Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek with Leon)

November 12, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Caturday, November 12, 2022, cat shabbos and National Pizza with Anchovies Day. I eschew said pizza, and curse the man who thought of putting fish on pizza—especially the malodorous anchovy. If you actually like these, keep it to yourself! And look: there are even lemons on it!

Shoot me now! And look: there are even lemons in there!

Curiously, it’s also It’s also National Pizza With the Works Except Anchovies Day, Chicken Soup for the Soul Day, Happy Hour Day, National French Dip Day, Wine Tourism Day, Fancy Rat and Mouse Day,  and World Pneumonia Day

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this day by consulting the November 12 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

Hot off the Press: Democrat Mark Kelly won the contested Arizona Senate seat, meaning that the Democrats are just one seat away from 50, i.e., control of the chamber. The House, however, is creeping towards a Republican majority: 211-201 (218 needed for a majority).

*Ukrainian troops are moving into Kherson (the capital city of the eponymous province), so apparently the Russian exodus from the city was not a trap designed to snap shut on their foes.

The move puts Kyiv on the cusp of achieving one of its most significant victories of the war and deals a bitter blow to President Vladimir V. Putin, who just a month ago declared the Kherson region a part of Russia forever.

“Today is a historic day,” the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a message posted on the Telegram messaging app. “We are returning to Kherson. As of now, our defenders are on the approaches of the city. But special units are already in the city.”

Videos shared by Ukrainian government officials on social media showed scenes of civilians who had endured nearly nine months of occupation cheering the arrival of a contingent of Ukrainian troops.

Other videos showed cars driving in the city center beeping horns as people on the sidewalks shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” In one, Ukrainian soldiers drove slowly past a crowd as people reached out to touch the soldiers through the open windows.

PUtin is not the kind of guy who will let this stand. My feeling is that, humiliated by this withdrawal, he’s gonna drop some serious weapons on Ukraine, perhaps including tactical nukes. It’s likely that NATO won’t retaliate in kind, and Russia is almost sanctioned to the max, so it’s possible that Putin is weighing this option.

*Reader Thomas noted this article in the military journal Defense One, adding that it’s “a very interesting and surprising take on the Supreme Court’s apparent willingness to dismiss affirmative action from the viewpoint of the U.S. Military.”

Putting aside the apparent cluelessness of just the second Black Justice to sit on the Supreme Court, an extraordinary friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case by former senior military leaders aptly described the meaning of diversity by noting its former absence in the U.S. officer corps.

“History has shown that placing a diverse Armed Forces under the command of a homogenous leadership is a recipe for internal resentment, discord and violence,” wrote the group, which includes four former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, six former superintendents of the service academies, and 17 retired four-star flag officers. Because most uniformed officers come from ROTC and the service academies that use race as one consideration in admissions, they noted, “the diversity of these institutions and programs directly impacts the diversity of our military’s leadership.”

. . . The costs of having an overwhelmingly white officer corps commanding troops in which African Americans were disproportionately fighting and dying had come due. During the Vietnam-era draft, Blacks made up more than 25 percent of some high-risk elite Army units and frontline Marine companies. According to the amicus brief recently filed by the retired senior military leaders, in 1969 and 1970 the Army catalogued more than 300 race-related disturbances, resulting in the deaths of 71 American troops. Racial tensions reached such a fever pitch that some bases were all but separated into armed camps of “bloods” and “whites.” Many white officers at the time have told me that they were afraid to inspect their own barracks without carrying a sidearm.

The U.S. military has always held up a mirror to the society it serves, reflecting America’s strengths but also revealing its blemishes. In response to the racial crisis of the Vietnam era, the armed services concluded that they must embrace diversity in their officer corps as a national-security imperative, and they committed to race-conscious affirmative action in the service academies and ROTC programs as a key tool in trying to achieve that objective.

*I met Nellie Bowles at the Stanford meetings (she’s tall), and her TGIF column this week, always worth reading, is called “If Twitter dies, TGIF goes with it.” Oh noes! But she seems serious:

The previous Twitter regime didn’t allow reporting on Hunter Biden and blocked conservative satire, so I was excited about a change, but it seems like there’s got to be middle ground before burn it down, lay off everyone, declare bankruptcy. (Just FYI if Twitter dies, TGIF goes with it.)

One item from Bowles’ Friday news summary:

Two (of many) reasons for the Dems’ success.

→First, America rejected the fringe: The extremists all got the boot. Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who makes Trump’s MAGA look tame, lost to the balanced seeming Democrat Josh Shapiro, who has the energy of a cashmere sweater. And Trump-backed congressional candidates across the country lost handily to moderate Dems. The family values candidate Blake Masters, backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel and strongly supported by Trump, is currently behind in Arizona to former astronaut Mark Kelly. Late Thursday night, some analysts started calling the race for Kelly. And Dr. Oz lost to a large tree (a Redwood, suggests our fact-checker).

The smartest money spent in this whole election was the tens of millions the Democratic party spent to help ensure Republicans picked the craziest candidates in nine different state primaries. It was a risky, cynical move for Dems to boost the most radical Republicans—and it paid off. The most effective (i.e.: dangerous) Republican candidate is someone reasonable like Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin. Trumpist Republicans reject these types as RINOs, and Dems were only too happy to help.

Americans also rejected the #resistance stars. Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lost again. And Texas’s Beto O’Rourke lost, again again. Not that it will deter either of them from running for President (certainly not from fundraising at least). TGIF looks forward to the Abrams-O’Rourke ticket in 2024.

→Second, the Dobbs backlash: It was clear that a backlash hit right after Roe fell, but it wasn’t clear if that would last til the midterms. It did. Americans didn’t want Roe to fall: 57% were unhappy about its repeal, while only 41% supported the change. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, Dems ran on protecting abortion rights, while Republicans mostly scrubbed their websites of anything abortion-related. Anti-abortion amendments to state constitutions failed in both Kentucky and Kansas.

*Matthew’s new book on genetic engineering and its implications has gotten another two-thumbs-up review, this time in the Wall Street Journal. Quotes:

In his wonderful book “As Gods,” a thoughtful, lively and evocative exposition of the history of genetic engineering, English zoologist Matthew Cobb teaches us how, just a few centuries after the completion of the San Giusto mosaics, scientists began learning how to create chimeras in the real world. Developing the ability to cut and paste the hereditary material that determines the form of living things has permanently changed humankind’s relationship with the natural world.

. . . [Geneticist Paul] Berg concluded his Nobel speech by stating that he preferred to be “more optimistic” about the future of genetic engineering. He cited the biologist Peter Medawar, who had said that “to deride the hope of progress is the ultimate fatuity, the last word in the poverty of spirit and meanness of mind.” So while we should not, and cannot, turn our back on the hope of progress—which might reasonably include the elimination of all human diseases—there is a need for more intense and serious dialogue. Matthew Cobb is very clear that this conversation should include more than just scientific specialists. In short, we may need to imagine not just new forms of life but a new sort of forum, in which to debate humankind’s future and define the basis of a manifesto for life.

*After a bunch of imposters and satirists easily obtained Twitter’s blue “verification” check mark by paying $7.99 per month (see here and an example below), Elon Musk deep-sixed that dumb idea—for now.

Almost immediately, users started taking advantage of the new tool. Accounts were created impersonating politicians including President Biden and celebrities, as well other notable people. Several also surfaced purporting to be brands, announcing fake news.

Twitter temporarily disabled sign-ups for the new service Thursday night, according to an internal note viewed by The Washington Post, to “help address impersonation issues.”

But damage was already done, and some fake accounts were still active Friday.

On Friday afternoon, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Musk asking several questions about the blue check mark subscription program. A Washington Post columnist set up an account impersonating Markey this week, with the senator’s permission, and paid for a blue check mark.

“Apparently, due to Twitter’s lax verification practices and apparent need for cash, anyone could pay $8.00 and impersonate someone on your platform,” Markey wrote. “Selling the truth is dangerous and unacceptable.”

*Finally, the rate of inflation of T. rex bones is unbelievable. The AP reports that a skull of this dinosaur, found in South Dakota, will be auctioned off for BIG bucks, and that’s just the skull:

A Tyrannosaurus rex skull unearthed in South Dakota is expected to sell for $15 million or more at auction in New York next month, officials with Sotheby’s said Tuesday.

The 200-pound (91-kilogram) skull fossil, nicknamed Maximus, is being sold Dec. 9 by an owner who wishes to remain anonymous, the auction house said.

The skull was excavated in 2020 and 2021 in Harding County, South Dakota, where other T. rex skeletons like Sue and Stan were found, according to Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s head of science and popular culture. She called the area “the world capital for T. rexes.”

Most of the rest of this T. rex’s remains were destroyed over time by erosion, but Sotheby’s experts said the skull was a major find. Hatton noted, “When you think about it, more people can fit a skull in their home than people who could fit a full dinosaur.”

The 6 1/2-foot (2-meter) fossil is about 76 million years old and still has most of the external skull bones and numerous teeth, Sotheby’s experts said.

Hatton said two large puncture holes in the skull are evidence of a big fight, probably with another T. rex. “We don’t know that this is what caused the death of this animal, but we can tell that it did have a major battle during its lifetime,” she said.

Here it  is:

(From AP): Cassandra Hatton, senior vice president, global head of department, Science & Popular Culture at Sotheby’s, touches the tooth of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull excavated from Harding County, South Dakota, in 2020-2021, in New York City on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. When auctioned in December, the auction house expects the dinosaur skull to sell for $15 to $25 million. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is very concerned:

Paulina: You look very worried.
Hili: Yes, I’m observing the political situation.
(Photo: Paulina)
In Polish:
Paulina: Wyglądasz na bardzo zaniepokojoną…
Hili: Tak, przyglądam się sytuacji politycznej.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina)

In nearby Wroclawek, Leon and Mietek are going for a ride (I don’t know where):

The cats: Journeys educate

In Polish: Podróże kształcą


From Nicole:

From Blue:

From Rick:

God denigrates the way America treats its veterans:

Another brave Iranian woman:

From Simon.  I’ll take this story as true, and if it is it’s amazing. Was there a control?

A groaner from Malcolm:

From Merilee:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: Two girls gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Matthew: An unenthusiastic verbal tour of a Scottish cat cafe:

Matthew says to note all the “checked and verified accounts” in this Twitter exchange:

A comedian’s take on the American midterm elections. Sound up.

That’s what they deserve for putting up Christmas decorations in early November!

Monday: Hili dialogue

August 8, 2022 • 6:30 am

It’s time to get back to work on Monday, August 8, 2022: National Rice Pudding Day. At last it’s arrived: a celebration of my favorite dessert! The best version I ever had was at the famous bistro L’Ami Jean in Paris, where you’d get a huge bowl of the stuff, with garnishes on the side, and could help yourself to as much as you want. That was one of the main reasons I went there, but the food was also great.

Here WAS their rice pudding/. I am stupefied:

You could even add extra whipped cream! Here’s my first portion (I’d usually have three or so.)

Alas, this is no more. After Adam Gopnik wrote an article about the restaurant (mentioning the pudding) in The New Yorker,  the place went downhill. Food quality dropped, as did portion size, and if you ordered rice pudding you got a smallish individual portion with a wee bit of garnish on top.  I don’t blame Adam, though, as the place was already well known to foodies, both French and Anglophones. But I will never go there again.

It’s also National Zucchini Day, National Frozen Custard Day, Scottish Wildcat Day (I’m still not sure if this is a real species or just feral cats), Happiness Happens Day (from the Secret Society of Happy People), and, best of all, International Cat Day!

Stuff that happened on August 9 includes:

Before the iconic photo:

Matthew sent this tweet marking this day in 1975:

Serves them right!

  • 1990 – Iraq occupies Kuwait and the state is annexed to Iraq. This would lead to the Gulf War shortly afterward.
  • 2004 – A tour bus belonging to the Dave Matthews Band dumps approximately 800 pounds of human waste onto a boat full of passengers.

