Thursday: Hili dialogue (and all the Polish cats)

February 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, February 25, 2021: National Chocolate Covered Nut Day. Lots of food celebrations today: it’s also National Chili Day, National Clam Chowder Day, National Toast Day (in Britain, and they could have at least had “Beans on Toast” Day), and “Let’s all Eat Right” Day.  It’s also Digital Learning Day, but who wants to celebrate that?

And today, for the first time, we have pictures of all five famous Polish cats from Dobrzyn and Wloclawek. Can you name them all?

News of the Day:

News we already knew: A U.S. intelligence report expected to be released today points the finger at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi. What will this do to U.S./Saudi relations? Little, I suspect.

Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, now seems likely to be rejected by Congress. The crime: bad tweets. The NBC evening news says that the White House is investigating “other options,” and the Wall Street Journal notes this:

Over the weekend, once it became obvious that Ms. Tanden’s nomination was in serious trouble, lawmakers and aides say they saw scant evidence of an intensive campaign to salvage the pick from a team that promised to bring Capitol Hill savvy back to the West Wing.

Over the weekend, once it became obvious that Ms. Tanden’s nomination was in serious trouble, lawmakers and aides say they saw scant evidence of an intensive campaign to salvage the pick from a team that promised to bring Capitol Hill savvy back to the West Wing.

Since one Democratic Senator already said he wouldn’t vote for her, one Republican has to back her to achieve the tie that Kamala Harris would break to secure Tanden’s nomination. That doesn’t seem likely.

The Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine, which is just a single shot and can be stored at refrigerator temperature, will soon be approved. Its efficacy is a tad less than Pfizer or Moderna jabs, but it’s highly effective against severe illness:

The vaccine had a 72 percent overall efficacy rate in the United States and 64 percent in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant emerged in the fall and is now driving most cases. The efficacy in South Africa was seven percentage points higher than earlier data released by the company.

The vaccine also showed 86 percent efficacy against severe forms of Covid-19 in the United States, and 82 percent against severe disease in South Africa. That means that a vaccinated person has a far lower risk of being hospitalized or dying from Covid-19.

. . .Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, who urged influencers such as Paltrow against spreading misinformation.

He said: “In the last few days I see Gwyneth Paltrow is unfortunately suffering from the effects of Covid. We wish her well, but some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS.”

Now how did the punctilious Paltrow get Covid in the first place. And would she PLEASE shut her gob when it comes to health and medicine?

Speaking of the virus, Gwynnie just got chewed out by Britain’s National Health Service for her usual worthless medical advice (h/t Jez).

Gwyneth Paltrow has been urged to stop spreading misinformation by the medical director of NHS England after she suggested long Covid could be treated with “intuitive fasting”, herbal cocktails and regular visits to an “infrared sauna”.

The Hollywood star, who markets unproven new age potions on her Goop website, wrote on her latest blogpost that she caught Covid-19 early and had since suffered “long-tail fatigue and brain fog”.

But the Brits, as ever, were very polite about it:

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, who urged influencers such as Paltrow against spreading misinformation.

He said: “In the last few days I see Gwyneth Paltrow is unfortunately suffering from the effects of Covid. We wish her well, but some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS.”

Have a look at Gwynnie’s post (click on screenshot), in which she uses her own “detox regimen” and other “curative” stuff to sell useless and overpriced products to the credulous fools who frequent her site. Can she be stopped? And seriously, is she really on the “detox” thing?

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 505,643, a large increase of about 3,200 deaths over yesterday’s figure  The reported world death toll stands 2,510,567, a big increase of about 12,200 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Historical news from February 25 is scant, and includes this:

  • 1336 – Four thousand defenders of Pilenai commit mass suicide rather than be taken captive by the Teutonic Knights.
  • 1836 – Samuel Colt is granted a United States patent for his revolver firearm.

Here’s that first patent (there were many more):

  • 1870 – Hiram Rhodes Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, is sworn into the United States Senate, becoming the first African American ever to sit in Congress.

