to, any vaccine doses or requests for them, that they would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border,” Psaki said.

Later, when another reporter asked her about her use of the term “crisis,” she immediately reverted to “challenges” — the word the White House has been using when repeatedly pressed on the most accurate way to refer to the growing problem.

According to CNN and other venues, and in light of the accusations by Meghan Markle that a member of the Royal Family made a racist remark, the Windsors are thinking of appointing a “diversity czar.” Will there be mandatory instruction on unconscious bias as well?

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. 541,937, an increase of just 444 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,728,634, an increase of about about 5,600 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 22 includes:

  • 1508 – Ferdinand II of Aragon commissions Amerigo Vespucci chief navigator of the Spanish Empire.
  • 1622 – Jamestown massacre: Algonquians kill 347 English settlers around Jamestown, Virginia, a third of the colony’s population, during the Second Anglo-Powhatan War..
  • 1765 – The British Parliament passes the Stamp Act that introduces a tax to be levied directly on its American colonies.

This was a tax, to be paid on British currency, on all paper used in the colonies, which had to be imported from Britain. It’s the levy that inspired the anti-British slogan “No taxation without representation.” And had the Brits not levied it, we’d all be eating chips instead of French fries.

The Buddha, about 66 cm (26 inches) tall, is made of jasper, not emerald, but is cloaked in gold. Buddha’s decorations change with the seasons, too (see caption below):

(From Wikipedia): The Emerald Buddha in the three seasonal decorations, from left to right: Summer season, Rainy season, Winter season.
  • 1794 – The Slave Trade Act of 1794 bans the export of slaves from the United States, and prohibits American citizens from outfitting a ship for the purpose of importing slaves.
  • 1895 – Before the Société pour L’Encouragement à l’Industrie, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière demonstrate movie film technology publicly for the first time.

As Wikipedia notes of this day, “Their screening of a single film on 22 March 1895 for around 200 members of the “Society for the Development of the National Industry” in Paris was probably the first presentation of projected film.”  Here are the brothers, Auguste on the left and Louis on the right:

  • 1933 – Cullen–Harrison Act: President Franklin Roosevelt signs an amendment to the Volstead Act, legalizing the manufacture and sale of “3.2 beer” (3.2% alcohol by weight, approximately 4% alcohol by volume) and light wines.

This Act was signed before Prohibition was formally repealed (December, 1933), and caused great rejoicing. (Previously, beer had an upper limit of 0.5% alcohol.) Here’s some of that rejoicing:

Here’s part of that patent application; both men won a Nobel Prize for their work:


Lipinski was also  the youngest woman to win an Olympic gold medal in skating, and the first woman to complete a triple loop (twice in a row) in competition. Here’s that first triple loop:

  • 2017 – A terrorist attack in London near the Houses of Parliament leaves four people dead and at least 20 injured.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s a van Dyck with a big cat: “St. Jerome” (ca. 1620):

  • 1785 – Adam Sedgwick, English scientist (d. 1873)
  • 1887 – Chico Marx, American actor (d. 1961)

Perhaps you know that Chico was an very good piano player, and showed off his talents in several Marx Brothers films. Here’s a montage, but first a note from Wikipedia:

Groucho Marx once said that Chico never practiced the pieces he played. Instead, before performances he soaked his fingers in hot water. He was known for ‘shooting’ the keys of the piano. He played passages with his thumb up and index finger straight, like a gun, as part of the act. Other examples of his keyboard flamboyance are found in A Night at the Opera (1935), where he plays the piano for a group of delighted children, and A Night in Casablanca (1946), where he performs a rendition of “The Beer Barrel Polka”.

  • 1912 – Karl Malden, American actor (d. 2009)
  • 1923 – Marcel Marceau, French mime and actor (d. 2007)
  • 1930 – Stephen Sondheim, American composer and songwriter
  • 1955 – Lena Olin, Swedish actress
  • 1976 – Reese Witherspoon, American actress and producer

Those who took the Dirt Nap on March 22 include:

Edwards was a hellfire preacher, determined to bring people to Jesus by scaring the hell out of them. Here’s part of his famous 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you were suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep.


  • 1832 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German novelist, poet, playwright, and diplomat (b. 1749)
  • 1978 – Karl Wallenda, German-American acrobat and tightrope walker, founded The Flying Wallendas (b. 1905)
  • 1994 – Walter Lantz, American animator, director, and producer (b. 1899)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is moving slowly:

Hili: Everything is waking up to life.
A: It’s very nice.
Hili: Yes, but I’m sleepy.
In Polish:
Hili: Wszystko budzi się do życia.
Ja: To bardzo sympatyczne.
Hili: Tak, ale mnie się spać chce.

And here’s little Kulka, alert and bouncy as ever:

From Stash Krod:

From Nicole:

From Mark, a photo from some English class or department:

I’m not a huge fan ot d*gs, but I certainly don’t want them to suffer, get hurt, or die. Thus I’m heartened by this tweet from reader Ken, showing a human chain saving a canid. How great is this?

Tweets from Matthew. This vole may be okay in the winter, but it’s toast when Spring comes. This makes me sad, but Matthew reminded me that the raptors gotta eat, too. That didn’t make me feel better. . .

I didn’t know that this species even existed. But, sure enough, it does. Isn’t it lovely? But habitat loss has given it a “vulnerable” status.

Well, sort of. . . .

Oy! is the appropriate phrase here:

This is the walrus seen off Ireland the other day. It’s going in the wrong direction!

What is up with this cat?

This is an interesting eight-tweet thread that gives two explanations for why amphorae are pointed.