Da Nooz:

*Huzzah! The Senate passed the climate/tax/prescription drug bill, after pulling an all-nighter on Saturday night and debating until yesterday afternoon. First, I always wondered how aged folk like me could debate all night. The NYT explains(adding that they eat a lot of junk food):

The vote-a-rama (yes, it is actually called that), a familiar but reviled ritual for the octogenarians and elders who make up the Senate, began late Saturday night and stretched into Sunday morning. It was a final chance for Republicans to try to derail Democrats’ top legislative priority — or at least to lob political attacks against them on its path to passage — and a test of Democratic resolve to preserve their delicate compromise.

It was also the ultimate display of senatorial weirdness and dysfunction — a time-consuming exercise that has little impact on policy but keeps senators up through the night, ending only when they run out of steam for offering more amendments. They were still at it midmorning on Sunday after about 12 hours, with no certain indication of when they would finish.

Anyway, the Senators’ vote was 50-50, with no Republicans in favor and with Kamala Harris breaking the tie to achieve 51-50. A squeaker, but Manchin and Sinema were on the side of the angels. The provisions:

The measure, large elements of which appeared dead just weeks ago amid Democratic divisions, would inject nearly $400 billion into climate and energy programs. Altogether, the bill could allow the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions about 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

It would achieve Democrats’ longstanding goal of slashing prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare for the first time to negotiate the prices of medicines directly and capping the amount that recipients pay out of pocket for drugs each year at $2,000. The measure also would extend larger premium subsidies for health coverage for low- and middle-income people under the Affordable Care Act for three years.

And it would be paid for by substantial tax increases, mostly on large corporations, including establishing a 15 percent corporate minimum tax and imposing a new tax on company stock buybacks.

This may not help Biden become the Democratic candidate in 2024, but it will surely help the Democrats win.

*And, in case you were wondering, here are the latest update of Five-Thirty-Eight‘s prognostications for the midterm election. The Senate is pretty even, but Dems take it in most simulations:

But the House looks dire:

If this transpires, we’ll be in the legislative doldrums, but worse than before because the House won’t be able to pass anything, not even a “reconciliation” bill. .

*The Washington Post‘s Sunday magazine has a photo essay on what’s happened to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over. It’s as some of us expected (those who actually believedthat the Taliban would be less theocratic and would empower women were suckers:

Gone were Western-looking clothes, the cleanshaven bureaucrats and hip youngsters in their skinny jeans and cool haircuts. Men now wore traditionalclothing — the shalwar kameez — and they were growing beards. Women were seen less often in public since many had lost their jobs, especially in the public sector. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was shut down, and its building now housed the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the religious police who enforce the Taliban version of sharia law.

Those are the guys who beat women who aren’t sufficiently covered.  And of course women can’t go to college, despite the Taliban’s promises. Religion poisons everything.

*At the same time that primaries in the U.S. are being won by candidates who have an endorsement from Trump, it’s not clear, according to the Wall Street Journal, whether a Trump run for the Presidency in 2024 will get much enthusiasm from his fellow Republicans.

Congressional Republicans tout former President Donald Trump’s success in cutting taxes and transforming the Supreme Court, and cheer his America First approach to foreign affairs and ability to motivate Republican voters.

But as Mr. Trump weighs a new campaign for the White House in 2024, many GOP lawmakers aren’t ready to throw their support behind him. In interviews with nearly three dozen Republican lawmakers who were asked whether Mr. Trump should run, many deflected the question, saying that Mr. Trump’s decision is up to him without endorsing the idea.

Only four affirmatively said that they wanted Mr. Trump to try for another term, while three others said they hope he stays out, citing what they see as his divisive style of politics, his age, and the rise of other promising Republicans interested in the White House.

“I think we need a new generation of leadership,” said Rep. Chris Jacobs (R., N.Y.), who is retiring after this term. His was the most pro-Trump congressional district in New York state in 2020. “I support a lot of Donald Trump’s policies. And I think that they benefit this nation. But I think it’s time to move on.”

Here is my dream, which is mine: Ukraine beats the crap out of Russia, the Dems take the Presidency, House, and Senate in 2024, and Trump goes to jail for fomenting sedition. Oh, and Elizabeth Holmes also gets a couple years of jail time, too.

*Over at the Atlantic, Ibram X. Kendi excoriates the government for sexism and racism, saying that there’s a double standard when treating the violence caused by street gangs and the “violence” (he means “unwanted sexual contact”) caused by college fraternities. To do this, he, citing dubious statistics, incomparable statistics, and to say this:

The fraternity may be as violent as the gang. Collegiate America may be as dangerous for women as urban America. If sexual violence is a violent crime, then the fraternity of today may be committing as many violent crimes as the gang of the 1990s that spooked fearful Americans into tough-on-crime policies.

. . . Fraternities and sexual violence have taken over our colleges. And yet, has Congress ever seriously considered steering billions to thwart sexual violence, to clean up the toxic masculinity poisoning fraternities and campus life?

He decries the fairness in campus sexual misconduct hearings promoted by Betsy DeVos (one of the few good things the Trump administration did), and says that America goes too hard on gangs and too soft on fraternities.

This double standard is both racist and elitist. After all, the stereotypical gang boy is poor and non-white. The stereotypical frat man is elite and white. And the double standard is sexist, as well. A blinding toxicity of masculinity prevents some Americans from truly caring about the typical victim of sexual assault on college campuses in the way they care about the victim of urban violence.

I’m not sure why the Atlantic allowed such a shoddy and poorly written piece in their august pages, except that the author is Ibram Kendi. In response to Kendi’s article, “What’s the difference between a frat and a gang?”, one Twitter wag responded:

(h/t Luana)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron make plans.

Szaron Where were you walking?
Hili: To and fro.
Szaron: I will go there as well.

In Polish:
Szaron: Gdzie chodziłaś?
Hili: Tam i siam.
Szaron: Ja tam też pójdę.

And a lovely picture of Szaron kissing Andrzej:

Finally, a big announcement: Leon turns eight today! Hard to believe; I knew him as a kitten. Elzbieta has written birthday greetings to her cat, and Malgorzata translated them:

Dignified, eight years old honoree, inseparable companion of everyday life, emphatic nurse with an exceptionally strong personality, exceptional intelligence, a gloomy gaze but with an all-embracing heart.

In Polish:

Dostojny, ośmioletni jubilat, nieodłączny towarzysz codzienności, empatyczny pielęgniarz o wyjątkowo silnej osobowości, nieprzeciętnej inteligencji, ponurym wejrzeniu,ale wszechogarniającym sercu🎂😻

Happy birthday, Leon!


From Seth Andrews:

Here from reader Divy is a photo of Jango watching a photo of Jango watching a photo of Jango watching his photo on this website.

From reader Tom, two cartoons by Dave Coverly:

The Tweet of God:

From Simon, who says, “I thought this was cool – nuclei in purple, membranes in white. Vellutini’s website gives more info.”

From Athayde. I wonder if the mother in the second tweet is humoring the kitten with its giant leap into the air.

From the Auschwitz Memorial; a survivor of three camps passes away.

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s a building giving you the raspberry:

Is this for real? Are those testicles or kidneys?

And the world’s most beautiful tarantula. I would have thought the color was artificially enhanced, but the person’s arm shows that it’s real:

Friday: Hili dialogue

February 18, 2022 • 7:30 am

Good morning on a TGI Friday, February 18, 2022: National Drink Wine Day. To echo Molly Bloom, “and yes I said yes I will Yes.” Tonight I’ll be having more Roderer Brut champagne (I bought two bottles).

It’s also Cow Milked While Flying in an Airplane Day, and that needs some ‘splaining:

Today we celebrate the day the first cow flew in an airplane, as well as the first day a cow was milked while flying in an airplane. On February 18, 1930, a Guernsey cow named Nellie Jay, who also was known as Elm Farm Ollie, flew from Bismarck, Missouri, on a Ford Trimotor plane, to the International Aviation Exhibition in St. Louis. Nellie Jay was chosen because she was a high milk producing cow, and because she had a calm nature. The trip was taken to show the ability of the aircraft, and to take scientific data about the cow’s behavior. Claude M. Sterling piloted the aircraft, while Elsworth W. Bunce of Wisconsin accompanied the cow, and was the first man to milk a cow in flight.

During the 72 mile flight, the milk that Nellie Jay gave was packaged in paper cartons. It was then parachuted to spectators who were watching the flight. Nellie Jay reportedly produced 24 quarts of milk during the flight, and it is even believed that Charles Lindbergh received one of the quarts at the Exhibition. Nellie Jay became known as the Sky Queen after the flight.

Here’s Nellie. I wonder if this feat has ever been repeated. See also Wikipedia’s article on “Elm Farm Ollie” (her other name was “Nellie Jay”).

And it’s also Crab-Stuffed Flounder Day, National Caregivers Day, Pluto Day, celebrating the discovery of this planet on this day in 1930, Wife’s Day in Iceland, and Thumb Appreciation Day, which of course forces me to post this advertisement for milk (it’s the second best cat-relate ad ever made, after “Cat Herders“).


News of the Day:

*Despite Russia’s cat-and-mouse game with NATO, in which Putin denies being poised to invade and says he’s pulling troops back at the same time he’s beefing them up, I’m now prepared to predict with fair confidence that Russia will invade Ukraine within ten days. Russian troops massed around Ukraine have been estimated to number between 150,000 and 170,000, up about 50% in the last two weeks. Russia has expelled the second-ranking U.S. diplomat from Moscow, there have been exchanges of artillery between Russian separatists in Ukraine and Ukrainian troops, and that suggests that these Russian separatists will give Russia the “false flag” excuse to invade.

In Ukraine, Russian-backed rebels and Kyiv’s forces traded accusations that each had fired across the ceasefire line in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow accuses Kyiv of “exterminating” civilians.

Ukrainian government forces denied accusations of having targeted separatist positions in the breakaway region of Donbass, which borders Russia.

Details could not be established independently, but reports from both sides suggested an incident more serious than the routine ceasefire violations that are often reported in the area.

Putin is a horrible human being, but we can’t get inside his head to figure out his plan, so I’ll just go by his actions. Many people will die because he wants Lebensraum (or комната для проживания) to the west. And, as always, I hope I’m wrong.

*This is sad, but I can’t see the result “child abuse,” as one reporter put it.  The story: 15-year-old Russian skating phenom Kamila Valieva screwed up her long program at the Olympics and finished fourth. But the Washington Post makes it into a three-hankie weepie, blaming skating itself for meting out the punishment after the IOC had actually given her a second chance:

 Kamila Valieva sat crying, sandwiched between two consoling coaches. She would not rise. She bent over, head approaching her knees. She tilted over, falling into the lap of choreographer Daniil Gleikhengauz.

The Russian figure skater, just 15 and lost in doping purgatory, glued herself to the anguish for 2½ minutes. It hurt like 2½ hours. On Thursday night, the sport did what the Court of Arbitration for Sport declined to do after her positive drug test shook these Beijing Games. It took action and handed down the cruelest punishment possible.

The result broke the child. After a disastrous long program, Valieva tumbled from first to fourth place in the women’s individual competition, a supposed sure thing left to watch gold, silver and bronze evade her. There was no need for asterisks, provisional medals or any other winging-it International Olympic Committee gestures to manage a cumbersome situation. The girl lost. She wasn’t crowned, pending the outcome of her peculiar and unsettled case. In the end, she wasn’t recognized at all.

Valieva wasn’t recognizable, either. She fell to the ice twice. She stumbled again and again, resembling a woozy boxer. Almost nothing in her repertoire worked for her: the quadruple jumps, the triples, simple gliding. The more she fought, the worse she looked. Her fundamentals collapsed. Her body stopped working with her, knees not bending, shoulders not straightening.

As she came off the ice, the television cameras caught her perplexed coach, Eteri Tutberidze, saying in Russian: “Explain it to me.”

“The result broke the child?” Child? She is young, but she chose to compete as a woman, and it was as a woman she lost, and as a child she cried. And the saddest thing is that she may never recover the nerve that made her the world’s best woman skater. And she’ll be forever marked as “the one who messed up”

But what puzzles me is how a favorable decision by the IOC to let her compete and maybe even get a medal “broke the child” and ruined her skating. Sure, she was discombobulated as the unwanted center of attention, but athletes can’t blame the sport itself for their failure, especially an athlete who was publicly known to have been taking banned drugs. What if she had been denied the chance to compete? Of course the Russians, who drug their athletes, are largely responsible, and should be sanctioned even more, but was Valieva forced to take the drug? We’ll never know.  She’s the only person exculpated by the media for her bad performance. (I haven’t even seen it, as it’s been wiped from the Internet.)

*Here’s a NYT piece with a terse title, “What was Stonehenge for?”  This derives from a new exhibit at the British Museum, “The World of Stonehenge.”.  The answer, after extensive analysis, seems to be that no, it wasn’t a calendar or astronomical indicator, nor was it built by alients. Rather, it was a kind of spot for social cohesion, or so the experts say:

Stonehenge was built at a time of drastic population decline and dispersal, said Mike Parker Pearson, a professor at University College London who has made major Stonehenge-related discoveries, including the Durrington Walls settlement. There were few, if any, villages, and society was “trying to create a sense of unity and collaboration among its members,” he explained.

Built on the site of an ancient cemetery, Stonehenge was a “monument of remembrance,” he said, and an “expression of unity” that pulled people together in the pursuit of a common endeavor.

Yet, he said, “People don’t want it to be that simple as an explanation.”

Of course this answer is only provisional.  Below: a lovely photo of the place, where I’ve never been:

(From NYT) Incomplete knowledge about the purpose of Stonehenge, which was constructed on a plain in southern England, has become part of the monument’s identity.Credit…English Heritage

*And this is plain weird. According to the Associated Press, the leading dictionary of standard usage has altered  the definition of the word “Jew”, changing it into a pejorative against the advice of ACTUAL Jews.

The Duden dictionary had recently added an explanation to its online edition saying that “occasionally, the term Jew is perceived as discriminatory because of the memory of the National Socialist use of language. In these cases, formulations such as Jewish people, Jewish fellow citizens or people of the Jewish faith are usually chosen.”

This explanation led to an outcry from leading Jewish groups and individuals who stressed that identifying themselves or being called Jews is not discriminatory, in contrast to what Duden’s definition implied.

. . .The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Joseph Schuster, said last week that for him the word “Jew” is neither a swear word nor discriminatory.

“Even if ‘Jew’ is used pejoratively in schoolyards or only hesitantly by some people, and the Duden editors are certainly well-meaning in pointing out this context, everything should be done to avoid solidifying the term as discriminatory,” Schuster said.

The executive director of the Central Council of Jews, Daniel Botmann, wrote on Twitter “Is it okay to say Jew? Yes! Please don’t say ‘Jewish fellow citizens’ or ‘people of the Jewish faith’. Just JEWS. Thank you!”

We JEWS may be persecuted, but we’re funny! And a couple of days later the dictionary changed the definition again (this is Lexicography via Twitter):

“Because of their antisemitic use in history and in the present, especially during the Nazi era, the words Jew/Jewess have been debated … for decades,” the entry on the dictionary’s website now says. “At the same time, the words are widely used as a matter of course and are not perceived as problematic. The Central Council of Jews in Germany, which has the term itself in its name, is in favor of its use.”

JEWS is fine, thank you!

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 930,302, an increase of 2,306 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,883,641, an increase of about 12,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 18 include:

  • 1861 – In Montgomery, Alabama, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America.
  • 1885 – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is published in the United States.

A first edition and first printing of this book will cost about $50,000, which seems cheap:

An Indian stamp commemorating the first airmail:

Pluto waas found using this “blink comparator”, in which, I guess, you blinked alternatively with your eyes and could see if one image had shifted:

  • 1930 – Elm Farm Ollie becomes the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft and also the first cow to be milked in an aircraft.

See above.

  • 1943 – World War II: The Nazis arrest the members of the White Rose movement.

The three main members, Sophie and Hans Scholl (brother and sister) and Christoph Probst, were beheaded on February 2. Here are the Scholl’s mug shots by the Gestapo after they were arrested. Four days from arrest to beheading, with a mock trial thrown in.

Here’s part of that famous speech in which Goebbels declared “Totaler Krieg” (“total war”) and also had a few pungent remarks about the Jews:

Bolton had poisoned his with with arsenic, and was hanged.

Here’s the Chicago Seven at a news conference on February 28, 1970. How many of them can you name?

  • 1972 – The California Supreme Court in the case of People v. Anderson, (6 Cal.3d 628) invalidates the state’s death penalty and commutes the sentences of all death row inmates to life imprisonment.
  • 2001 – NASCAR Champion Dale Earnhardt dies from an accident on the final lap of the Daytona 500.

Before the crash:

  • 2010 – WikiLeaks publishes the first of hundreds of thousands of classified documents disclosed by the soldier now known as Chelsea Manning.
  • 2021 – Perseverance, a Mars rover designed to explore Jezero crater on Mars, as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, lands successfully.

Remember the joy at the landing and touchdown. Here’s the touchdown sequence. I’m still thrilled watching it!

Notables born on this day include:

He made the most beautiful windows. Here’s one; caption from Wikipedia:

The Holy City (1905) – St. John’s vision on the isle of Patmos, one of eleven Tiffany windows at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. It has 58 panels and is thought to be one of the largest Tiffany Studios windows
  • 1906 – Hans Asperger, Austrian pediatrician and academic (d. 1980)
  • 1909 – Wallace Stegner, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (d. 1993)
  • 1931 – Toni Morrison, American novelist and editor, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019).
  • 1933 – Yoko Ono, Japanese-American multimedia artist and musician.

John and Yoko’s “bed in”, 1969. Do you remember where this was?  Yoko is 89 today.

  • 1968 – Molly Ringwald, American actress

Those who became carcasses on February 18 include:

  • 1546 – Martin Luther, German priest and theologian, leader of the Protestant Reformation (b. 1483)
  • 1564 – Michelangelo, Italian sculptor and painter (b. 1475)
  • 1967 – J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and academic (b. 1904)

Here’s Oppenheimer briefly describing his reaction at the Trinity test explosion of the A bomb. His line from the Bhagavad Gita became famous.

  • 2001 – Dale Earnhardt, American racer and NASCAR seven times champion (b. 1951)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is getting peeved at having to see Kulka sitting on the inside window ledge (Hili lets people know she wants in by jumping onto the outside ledge). Kulka’s in the foreground:

Hili: Again the same.
A: What’s the matter?
Hili: KUlka is again sitting in the window I want to come through.
In Polish:
Hili: Znowu to samo.
Ja: O co chodzi?
Hili: Znowu Kulka siedzi właśnie na tym oknie, przez które chcę wejść do domu.

And here are, in order, Leon, Mietek, and an unnamed cat, one of three that were abandoned by a Polish man who went to jail.  Elzbieta drives an hour to feed them every day. Anybody want that beautiful Polish tabby?

The caption, as characterized by Malgorzata:

This caption, extremely difficult to translate but the idea is: “A normal day, why so much noise about nothing.” I don’t know which of the cats is saying that and I don’t know what noise he means. (In Polish: “Dzień jak co dzień, nie wiadomo, o co tyle hałasu.”)



Fostered tabby (isn’t it  beaut?):

A meme from Bruce, which rings so true!

More snow creations from Peter:

From Merilee:

The Tweet of God:

I highly recommend watching all three seasons of Ricky Gervais’s series “After Life”. This is the final scene, and if you haven’t seen the show, but will do so, DO NOT WATCH THIS CLIP.  If you have, you’ll see once again that it’s a bit of genius. And it will make you tear up.  (Sound up.)

From Simon, who says, “Cub needs to assess size of potential prey more carefully”:

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, we have two tweets:

The expressions on some of these newly-arrived inmates are sometimes frightening:

Tweets from Matthew. I wonder whether this crow will suffer from beak fatigue:

Matthew says that this is a real e-book that you can buy on Amazon. And, sure enough, it is.  Be sure to click on the tweet to see the whole title.

As Hawks notes, Darwin’s views of human evolution were pretty clear here. At the top you see “man” as a sister group to other apes like gorillas. This means that he saw all human groups as having a single origin, i.e., he was an advocate of monogeny, which comported with the Wedgwood familial view of “am I not a man and a brother?” And his speculation below turned out to be right.

I just found this; it’s the passport photo of my mother, my sister, and me taken for our 2.5 year stay in Greece Oy, did I have big ears! (They’ve flattened with age.)

Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 29, 2022 • 7:30 am

Welcome to Caturday, January 29, 2022: National Corn Chip Day. It’s also Curmudgeons Day, National Puzzle Day, Freethinkers Day (Thomas Paine was born on this day in 1737), and National Carnation Day, explained this way:

National Carnation Day—also known as Red Carnation Day, or simply as Carnation Day—is set aside to remember President William McKinley, who was born on today’s date, and who was known to be fond of carnations, often wearing one on his lapel.

Well, here is McKinley with one, but if you look at his other photos using a Google Image search, I don’t see any other carnations.

News of the Day:

*Afghanistan under the Taliban is collapsing in nearly every way possible: people are starving, food prices are skyrocketing, women are giving birth to underweight babies who die soon after birth, the economy is shrinking 20% per year, and, of course, the theocracy is still oppressing dissidents and women. People on the street are trying to sell their kidneys and even their children The U.S. has frozen $7 billion in assets, but is still trying to provide aid to the the people and not the government. That’s hard to do, as the Wall Street Journal points out.

“The world should understand that it is not only the Taliban living in Afghanistan. There are hundreds of thousands of innocent people,” said Sahib Khan.

Days earlier, Mr. Khan said he took his daughter, Laila, 3, to a square in central Kabul to sell her to a passerby. He hoped to get $200 to $300 for her, saying that anyone with that sort of money would be able to look after her better than he could. He didn’t find anyone able to pay.

“Who would want to sell their child? Poverty forces me. I need money to get through winter,” said Mr. Khan, who has four other children. “We can’t see any future. Everything is dark.”

There’s only one reason to sell a child in Afghanistan. . .

There are still American citizens stuck in the country, as well as many Afghanis who were promised passage to the U.S. because they helped U.S. troops. I don’t know any solutions, but any should involve the Taliban’s respects for human right.  But of course “human rights” and “Islamism” aren’t compatible.

*Has Putin’s gamble to invade Ukraine failed? Yes, says Yulia Latynina (an expert in Russian politics), in a NYT op-ed. That’s because, Latynina claims, the bare-chested Russian has got himself into an untenable situation:

Instead of trapping the United States, Mr. Putin has trapped himself. Caught between armed conflict and a humiliating retreat, he is now seeing his room for maneuver dwindling to nothing. He could invade and risk defeat, or he could pull back and have nothing to show for his brinkmanship. What happens next is unknown. But one thing is clear: Mr. Putin’s gamble has failed.

I don’t necessarily agree. What “armed conflict” will Putin face beyond fighting the Ukrainian military? For sure NATO members are not going to go to war with Russia. They can supply arms, but that’s about it. Also for sure, the Russian Army can ride roughshod over the Ukrainian military, regardless of the latter’s resolve. bravery, and weapons from NATO. I still think Russia will invade very soon, and I still hope I’m wrong.

*From reader Ken:

Osceola County, Florida, has canceled a seminar for history teachers on “the civil rights movement since 1896” because, apropos of no evidence at all, school administrators feared it might contain some mention of critical race theory.

The “seminar” was a talk, and the canceled speaker is steamed:

Michael Butler said Monday that he had been scheduled to give a presentation over the weekend before Osceola County teachers on the history of the U.S. civil rights movement since 1896 when he was notified that the seminar was canceled.

No one from school district asked to see the materials he was going to present, and the presentation had no reference to critical race theory, said Butler, a history professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine.

“I was shocked. There is a lot that bothers me about this,” Butler said in a phone interview. “I think that critical race theory is so nebulous that, for people who aren’t experts in the field, CRT is becoming a euphemism for Black history, and that is a shame. They aren’t the same.”

See also this report at NBC News. This is why laws banning the teaching of CRT are ludicrous, for they can be manipulated to political ends. Here they canceled what seems to be a worthwhile talk for teachers. In fact, the Left and Right both engage in conflating CRT with “black history”: the former to allow questionable aspects of “real” CRT to be snuck into the classroom, and the latter to ratchet back on teaching black history altogether (see yesterday morning’s post).

*Here’s a prime example of why every university needs to abide by the University of Chicago’s own “Kalven Principle,” barring our school and its constituent units (e.g., departments) from making official statements on politics, ideology or morality. Such statements create a climate that chills speech, making people fearful of opposing “official” views. Now a look at this “Statement of Solidarity with Palestine” issued last May by the Asian-American Studies Department at UCLA (a public university).  It’s about as rabidly anti-Israel as it comes, and is guaranteed to make those department members who disagree fearful of opposing it.  Here’s the most appalling bit:

We condemn the exchange of military tactics and financial support between the United States and Israel, noting how U.S. counterinsurgency techniques and military equipment used during the Vietnam War were then extrapolated to the Occupied Territories; how the Israeli military’s policing of the apartheid wall dividing Jerusalem and isolating the West Bank has influenced the U.S.’s own brutal border security policies along the U.S.-Mexico border; and how Israel has too often upheld its support of Asian and Asian American individuals as proof of multicultural democracy, over and against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine via a process of “yellow-washing.”

Yellow-washing! That’s nearly identical to the accusation by anti-“Zionists” that when Israel mentions its liberal LGBTQ+ policies as evidence of nondiscrimination, anti-Semites say that this is just “pinkwashing.” No matter that in Palestine and other Arab states, you can be killed for being a homosexual. Such is the hypocrisy of the “progressive” Left.

The statement is hateful, untrue (“apartheid wall,” really? It’s there to keep terrorists from coming into Israel and killing Israelis). But the news is that two members of the University of California’s Board of Regents, Jonathan Sures and Sherry Lansing (the studio executive), have called this statement “inappropriate”, with Sures even broachin a Kalven-like possibility:

Sures said during the January 18 meeting regarding the AAS statement: “I don’t think it’s appropriate that people are allowed to use university websites to make political statements. So I’m wondering, are we going to address it? I think it’s wrong. I think it is a violation of policy.” He asked if the regents should look into forming a working group “to define the policy so we know where we stand on this particular issue.” Lansing echoed Sures’ concerns. “We do have a policy on antisemitism… and I think this violates that.”

Regardless, no department of any should be making such statements, whether they’re in favor of Palestine, Israel, Joe Biden, or Black Lives Matter—indeed, anything not relevant to the mission of the University. If you’re an academic, have a look at the Kalven Report and see if it doesn’t make sense.

*I’m constantly re-examining my views on affirmative action (I still favor a restricted form of it, though as the years go by it’s getting harder to justify), and so I read with interest John McWhorter’s views on the issue in his latest NYT column, “No, don’t end it. But for goodness’ sake, yes, time to mend it.” An excerpt, which explains why my view are getting harder to justify:

It’s not that I’m opposed utterly to affirmative action in the university context, admitting some students under different grade and test score standards than other students. I just think affirmative action should address economic disadvantage, not race or gender.

When affirmative action was put into practice around a half-century ago, with legalized segregation so recent, it was reasonable to think of being Black as a shorthand for being disadvantaged, whatever a Black person’s socioeconomic status was. In 1960, around half of Black people were poor. It was unheard-of for big corporations to have Black C.E.O.s; major universities, by and large, didn’t think of Black Americans as professor material; and even though we were only seven years from Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the idea of a Black president seemed like folly.

But things changed: The Black middle class grew considerably, and affirmative action is among the reasons. I think a mature America is now in a position to extend the moral sophistication of affirmative action to disadvantaged people of all races or ethnicities, especially since, as a whole, Black America would still benefit substantially.

The class-based system will still increase the desired racial diversity of universities, but  without the invidious accusations of “reverse racism.” And it seems less likely that students will suffer when told “you just got in because you’re poor or faced adversity,” than when told “you just got in because you’re black.”

McWhorter also takes up the argument that we’ll need to maintain affirmative action until there are no more racial inequities. He rejects that for two reasons, but you can read it for yourself.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 881,584, an increase of 2,529 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,669,541, an increase of about 10,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 29 include:

Here’s the publication with the editor’s introdution:


The last queen; she rule for just two years. Note, too, that she also wrote the well known  song “Aloha ʻOe“:

Her song (you can hear Elvis’s version of it here):

And they were: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Morgan Bulkeley. Bulkeley? He got in because he was President of the National League.

There were 17; to see them, go here and look for  the names in the green boxes.

The original cube was made of wood (below), with the colors added later. The record for solving it is 4.22 sec. (video below):

The governor for six years, Blago was sentenced to 14 years but served only eight. Here’s his mugshot:

Notables born on this day include:

The original cover of the pamphlet:

  • 1843 – William McKinley, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 25th President of the United States (d. 1901)
  • 1880 – W. C. Fields, American actor, comedian, and screenwriter (d. 1946)

Here’s some of Fields’ funniest lines:

I’m more interested in Koo’s wife, Oei Hui-lan,who was a fashion plate famous for combining traditional Chinese and modern dress:

  • 1923 – Paddy Chayefsky, American author and screenwriter (d. 1981)
  • 1939 – Germaine Greer, Australian journalist and author
  • 1954 – Oprah Winfrey, American talk show host, actress, and producer, founded Harpo Productions
  • 1960 – Greg Louganis, American diver and author
  • 1970 – Heather Graham, American actress

Rollergirl! Young and older:

Those who boxed on January 28 include:

Here’s Lear with the caption: “Lear in 1887, a year before his death. His arm was bent as he was holding his cat, Foss, who leapt away. “(Remember “The Owl and the Pussycat”? That was Lear’s poem. 

Sisley’s “The Cat” (1870):

A famous can-can dancer and model (her real name was Louise Weber, with “La Goulue meaning “the gourmand”), here’s she is in a photo and then in her most famous depiction, in a poster by Toulouse-Lautrec:

  • 1934 – Fritz Haber, Polish-German chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868)
  • 1956 – H. L. Mencken, American journalist and critic (b. 1880)

One of my favorite masters of prose, Mencken was never without his cigar. Here he is at work:

I always show this photo of my dad (right) with Alan Ladd on the Acropolis, taken during the filming of the movie “Boy on a Dolphin” (1957). He was stationed in Athens with our family at the time, and the Army helped the film procure jeeps and gasoline. Dad also got to hang around with Sophia Loren, another star of the movie.

His famous farewell. But who was “Mrs. Calabash”? It turns out it was his pet name for his first wife, who died young.

  • 2008 – Margaret Truman, American singer and author (b. 1924)
  • 2015 – Rod McKuen, American singer-songwriter and poet (b. 1933)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili evinces a disdain (which I share) for podcasts:

Hili: What are podcasts?
A: Meowing into the microphone.
Hili: That’s not for me.
In Polish:
Hili: Co to są podkasty?
Ja: Miauczenie przed mikrofonem.
Hili: To nie dla mnie.

And a free picture of Leon:

From Only Duck Memes:

From Bruce:

From the ever popular Dover (NH) Public Library, which combines humor and erudition:


From Titania:

From Barry, about the saddest photo I know about ocean pollution. The caption:

A seahorse clutches a discarded cotton swab to ride the oceans currents near Sumbawa Island, Indonesia. “It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it,” wrote photographer Justin Hofman. “What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage.”  PHOTOGRAPH BY JUSTIN HOFMAN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Go see the other photos at the site, which gives a number of favorite Nat. Geo. pictures that appeared on Instagram. The photo of the human face transplant will stun you.


From Ginger K:

Tweets from Matthew. First, from Bat World Sanctuary, a video of a Mexican free-tailed bat noisily chowing down on mealworms. Sound up.

I didn’t know that starlings could mimic this well! Sound up, of course.

I may have posted this before, but if the cat wants to go inside so badly, LET IT IN!

Ostriches on the loose!

Friday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

January 28, 2022 • 7:15 am

Another week at an end: it’s a cold Chicago Friday, January 28, 2022, National Blueberry Pancake Day. Those are some good pancakes, but don’t forget the pure maple syrup (darkest grade possible):

It’s also National Kazoo Day, Daisy Day, Pop Art Day, International Lego Day (see “1958” below), and Data Privacy Day.

News of the Day:

*From UN Watch, we have an amazingly stupid act of the United Nations, the dumbest among many dumb actions of that body. The screenshot tells the tale, but you can click on it if you want to read more.

An excerpt:

The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva, is considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts. The UN-backed body calls itself “the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.”

“Having the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un preside over global nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the United Nations.

“This is a country that threatens to attack other UN member states with missiles, and that commits atrocities against its own people. Torture and starvation are routine in North Korean political prison camps where an estimated 100,000 people are held in what is one of the world’s most dire human-rights situations,” said Neuer.

According to the article, the good news is that the post is “largely formal”, but seriously, what about the optic? The UN is already becoming a joke, and this won’t help:

“At a time when China, Russia, Libya, Kazakhstan and Venezuela are sitting on the UN’s human rights council, this won’t help.”

*Stephen Breyer handed Biden his own letter of resignation from the Supreme Court today, and the President gave him the due plaudits. However, even appointing a black woman Justice, as Biden promises, will do absolutely nothing to change the court’s move to the Right. (She had better be young!). The villain in all this, as usual, is Senator Mitch “666” McConnell, who, according to the NYT,

 issued a warning to Mr. Biden against making an overly ideological choice to succeed Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who formally announced his retirement on Thursday.

“The American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50,” Mr. McConnell said in his first statement since word of the retirement leaked. “To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions and unite America. The president must not outsource this important decision to the radical left. The American people deserve a nominee with demonstrated reverence for the written text of our laws and our Constitution.”

As if his hero Trump didn’t make ideological choices for Justices. Jebus, Amy Coney Barrett is about as far right as you can get. That sad part is that the next oldest justice after Breyer is Clarence Thomas, a decade younger. And you just know that Thomas will be sitting on the bench until they carry him out in a box. It will be amusing seeing the Republican Senators try to do down every one of Biden’s nominees.

*From FIRE we learn that Jason Kilborn, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Law School who used two redacted slurs on a law school exam question about a hypothetical discrimination case (see guest post here) has not only been punished by UIC, but the university also reneged on its agreement with him. For doing exactly nothing wrong, Kilborn now must to undergo months of “training” and write “reflection papers”. This is about the most Stalinesque bit of performative wokeness I’ve seen in a public university. An excerpt from FIRE’s article:

UIC suspended and launched an investigation into Kilborn after he posed a hypothetical question — which he has asked in previous years — using redacted references to two slurs, in a December 2020 law school exam. The question about employment discrimination referenced a plaintiff being called “a ‘n____’ and ‘b____’ (profane expressions for African Americans and women)” as evidence of discrimination. But even redacting the terms didn’t save Kilborn from discipline by university administrators.

Kilborn reached a resolution with UIC in July, in which he agreed to alert the dean before responding to student complaints about racial issues and to audio-record his classes. Kilborn welcomed both of these stipulations in order to protect himself against spurious complaints, and had already decided to take those actions independently. As part of that resolution, Kilborn and UIC ultimately reached an understanding that Kilborn would not have to attend sensitivity training.

However, in November, under pressure from UIC’s Black Law Students Association and Jesse Jackson, UIC reneged on its agreement with Kilborn and is now requiring him to participate in months-long “training on classroom conversations that address racism” and compelling him to write reflection papers before he can return to the classroom. In a stunning display of unintended irony, the individualized training materials include the same redacted slur that Kilborn used in his test question.

With legal help from FIRE, Kilborn is suing UIC, a public college, for infringement of speech. I hope that UIC loses the case and has to pay tons of money in damages and attorneys’ fees.  Their punishment is stupid; their reneging on the agreement is reprehensible. 

In an op-ed at the Washington Post, author Dora Horn, who wrote the best-selling book with the provocative title, People Love Dead Jews, muses on why anti-Semitism in America still seems focused on the Holocaust. And the answer is the same as her book’s thesis: people love dead Jews like Anne Frank (who was much in the news last week), but don’t care so much about the ones who don’t die (like the hostages in Texas):

Unfortunately, as critical as teaching about the Holocaust is, it’s not the same as teaching about antisemitism. Instead, people mostly seem to think that antisemitism consists exclusively of the murders of 6 million Jews. Anything short of that is all in our heads. The feel-good stories people tell themselves about dead Jews make it easy to dismiss the here-and-now targeting of live ones.

The FBI eventually walked back its clumsy statement that the Texas attack was “not specifically related to the Jewish community.” But a reporter who spoke to two dozen residents of the synagogue’s neighborhood found they unanimously agreed. In fact, they were convinced their church down the street was equally at risk. “If it happens over there, it could happen over here, too,” one churchgoer said.

Clueless comments such as these reveal the warped funhouse American Jews now live in. After synagogue shootings in Pennsylvania and California, a kosher market attack in New Jersey, a Hanukkah attack in Upstate New York, a rabbi’s stabbing in Boston, street attacks in New York City and Los Angeles, and countless other vicious assaults on American Jews, this kind of plausible deniability has become a public ritual.

But everyone knows about the Holocaust. Holocaust education is now its own ritual, where middle-schoolers and public figures piously announce that Nazis are bad. The problem is that this a rather low bar to clear. We can all pat ourselves on the back for not murdering 6 million Jews. This absurd standard allows people to ignore a pervasive and very current hatred while feeling well-informed. Why should those nice neighbors, or the FBI for that matter, believe antisemitism is a problem if there aren’t millions of bodies?

Because Jews see things well-meaning neighbors don’t. . .

This is an unusually concise, powerful, and well written op-ed.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 877,815, an increase of 2,530 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,658,539, an increase of about 9,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 28 include:

  • 814 – The death of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, brings about the accession of his son Louis the Pious as ruler of the Frankish Empire.[2]
  • 1521 – The Diet of Worms begins, lasting until May 25.

That is a LONG time to eat worms!

  • 1547 – Edward VI, the nine-year-old son of Henry VIII, becomes King of England on his father’s death.
  • 1724 – The Russian Academy of Sciences is founded in St. Petersburg, Russia, by Peter the Great, and implemented by Senate decree. It is called the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences until 1917.
  • 1754 – Sir Horace Walpole coins the word serendipity in a letter to a friend.

But  Wikipedia, doesn’t mention the word itself.

[On 28 January 1754], inn a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made about a lost painting of Bianca Cappello by Giorgio Vasari by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” The name comes from Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka (Ceylon), hence Sarandib by Arab traders.[4] It is derived from the Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpaḥ (Siṃhalaḥ, Sri Lanka + dvīpaḥ, island).

However, as always, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the first usage, and it was indeed by Walpole:

1754   H. Walpole Let. to H. Mann 28 Jan.   This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity.

Here’s a video showing the first edition of this classic, which will cost you around $30,000 these days.


  • 1855 – A locomotive on the Panama Canal Railway runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
  • 1896 – Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, becomes the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined one shilling, plus costs, for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h), thereby exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h).

The usual walking speed is about 3 mph, so cars had to go slower than pedestrians!

Gitmo is on a yearly lease, but Cuba has refused to accept the payments. Here’s a diagram of the base. The outdoor movie theater is at lower right (circled) and I’ve put an arrow by McDonald’s (yep, there is one!):

And McD’s, surrounded by razor wire!

  • 1933 – The name Pakistan is coined by Choudhry Rahmat Ali Khan and is accepted by Indian Muslims who then thereby adopted it further for the Pakistan Movement seeking independence.
  • 1935 – Iceland becomes the first Western country to legalize therapeutic abortion.
  • 1956 – Elvis Presley makes his first national television appearance.

. . . here’s a very rare color film (without sound) of Elvis singing  April 25, 1955 at a Texas outdoor venue, a year before he was on television. It’s the first time Elvis was ever filmed anywhere.

  • 1958 – The Lego company patents the design of its Lego bricks, still compatible with bricks produced today.
  • 1965 – The current design of the Flag of Canada is chosen by an act of Parliament.
  • 1985 – Supergroup USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa) records the hit single We Are the World, to help raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief.

Here’s the official video of “We Are the World”.  It was good to see all these people together in a common cause; I failed to recognize only two of the soloists. And where else will you see Willie Nelson singing with Dionne Warwick? Try listening to it first with your eyes closed to see how many voices you can recognize.  Dylan! Diana Ross! Stevei Wonder! The Boss! Kim Carnes! Ray Charles! Tina Turner! Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper! Paul Simon! Willie Nelson! It goes on and on and on. . . My favorite part is when Michael Jackson sings harmony with Diana Ross (1:35), who gives him the “okay” sign.

And note this: “[The song] was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian.”

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1873 – Colette, French novelist and journalist (d. 1954)
  • 1912 – Jackson Pollock, American painter (d. 1956)
  • 1936 – Alan Alda, American actor, director, and writer
  • 1968 – Sarah McLachlan, Canadian singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer.

Although this isn’t her own song, it’s my favorite performance by McLachlan.  I believe it’s Luke Doucet on guitar.  I can’t decide whether I like this version better than McCartney’s.

Those who said their last farewells on January 28 include:

  • 814 – Charlemagne, Holy Roman emperor
  • 1547 – Henry VIII, king of England (b. 1491)
  • 1939 – W. B. Yeats, Irish poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865)

Here’s Yeats in 1903. Below him, his “muse” Maud Gonne, an Irish nationalist. Yeats proposed to her four times, and was rejected every time.  He was completely infatuated.

Maude Gonne in 1900.  They “did it” only once—in Paris in 1908—and then, despite Yeat’s ardor, the relationship became platonic again:

  • 1960 – Zora Neale Hurston, American novelist, short story writer, and folklorist (b. 1891)
  • 1986 – Space Shuttle Challenger crew
    • Gregory Jarvis, American captain, engineer, and astronaut (b. 1944)
    • Christa McAuliffe, American educator and astronaut (b. 1948)
    • Ronald McNair, American physicist and astronaut (b. 1950)
    • Ellison Onizuka, American engineer and astronaut (b. 1946)
    • Judith Resnik, American colonel, engineer, and astronaut (b. 1949)
    • Dick Scobee, American colonel, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1939)
    • Michael J. Smith, American captain, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1945)
  • 1988 – Klaus Fuchs, German physicist and politician (b. 1911)
  • 2021 – Cicely Tyson, American actress (b. 1924)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making the Cat Decision, which usually goes only one way:

Hili: I’m thinking.
A: What about?
Hili: Whether to push it off or leave it alone.
Hili: Myślę.
Ja: Nad czym?
Hili: Czy to zrzucić, czy zostawić?

And here’s Leon in nearby Wloclawek. I don’t understand why cats are so eager for Friday. Is it because the staff can attend to them more over the next two days?

Leon: Waiting for Friday.

In Polish: “W oczekiwaniu na piątek”

A meme from Bruce:

From Not Another Science Cat Page: This is only a misdemeanor!

And a special feature from reader Pliny the in Between: Korean Wedding Ducks:

When my brother was in the service he brought home a pair of Korean wedding ducks from Seoul as a wedding gift for me and my partner.  By tradition, as long as the ducks are beak-to-beak it symbolizes harmony in the relationship.  In a couple of weeks, ours will have been holding that position for 30 years.

I hope they don’t have a cat! You know what would happen, and then the relationship would be kaput. . . (in fact, I’ve since learned that a cat did chew the bll off one duck, but the relationship survived).

From Ginger K.  This must be for an OnlyFans cat group:

A tweet by one friend directing you to an article by another friend (and co-author on my one philosophy paper). The title is certainly provocative; I haven’t yet read Maarten’s article but will; in the meantime go see what he means:

Tweets from Matthew. He says this first one is an “old one”, but it’s also wonky. Who on earth would make cheesecake and cookes sister groups? Cheesecake is closer to a pie or even a “true cake” than to a cookie, for crying out loud!

I might have shown this before, but I can’t see it too often: it’s one of Nature’ most remarkable cases of mimicry:

Facial diversity in foxes, which are Honorary Cats®:

Adam Rutherford thinks this is the best letter ever written!

Holy cow! A Picasso?

Runner ducks crossing! This person will have to wait a while . . .

Google translation from the Dutch: “Hi boss I’m a little late…. uhm I have to wait for some ducks crossing.”

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:

  • 1687 – The first Huguenots set sail from France to the Cape of Good Hope.
  • 1759 – Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.
  • 1853 – A dinner party is held inside a life-size model of an iguanodon created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Sir Richard Owen in south London, England.

Here’s a depiction of that great event:

Here’s Owen. He was a good paleontologist (and coined the word “Dinosauria”), but he never signed on to Darwin’s theory of evolution.  He looks mean, too:


  • 1857 – Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa, then a small logging town, as the capital of the Province of Canada.
  • 1878 – Karl Benz, working in MannheimGermany, files for a patent on his first reliable two-stroke gas engine. He was granted the patent in 1879.

He soon made three-wheeled vehicles with that engine, which is shown below:

Here’s a video of Edison talking about his light bulb. I had no idea he’d been filmed—with sound!

  • 1907 – The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) in Manhattan.
  • 1955 – General Motors becomes the first U.S. corporation to make over US$1 billion in a year.
  • 1992 – Czechoslovakia is peacefully dissolved in what is dubbed by media as the Velvet Divorce, resulting in the creation of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
  • 1999 – The first President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, resigns from office, leaving Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the acting President and successor.
  • 1999 – The U.S. government hands control of the Panama Canal (as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone) to Panama. This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties.

Here’s roughly where the canal runs (I haven’t figure out how to draw wiggly lines on a jpg), shown on a satellite image

  • 2000 – The last day of the 20th Century and 2nd Millennium.

Remember when we all worried that our computers would go bonkers because they couldn’t handle the date?

  • 2019 – The World Health Organization is informed of cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause, detected in Wuhan. This later turned out to be COVID-19, the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 2020 – The World Health Organization’s issues its first emergency use validation for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1491 – Jacques Cartier, French navigator and explorer (d. 1557)
  • 1869 – Henri Matisse, French painter and sculptor (d. 1954)

Matisse loved kitties and often painted them. Here he is with a moggy and his “Girl on Red Couch With Cat” (1938):

  • 1908 – Simon Wiesenthal, Ukrainian-Austrian Nazi hunter and author (d. 2005)
  • 1917 – Wilfrid Noyce, English mountaineer and author (d. 1962)
  • 1930 – Odetta, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actress (d. 2008)
  • 1937 – Anthony Hopkins, Welsh actor, director, and composer

Here’s a scene from one of my favorite movies, “The Remains of the Day,” in which Hopkins, a butler, discusse with the housekeeper (Emma Thompson) s a “racy book” that she found in his room. They fancy each other, but nothing ever happens. That, in fact, is one of the points of the movie. Two great actors!

Sarah Miles became famous from the 1970 movie, “Ryan’s Daughter”, for which she was nominated for an Oscar (she didn’t win). Here she is being shamed by the townspeople after it was revealed that she’d had an affair with a soldier.

  • 1943 – John Denver, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (d. 1997)
  • 1943 – Ben Kingsley, English actor
  • 1948 – Donna Summer, American singer-songwriter (d. 2012)
  • 1965 – Gong Li, Chinese actress
  • 1977 – Donald Trump Jr., American businessman and son of U.S. President Donald Trump

Those whose eyes closed forever on December 31 include:

  • 1384 – John Wycliffe, English philosopher, theologian, and translator (b. 1331)
  • 1691 – Robert Boyle, Anglo-Irish chemist and physicist (b. 1627)
  • 1972 – Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican-American baseball player and Marine (b. 1934)

Here’s Clemente’s home run in the seventh game of the 1971 World Series, in which his Pirates won 2-0 over the Orioles. He was a very great player, and a generous one: he died at only 36 when a plane he’d chartered to bring relief supplies to earthquake stricken Nicaragua crashed.  I saw this homer live on television.

  • 1985 – Ricky Nelson, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (b. 1940)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, soon it will be New Year’s Eve, and the cats get scared by the firecrackers and fireworks. Hili seeks consolation in Andrzej’s lap:

Hili: Will there be fireworks today?
A: Unfortunately, yes.
Hili: So I will wait them out here.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy dziś będą fajerwerki?
Ja: Niestety, tak.
Hili: To ja je tu przeczekam.
And Here’s is a picture of baby Kulka taken by Paulina but with Andrzej’s text. Kulka’s worried too!
“Two days ago Paulina documented the fact that there was snow. Today it’s no longer there and Kulka wishes for herself and others not too much noise.”

In Polish: “Paulina dwa dni temu udokumentowała fakt, że śnieg był. Dziś go juś nie ma, a Kulka życzy sobie i innym, żeby nie było za dużo huku.”

Elzbieta sent photos of Leon and Mitek with a caption:

Caption:   The cats send their regards. (In Polish:   Koty pozdrawiaja.)


From Bruce, a cat barista:

From Karl:

From Doc Bill. I love this contest!

And I couldn’t resist linking to this video from FB. Click on the link in the last sentence, and put the sound up!

On to the tweets. Here’s one from God Himself:

From Simon: Videos of an amazing case of mimicry and how it works:

From Frank, who added, “…at last!… Richard Dawkins is right on the money again!”

I disagree because Americans write the dates as December 31, 2021: Month, day, year.

From Ginger K.:  Do look at the linked article, too.

Tweets from Matthew. Is this mimicry?

This video of gamboling otters in the snow is a must-watch!

This thread shows the cat interrupting six games! But the staff still loves him:

Let’s end the year with my favorite aria from one of my favorite sopranos:


Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

July 3, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Saturday, July 3, 2021: Sabbath for Jewish cats and National Chocolate Wafer Day (a KitKat is one example).

It’s also National Eat Beans Day, International Cherry Pit Spitting Day (the world record is 28.51 meters or 93 feet, 6 inches!), National Fried Clam Day, and American Redneck Day. And, according to Wikipedia, it’s “The start of the Dog Days according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac but not according to established meaning in most European cultures.”

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honors the life and work of neurologist Ludwig Guttmann, born on this day in 1899 (died 1980), who pioneered sports activities for people with disabilities by founding the Stoke Mandeville Games. These evolved into the Paralympics.

Wine of the Day: This Jermann Tuninia from 2015 is an unusual Italian white wine, made from a mixture of grapes: Friulano, Picolit, Ribolla, and Malvasia. I’ve heard of only the last one. But the reviews, all emphasizing its mixture of fruity flavors, made me choose it to accompany my go-to simple meal: black beans and rice with sauteed onions and a bit of thick Greek yogurt mixed in for creaminess.  (I could have chosen a German Riesling Spätlese, but that may have been too sweet.) You don’t want a bone-dry Chardonnay for a dish like that.

It was an estimable wine, laden with fruit and not resembling any white I’ve ever had. Full-bodied, a tad off-dry, and redolent with melon and pear flavors (I have trouble detecting other fruits in wines), it was a good accompaniment for my abstemious but healthy meal.  It was not over the hill by any means. I paid thirty bucks for it, and it goes for about twice that now. Would I pay that much again? Yes, I suppose, for the experience of such an unusual wine, but this will not be a regular in my lineup as the price/value ratio is too high.

News of the Day:

After nearly twenty years, the U.S. is pulling its troops out of Afghanistan, leaving Bagram Air Base just yesterday. By September 11, according to Biden, we will be gone. And what will happen is inevitable: the Taliban will take over, and the freedoms that everyone (but especially woman and girls) have enjoyed will disappear. Will Leftists now beef that Afghanistan is an “apartheid state” when women are no longer allowed to go to school and must wear burqas? Don’t count on it!

Reader Ken tells me that yesterday that, according to the Guardian, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a Washington State florist who was fined $1000 for refusing to create a floral arrangement for a gay wedding. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, apparently violated an anti-discrimination law and was ordered to henceforth make floral arrangements for gay weddings if she made them for same-sex weddings.  You may recall that the Court ruled a different way in an earlier case, allowing a cakemaker not to bake a cake for a gay wedding because it violated the baker’s religion. From Ken:

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court dodged the issue of civil rights laws vs. the Free Exercise Clause by deciding the case on the very narrow grounds that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had employed the wrong standard in determining what constituted “religious neutrality.”

In this case, Arlene’s Flowers, Inc. v. Washington, the Court decided not to open that can of worms (or cakes or flowers) again. I was happily surprised to see that Amy Coney Barrett didn’t jump at the chance to join with other rightwingers to vote to take the case. It means the Ninth Circuit’s decision compelling the florist to provide her services to the gay couple stands.
And when I asked him why he was “happily surprised” by her decision, he replied that Barrett probably does want to use religious freedom to quash gay rights, but that this may have not been the right case:

There’s some speculation that Justice Barrett’s decision not to vote to grant cert was motivated by her desire to await the perfect case in which to rule for religious freedom over gay rights — or by her concern that the lawyers for the homophobic Alliance for Defending Freedom were not up to the task of presenting the case in its best light. See this tweet:

The WaPo has an analysis how three Justices: Coney Barrett, Roberts, and Kavanaugh, are moving the Court towards the right, though slowly and cautiously. But is this news? We are doomed until past my lifetime to have our laws interpreted by a bunch of religious conservatives.

Here are the results from my “Will Trump go to jail” contest in yesterday’s Hili Dialogue. By a large majority, people think Trump will never do the perp walk:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 604,629, an increase of 230 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,981,135,, an increase of about 8,800 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on July 3 includes:

The Army, first commanded by Washington, lasted from 1775-1783.

  • 1819 – The Bank for Savings in the City of New-York, the first savings bank in the United States, opens.
  • 1863 – American Civil War: The final day of the Battle of Gettysburg culminates with Pickett’s Charge.

Under Robert E. Lee’s orders, 12,500 Confederate soldiers charged Meade’s Union army over an open field. It was a disaster: the Confederates were repulsed with more than 50% casualties. This has been described as the high-water mark of the Confederacy, and from then on it was downhill to defeat. Here’s a picture of a Union gun that repelled the charge:

(From Wikipedia): “A gun and gunners that repulsed Pickett’s Charge” (from The Photographic History of the Civil War). This was Andrew Cowan’s 1st New York Artillery Battery.
  • 1884 – Dow Jones & Company publishes its first stock average.
  • 1886 – Karl Benz officially unveils the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first purpose-built automobile.

And here it is; only 25 were manufactured:

Here’s that reunion, with the graybeards shaking hands:

(From Wikipedia): Now the “Friendly” Angle One of the most affecting sights witnessed during the present reunion of Confederate and Federal veterans at Gettysburg is depicted in this photograph. Across the stone wall, which marks the boundaries of the famous “Bloody Angle” where Pickett lost over 3,000 men from a force of 6,000 these old soldiers of the North and South clasped hands in fraternal affection / / International News Service, 200 William St., New York.

It’s now in Edinburgh Castle, but here it was before it was in England, and then was stolen and returned to Scotland in 1996. Queen Elizabeth was crowned sitting over this block of red sandstone.

From the Daily Fail: The artefact – also known as the Stone of Scone – was used in the inauguration of Scottish kings until 1296, when King Edward I seized it and had it built into a new throne at Westminster Abbey in London. Pictured: King Edward I’s coronation throne containing the stone
  • 2013 – Egyptian coup d’état: President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi is overthrown by the military after four days of protests all over the country calling for Morsi’s resignation, to which he did not respond. President of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt Adly Mansour is declared acting president.

Notables born on this day include:

Every Fourth of July when I was a kid I’d watch the 1942 movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” with James Cagney playing George M. Cohan. I loved it, and Cagney’s performance was outstanding. Here’s the ending of the movie when Cohan gets a medal from FDR and then joins a parade singing Cohan’s song “Over There”.  Admit it; doesn’t it make you feel just a wee bit patriotic?

Kafka in 1906:

  • 1908 – M. F. K. Fisher, American author (d. 1992)
  • 1937 – Tom Stoppard, Czech-English playwright and screenwriter

My brush with fame at the Hay Festival, June, 2010 (later I smoked one of his cigarettes with him):

  • 1947 – Dave Barry, American journalist and author
  • 1962 – Tom Cruise, American actor and producer

Those who became the Dearly Departed on July 3 include:

  • 1904 – Theodor Herzl, Austrian journalist and playwright (b. 1860)
  • 1935 – André Citroën, French engineer and businessman, founded the Citroën Company (b. 1878)
  • 1969 – Brian Jones, English guitarist, songwriter, and producer (b. 1942)
  • 1971 – Jim Morrison, American singer-songwriter (b. 1943)

Here’s a live version of one of my favorite Doors songs (“Riders on the Storm” is up there, though I’m not as keen as others on “Light My Fire”:

And here’s Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (now guarded and fenced in because of vandalism and theft), photographed by me in November, 2018:

  • 2012 – Andy Griffith, American actor, singer, and producer (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili and Szaron discuss their plans:

Szaron: Are we going into the forest?
Hili: No, I’m going back home.
In Polish:
Szaron: Idziemy do lasku?
Hili: Nie, ja wracam do domu.

And Leon is weary of the week:

Leon: Is it Friday yet?

In Polish: Juz piątek mamy?

Here’s a confusing sign from reader David. I believe this is what happens when your math skills are deficient:

From Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day:

Titania adds part 37 to her list of things that have been deemed racist:

Two tweets from Luana: two statues get toppled in Canada.

. . . and religion in America continues its inexorable decline:

With this tweet, reader Ken adds: “One would think that the lawyers for the guy most likely to be “Unindicted Coconspirator #1″ in the Trump Org/Weisselberg indictment had advised their client to STFU on national tv.”

One would think that the lawyers for the guy most likely to be “Unindicted Coconspirator #1” in the Trump Org/Weisselberg indictment had advised their client to STFU on national tv.

Tweets from Matthew. I had no idea that the first of July was International Polychaete Day. Here’s a lovely specimen.

Matthew sent this tweet with a link and a comment: “Here’s the site Francesca’s correspondent refers to – really quite extraordinarily bonkers.” That’s an understatement!

Now here’s an unusual find: click on the link to the article to see the beetle, which is indeed amazingly preserved in a coprolite:

Friday: Hili dialogue

July 2, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Friday, July 2, 2021: National Anisette Day. It’s also World UFO Day, Comic Sans Day, and Freedom from Fear of Speaking Day (see below, though the holiday isn’t really about Freedom of Speech, but about a phobia). Nevertheless, the man in the painting almost surely had to overcome his fear of speaking:

Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech” from the Four Freedoms series. Photographed at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, October, 2012

I saw a possum crossing the street on my way to work this morning.

News of the Day:

Well. of course the big news is that criminal charges have come down on the Trump organization. The Orange Man faces no personal charges, but the Manhattan District Attorney accused the Trump organization of tax fraud, paying people without keeping records. And one of the executives, Alan Weisselberg, who was Trumps chief financial officer, is accused of grand larceny and tax fraud for evading taxes on $1.7 million in perks. Is Trump next? The NYT says this:

And while the indictment is narrowly focused on the scheme to evade taxes based on the provision of the benefits, the charges could lay the groundwork for the next steps in the investigation, which will focus on Mr. Trump.

The broader investigation into Mr. Trump and his company’s business practices is continuing. The prosecutors in the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., have been investigating whether Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization manipulated property values to obtain loans and tax benefits, among other potential financial crimes, The New York Times has reported.

Let’s have a poll!

Will Trump see prison time from the criminal investigations in New York?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Supreme Court handed down a decision that doesn’t look good for those of us who oppose the new Republican-led restrictions on voting enacted by  several states. The court upheld by a 6-3 vote, with the voting politically down the line, that several provisions of Arizona’s new voting-restrictions laws were legal, even if they imposed slight burdens on minority voters.  Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented. (The Court’s decision is here, with Kagan’s dissent particularly strong.)

Reader Ken sent me this note yesterday: “Today’s the last day of the Court’s term. The only remaining business is a decision in the California donor disclosure case, and whether 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer will announce his retirement, giving Uncle Joe the opportunity to nominate his successor while the Dems have the Senate votes to confirm.” It looks as if Breyer won’t resign, since that’s traditionally announced before the end of the Court’s term.

In the Surfside, Florida condo collapse, 18 people are now confirmed dead and 145 are still missing. After a week without water, it seems unlikely that anybody is still alive, but friends and relatives of the missing are still holding out hope. The search and rescue mission (it hasn’t been changed to the dreaded “recovery mission”) was paused today as workers worried that the rest of the building might come down.

On the lighter side, the San Diego Tribune reports a clutch of ten ducklings hatched in the nearby Oceanside Civic Center fountain, but had no way of getting out of the water. (You must know by now that baby ducks have to dry off on land from time to time). A kindly maintenance engineer built them a ramp to make their egress, which they haven’t yet used, but they have a ledge to stand on. That’s is NOT good enough: they should put a big platform attacked to the foundation. Most important, there’s no food there: they need to feed the ducks!! The report adds, “Wildlife rescue officials have been contacted and may come take the birds away, she said.Wildlife rescue officials have been contacted and may come take the birds away.” It will be hard to catch the entire brood AND the mother, as you want to keep the family together if you’re moving them to a more suitable location.  (h/t Susan)

Here’s a photo of the precarious ledge. I hope the ducks get proper help.

A British man has broken the Guinness world record for constructing the tallest stack of M&Ms.  Guess how tall it is? Not high; the answer is below (h/t Ginger K.)

Yep, just five. I’d think a Guinness guy would have to provide the M&Ms and be on the spot lest someone engage in chicanery with glue or other sticky substances.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 604,756, an increase of 263 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,972,356, an increase of about 8,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on July 2 includes:

  • 1698 – Thomas Savery patents the first steam engine.
  • 1776 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress adopts a resolution severing ties with the Kingdom of Great Britain although the wording of the formal Declaration of Independence is not published until July 4.
  • 1816 – The French frigate Méduse strikes the Bank of Arguin and 151 people on board have to be evacuated on an improvised raft, a case immortalised by Géricault‘s painting The Raft of the Medusa.

Here’s that painting, from 1818-1819, which you can see in the Louvre. Of the 151 passengers, only 15 were alive when the raft was rescued 13 days later.

The mutineers were freed by the Supreme Court on the grounds that they were rightfully revolting against the slave trade, which had been declared illegal.

Here’s a photo of that first Zeppelin flight:

  • 1934 – The Night of the Long Knives ends with the death of Ernst Röhm.
  • 1937 – Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan are last heard from over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to make the first equatorial round-the-world flight.

Here’s Earhart just before leaving on her last flight. The plane is a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra.

  • 1964 – Civil rights movement: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 meant to prohibit segregation in public places.
  • 1976 – End of South Vietnam; Communist North Vietnam annexes the former South Vietnam to form the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
  • 1990 – In the 1990 Mecca tunnel tragedy, 1,400 Muslim pilgrims are suffocated to death and trampled upon in a pedestrian tunnel leading to the holy city of Mecca.
  • 2002 – Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly solo around the world nonstop in a balloon.

Here’s the gondola of his balloon, the Spirit of Freedom; the flight, leaving from and landing in Australia, lasted 13 days and 8 hours.

Steve Fossett’s Bud Light Spirit of Freedom Balloon Capsule (A20030128000) on display in the “Pioneers of Flight” exhibit (Gallery 208), Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., April 19, 2006. Photo by Eric Long. [SI-2006-5549]
Notables born on this day include:

When I was a teenager, I read several books by Hesse but didn’t like them. I didn’t know what he looked like, so I just looked him up, and he looks pretty much like I imagined.

That’s the shirt with the alligator on it.

Marshall was the first black Supreme Court Justice, appointed by LBJ in 1967. Here he is in the Oval Office, presumably after a chat with the President:

  • 1925 – Medgar Evers, American soldier and activist (d. 1963)
  • 1937 – Richard Petty, American race car driver and sportscaster
  • 1947 – Larry David, American actor, comedian, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1956 – Jerry Hall, American model and actress

When I was researching my children’s book about cats in Bangalore, the hero, Mr. Das, acquired a new stray female kitten. I proposed to call her Jerry, but Mr. Das said that women weren’t named Jerry. I then googled Jerry Hall and showed her to him, and he agreed to name the cat after me.

  • 1990 – Margot Robbie, Australian actress and producer

Those who perished from this Earth on July 2 include:

  • 1566 – Nostradamus, French astrologer and author (b. 1503)
  • 1961 – Ernest Hemingway, American novelist, short story writer, and journalist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1899)

Here’s a photo of Hemingway from the Daily Beast accompanying a misguided article called “Why the hell are we still reading Ernest Hemingway?” Perhaps because he wrote some really terrific stuff.

  • 1973 – Betty Grable, American actress, singer, and dancer (b. 1916)

Here’s Grable in what was undoubtedly the most popular “pin up girl” affixed to walls by soldiers in World War II. The caption: “Grable’s iconic over-the-shoulder pose from 1943 (due to the fact she was visibly pregnant) was a World War II bestseller, showing off her ‘Million Dollar Legs'”. The photo was by Frank Powolny.

  • 1977 – Vladimir Nabokov, Russian-born novelist and critic (b. 1899)
  • 1991 – Lee Remick, American actress (b. 1935)
  • 1997 – James Stewart, American actor (b. 1908)
  • 2007 – Beverly Sills, American operatic soprano and television personality (b. 1929)
  • 2016 – Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, activist, and author (b. 1928)

Here’s Wiesel photographed in the concentration camp of Buchenwald on April 16, 1945, four days after the camp was liberated. I’ve circled him:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron have a chinwag about a snack:

Hili: Did you see something tasty?
Szaron: I did but it flew away.
In Polish:
Hili: Widziałeś gdzieś coś smacznego?
Szaron: Widziałem, ale odfrunęło.

And we have Mietek and Leon together! Malgorzata explains:

“This is an old saying which means that two heads are better than one, or two people can solve problems better than just one. I don’t know whether you have something like that in English.”

Indeed we do! So let the caption be “two cat heads are better than one.”

In Polish: Co dwie głowy to nie jedna

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day. If you don’t understand this, you’re too young.

A clever ad from reader David:

A tweet from Barry, whose email says, “Aliens have visited Earth. . . . I just had no idea that they’d be so cute!

Here’s a tweet sent by Luana and issued by Democratic Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts; it shows the the inequity of heat distribution:

Tweets from Matthew. The Hebrew translation is “Summer school.” That is one happy hog!

This is like a calving iceberg. It’s geology, Jake!

A tweet from Matthew.  What I want to know is how Matthew knew that Harry was dreaming about drinking tea!

The higher-flying individual is almost as high as the summit of Mount Everest (8849 meters). There’s not much oxygen that high, and one wonders if that’s a problem for the snipes.

Cat encounters Honorary Cat®:

It’s only July 2, so I can pronounce this as Tweet of the Month:

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

May 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Cat Sabbath: May 22, 2021: National Vanilla Pudding Day. (That reminds me of Bill Cosby, who used to advertise Jell-O puddings but is now in jail.) It’s also Italian Beef Day (a sandwich best consumed in Chicago), United States National Maritime Day, Harvey Milk Day in California (see below), International Day for Biological DiversityWorld Goth Day, and Canadian Immigrants Day.  

News of the Day:

Jerrold Nadler, a senior Jewish congressman and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, maintains in a NYT editorial that “Democrats have not changed their position on Israel.”  An excerpt

But the vast majority of Democrats are thoughtful and considerate, and recognize nuance in a conflict shaded by centuries of complexity, suffering and pain, and this has always been the case. We know that the only solution is one where both Jewish and Palestinian people have the right to self-determination and security. We support the humanity of both parties in the conflict as well as small-d democratic values. And we stand resolutely against attacks on Israel’s right to exist. Really, this moment reflects a coming out of the silent majority of American Jews whose values are both liberal and supportive of Israel, as a recent Pew study indicates.

As the most senior Jewish member in the House of Representatives, a longtime Congressional Progressive Caucus leader and the House member who represents the largest and most diverse Jewish population, I’m more familiar with this issue than most. The Democratic Party, of course, welcomes robust debate. However, the conversations I have had with a wide range of members of my party, including many of the 25 Jewish Democrats in the House as well as a number of progressives, reflect a reality that the headlines do not: On Israel, there exists a broad, mainstream consensus around a number of core principles.

Would that he were right, but I don’t quite buy it. Israel’s right to exist?  Did he also talk to members of the Squad? Bernie Sanders? One of my biggest sources of stress these past few weeks is watch the Democratic Left, almost predictably, move the needly slowly away from Israel’s right to exist toward Hamas, which denies that right. I still don’t quite understand it.

Speaking of which, have a look at Peter Savodnik’s new analysis (on Bari Weiss’s Substack site) of why America has suddenly become so much more anti-Semitic (click on screenshot):

An excerpt:

Over the past two decades, this obsession with identity has intensified and spread. Progressives are now incapable of talking about anything important without mentioning human beings’ immutable traits.

Any politics of identity was bad for the Jew. On the right, the identiarians said that the Jew lacked whiteness — it was a new version of the old Nazi claim about our impurity. On the left, the Jew was said to have too much.

In 2021, we are well-aware of the white-nationalist inanities. We have memorized the horrific footage from Charlottesville. We remember every Jew murdered in Pittsburgh and in Poway.

But their chants of “Jews Will Not Replace Us” are now being joined by the identitarians of the left, who wield vastly more capital and power, in government, in the media, in the universities, in Hollywood, and in Silicon Valley. (It’s curious that Rep. Rashida Tlaib has accused Israel of “forced population replacement.”) Together, they form a bleating chorus of grievances. Somehow their roster of The Hurt never includes the Jew.

How can you not want to read the answer to Michelle Goldberg’s title question in her new NYT op-ed (click on screenshot)?

And, surprisingly, her answer is “yes”, based not only on Hitchens’s work but mainly on a “compelling new podcast,” “The Turning: The Sisters Who Left,” about those who left Mother Teresa’s order.  An excerpt:

What makes “The Turning” unique is its focus on the internal life of the Missionaries of Charity. The former sisters describe an obsession with chastity so intense that any physical human contact or friendship was prohibited; according to Johnson, Mother Teresa even told them not to touch the babies they cared for more than necessary. They were expected to flog themselves regularly — a practice called “the discipline” — and were allowed to leave to visit their families only once every 10 years.

Joe Biden handed out the first Medal of Honor of his administration to a 94-year old Korean war vet who got out of his wheelchair and discarded his walker to stand up and receive America’s highest military award. I’m not a big fan of war, but somehow the story of Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. tugged a bit at my heart. Here’s a photo (click on it to go to the story):

The Wall Street Journal has a mouthwatering article on some of Italy’s best white wines, which are not too expensive (the examples given range from $19-$30). The tasting notes make me want to explore this genre, about which I know almost nothing.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 588,846, an increase of about 700 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,458,946, an increase of about 12,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on May 22 include:

Fourteenth. As Wikipedia notes, the first certain appearance of the comet was in 240 BC from a Chinese record.

  • 1455 – Start of the Wars of the Roses: At the First Battle of St Albans, Richard, Duke of York, defeats and captures King Henry VI of England.
  • 1804 – The Lewis and Clark Expedition officially begins as the Corps of Discovery departs from St. Charles, Missouri.
  • 1807 – A grand jury indicts former Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr on a charge of treason.
  • 1826 – HMS Beagle departs on its first voyage.

This is not the voyage that carried Charles Darwin, which was the second (and last) voyage of the ship. Here’s a view of the ship, which was much smaller than you think:


And here’s that patent:

  • 1960 – The Great Chilean earthquake, measuring 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale, hits southern Chile, becoming the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.
  • 1964 – Lyndon B. Johnson launches the Great Society.
  • 1987 – First ever Rugby World Cup kicks off with New Zealand playing Italy at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand.
  • 1998 – A U.S. federal judge rules that U.S. Secret Service agents can be compelled to testify before a grand jury concerning the Lewinsky scandal involving President Bill Clinton.
  • 2002 – Civil rights movement: A jury in Birmingham, Alabama, convicts former Ku Klux Klan member Bobby Frank Cherry of the 1963 murder of four girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

Here’s the white supremacist and Klansman (Klansperson?) Cherry, who died in a prison hospital in 2004:

  • 2010 – Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich 2–0 in the Uefa Champions League final in Madrid, Spain to become the first, and so far only, Italian team to win the historic treble (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Champions League).
  • 2017 – Twenty-two people are killed at an Ariana Grande concert in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

Notables born on this day include:

I couldn’t have told you what Wagner looked like, so I looked him up. Here’s a photo:

Here’s a fine Cassatt: “Sara holding a cat” (ca. 1908):

Matthiessen remains the only person to have won a National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction. Here’s a brief remembrance:

  • 1930 – Harvey Milk, American lieutenant and politician (d. 1978)
  • 1942 – Ted Kaczynski, American academic and mathematician turned anarchist and serial murderer (Unabomber)

Those who croaked on May 22 include:

  • 1802 – Martha Washington, First, First Lady of the United States (b. 1731)
  • 1885 – Victor Hugo, French novelist, poet, and playwright (b. 1802)
  • 1967 – Langston Hughes, American poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright (b. 1902)

Hughes was one of the black writers I read when I decided to read early 20th-century black literature and nonfiction as the pandemic started. Here’s his portrait by Gordon Parks:

  • 1997 – Alfred Hershey, American biochemist and geneticist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1908)
  • 2010 – Martin Gardner, American mathematician, cryptographer, and author (b. 1914)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Paulina is stalking all cats with her camera:

Hili: I thought that Paulina was hunting for Kulka.
Szaron: For her every cat is tempting.
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Hili: Myślałam, że Paulina poluje na Kulkę.
Szaron: Każdy kot ją kusi.

And Leon and Mitek have an exchange:

Leon: Oatmeal for breakfast? Are we converting to vegetarianism?

In Polish: Owies na śniadanie? Przechodzimy na wegetarianizm?

From Woody; a most excellent meme:

From Jean:

From SMBC via Ginger K:

From Titania. I’m not sure exactly what this Lego kit is, or what it’s supposed to demonstrate:

From Simon, who I hope doesn’t carry cats in his maw! Poor kitty!

Tweets from Matthew. If I posted this before, well, here it is again.

And a second and related tweet:

Sadly, this was yesterday, and we won’t be alive to see its recurrence:

The discovery of drinkable cow excrement (the first one is clocks):

Darwin was often depressed and lugubrious, as he was 153 years ago yesterday.


Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

April 29, 2021 • 6:30 am

Grease the new day (as a friend used to say)! It’s Thursday, April 29, 2021: National Shrimp Scampi Day (that’s a dish I’ve never had). It’s also National Zipper Day (this convenient fastener was patented on this day in 1913) and Viral Video Day.  In honor of the last day, here are the 25 most viral videos of 2020. #2, near the end, is the best!

Finally, it’s two UN holidays: Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare and International Dance Day (UNESCO).

Wine of the Day: To drink with my big pot of turkey chili, which should last a few days, I’ve chosen one of my favorite genres of red wine: Rioja! This one, ten years from vintage was about $25.

The experts’ ratings look good, and I’m writing this on Wednesday before I’ve cracked the bottle.

2 hours later (Wednesday), very good again, but not a world-beater. Juicy with ripe cherry fruit, well balanced, but nothing to mark it as a superb wine. I’ll drink another two glasses tonight and see if it improves.

News of the Day:

Joe Biden gave his first speech to Congress last evening, proposing sweeping reforms. Hold your thoughts on that, as we’ll have a discussion post later.

The Supreme Court is considering an important free-speech case in which a high school cheerleader, not chosen to be part of the elite “varsity squad”, ranted and cursed the school on social media. What she said:

“F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything,” 14-year-old Brandi Levy typed into Snapchat one spring Saturday. Like all “snaps” posted to a Snapchat “story,” this one sent to about 250 “friends” was to disappear within 24 hours, before everyone returned to Pennsylvania’s Mahanoy Area High School on Monday.

Levy was suspended from her junior varsity squad for a year, whereupon her parents filed suit in federal court, and it’s gone all the way up to the Supremes. I think they’re likely to rule in her favor, as Levy’s “speech” was on social media, so why should she be punished for her private free speech? This is not harassment, bullying, or any other form of speech prohibited by the First Amendment. But it’s not a trivial case:

“This is the most momentous case in more than five decades involving student speech,” said Justin Driver, a Yale law professor and author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind.”

The Court may be conservative, but if it rules in Levy’s favor in this case, I think it will have ruled properly. This kind of incident will become increasingly frequent as speech is disseminated on social media.

The feds searched Rudy Giluiani’s home and office yesterday,  acting on a federal warrant. As the New York Times reports,

The federal authorities have largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani search for damaging information on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including Mr. Biden, who was then a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had sought for months to secure search warrants for Mr. Giuliani’s phones and electronic devices.

Reader Ken, who knows his law, told me this:

To secure such warrants, the government would have had to establish, to a federal magistrate’s satisfaction, fresh probable cause to believe that the search would yield evidence of a crime. The agents reportedly seized Giuliani’s computers and electronic devices.

. . . The search of a lawyer’s premises (not to mention the premises of a lawyer for a former US President) is a big friggin’ deal. See section 9-13.430 of the US Justice Department Manual. Main Justice has to sign off on it, and the government had to be convinced that Giuliani couldn’t be trusted to turn over the materials sought in response to a subpoena.

On a sadder note, astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed in the command module during the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, and who helped ensure tht the lunar module containing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin docked properly before their return to Earth, died yesterday at 90 of cancer. He wrote extensively about his journal (they trained for six years for the mission), and memorial tweets show some of his writing:

This is a touching photo and caption:

There are two big vertebrate genome papers in Nature. One paper reports complete genome sequences of 16 vertebrate species in the 8 major lineages, and the other reports a complete sequence for the playtpus and partial sequence of one echidna species, both monotremes—egg-laying mammals. I have yet to read either paper but wanted to call them to your attention. (h/t: Matthew)

Stuff that happened on April 29 includes:

  • 1429 – Joan of Arc arrives to relieve the Siege of Orléans.
  • 1770 – James Cook arrives in Australia at Botany Bay, which he names.
  • 1910 – The Parliament of the United Kingdom passes the People’s Budget, the first budget in British history with the expressed intent of redistributing wealth among the British public.
  • 1916 – Easter Rising: After six days of fighting, Irish rebel leaders surrender to British forces in Dublin, bringing the Easter Rising to an end.

Here’s a 6½-minute BBC video summarizing the Easter Rising:

  • 1945 – World War II: Führerbunker: Adolf Hitler marries his longtime partner Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker and designates Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor; Hitler and Braun both commit suicide the following day.
  • 1945 – Dachau concentration camp is liberated by United States troops.
  • 1967 – After refusing induction into the United States Army the previous day, Muhammad Ali is stripped of his boxing title.

Here’s a short video about Ali’s refusal of induction. He had applied for conscientious objector status but was refused. After a trial, he was sentenced to five years in jail but remained free until the Supreme Court overturned that decision on the grounds that the refusal of CO status was not accompanied by a reason.

  • 1968 – The controversial musical Hair, a product of the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, opens at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway, with some of its songs becoming anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
  • 1970 – Vietnam War: United States and South Vietnamese forces invade Cambodia to hunt Viet Cong.

The invasion of Cambodia energized all of us in college, leading to widespread protests and, at Kent State, to the shooting of unarmed students.

  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: United States President Richard Nixon announces the release of edited transcripts of White House tape recordings relating to the scandal.
  • 1992 – Riots in Los Angeles, following the acquittal of police officers charged with excessive force in the beating of Rodney King. Over the next three days 63 people are killed and hundreds of buildings are destroyed.

This was the first time video was taken of a brutal police beating of a suspect. You can see it below, and yet the officers were acquitted. This would never stand today:

  • 2015 – A baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox sets the all-time low attendance mark for Major League Baseball. Zero fans were in attendance for the game, as the stadium was officially closed to the public due to the 2015 Baltimore protests.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1854 – Henri Poincaré, French mathematician, physicist, and engineer (d. 1912)
  • 1893 – Harold Urey, American chemist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1981)
  • 1899 – Duke Ellington, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1974)

There aren’t a lot of videos of Ellington’s band, particularly in its best years—the early forties. This one, of his signature tune “Take the A Train” (written by Billy Strayhorn), was made in 1943. I prefer the all-instrumental version. I’m reading a biography of Ellington now.

  • 1929 – Walter Kempowski, German author and academic (d. 2007)
  • 1933 – Willie Nelson, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor
  • 1945 – Brian Charlesworth, English biologist, geneticist, and academic

My colleague and former chairman of my department, Brian is now retired but still very active at Edinburgh. He was a great colleague (we wrote some papers together) and an excellent chair:

  • 1954 – Jerry Seinfeld, American comedian, actor, and producer
  • 1957 – Daniel Day-Lewis, British-Irish actor
  • 1970 – Andre Agassi, American tennis player
  • 1970 – Uma Thurman, American actress

Those who went to their Just Reward on April 29 include:

Don’t ask me to explain Wittgenstein’s philosophy; that’s above my pay grade. But I can show you a photo:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is concerned with enforcing the rules. As Malgozata notes,

This old sign says: “It’s forbidden to dump tires under the penalty of shooting your brains out”. It’s written in a “slangy” language. We found it many years ago on a dump outside a closed, abandoned and ruined factory.
A: What are you looking at?
Hili: I’m checking to see whether people are breaking bans.
In Polish:

Ja: Na co patrzysz?
Hili: Sprawdzam, czy ludzie nie łamią zakazów.

And we have a Leon monologue!

Leon: “What kind of wonder of nature is this?”

In Polish: A coż to za cud natury?


Here’s little Kulka:

A meme from Bruce:

From Facebook via Mark: the Jean-Paul Sartre Parking Garage. But how can you pay if you don’t exist?

From Su: A duck trying to connect with the Beyond:

Tulsi Gabbard, who surely counts as a woman of color, here decries the increasing racialization of America, using the Hawaiian conception of “aloha”:

From Facebook. It’s time to do our occasional check-in with Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad. Here’s her reaction (yes, it’s on Fox News) to Iran being chosen to be a member of the UN Commission on Women’s Rights. (The UN is such a joke these days!):

Tweets from Matthew. I believe I’ve posted about Ricky Gervais adopting a foster tabby that he named “Pickles”, but here’s a tweet and some new video:

From the University of Chicago! Two days ago the temperature was about 82°F (28°C), and it was glorious. But they should have included a photo of Botany Pond with the ducks!

Donkeys run free after a winter of being cooped up. Sound up so you can hear as well as see their joy:

This link would make good background music while you’re working; it’s almost like working in the jungle:

This looks to me like a very small slug getting a drink (and getting engulfed by a water drop):