Revels served for two years, and then, his appointment over, became president of a historically black college and later a preacher. Here he is:

  • 1932 – Hitler, having been stateless for seven years, obtains German citizenship when he is appointed a Brunswick state official by Dietrich Klagges, a fellow Nazi. As a result, Hitler is able to run for Reichspräsident in the 1932 election.
  • 1956 – In his speech On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, denounces Stalin.
  • 1991 – Disbandment of the Warsaw Pact at a meeting of its members in Budapest.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1991 – Disbandment of the Warsaw Pact at a meeting of its members in Budapest.
  • 1873 – Enrico Caruso, Italian-American tenor; the most popular operatic tenor of the early 20th century and the first great recording star. (d. 1921)

Want to hear the great Caruso? Here’s a recording that’s been reconstructed. The YouTube notes say this:

This is Caruso’s performance (Nov. 7, 1909) of the aria “Il fior che avevi a me tu dato” (Bizet’s Carmen) restored by a sound engineer at the famous Lucas Film Studios using the latest digital audio computer technology.

Caruso died at only 48 from an infection. Here’s his body lying in state in the Vesuvio Hotel in Naples, August 3, 1921:

  • 1894 – Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master (d. 1969)

But don’t worry! Meher Baba is here! I have this card taped on the wall next to my desk, which I got in graduate school. Doesn’t that big grin cheer you up?

The origin of Zeppo’s name is unknown. He was the youngest of the Marx Brothers, and the last to died. He appeared in only the first five Marx Brothers movies; here’s a brief summary of his career.

  • 1917 – Anthony Burgess, English author, playwright, and critic (d. 1993)
  • 1943 – George Harrison, English singer-songwriter, guitarist and film producer; lead guitarist of The Beatles (d. 2001)

We can’t forget George; here he is with Eric Clapton and other famous musicians in 1987:

Those who ceased metabolizing on February 25 include:

  • 1723 – Christopher Wren, English architect, designed St Paul’s Cathedral (b. 1632)
  • 1957 – Bugs Moran, American mob boss (b. 1893)
  • 1975 – Elijah Muhammad, American religious leader (b. 1897)
  • 2001 – Don Bradman, Australian international cricketer; holder of world record batting average (b. 1908)

Even I know that Bradman’s seen as the greatest batsman (Americans would say “batter”) of all time. Here he is in Sydney, being carried off the field by his OPPONENTS in a chair after scoring 452, a world record at the time. (The current record is 501 runs in an innings, held by the great Brian Lara.)

I emailed my friend Andrew Berry (a cricket maven) whether “innings” was really singular, and he said “yes.” He also added this about Bradman:

But Bradman’s real claim to fame is this.  The real measure, as in baseball, of a batsman’s worth is in his batting average (per innings) at the international ‘test’ level (i.e., the highest level of the game). Here are the all time top rankings, below. [JAC: see chart below photo.] Notice that he is a quantum leap removed from all the competition. More info: He needed only 4 from his final innings to get a final average of 100, but got 0.

Andrew sent me some impenetrable cricket jargon describing Bradman’s last innings when he missed his 100 average:

And then came the Ashes Test at The Oval in 1948 that has inked his name in immortality. Overlooked for the first four Tests of the Ashes series despite England’s prolonged struggle, Hollies was included in the team for the final Test at The Oval. Ray Lindwall routed the Englishmen for 52 and Arthur Morris and Sid Barnes put on 117 in just over a couple of hours. At this juncture, Hollies got Barnes to snick one to Godfrey Evans — the moment the entire stadium was waiting for.

In walked Don Bradman, in his last Test, his approach to the wicket accompanied by deafening ovation. England captain Norman Yardley gathered his men, raised his cap and called for three cheers. Bradman took guard after shaking hands with his rival skipper. His collection of runs stood at 6,996 after 69 completed innings, at an average of 100.14.

Hollies sent down a leg-break, and Bradman went back and across to play it to Allan Watkins at silly mid-off. The next ball was the most famous googly ever bowled. It came out of the back of the hand. Bradman, drawn forward, missed it and was bowled for a duck. He famously walked back four short of 7,000 runs and an average of 100 in Test cricket.

And Sir Don briefly dilating on his triumph, which took place on January 6, 1930):

  • 2015 – Eugenie Clark, American biologist and academic; noted ichthyologist (b. 1922)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili awaits her noms:

Hili: The kitchen is one of the best inventions of humans.
A: You may be right.
In Polish:
Hili: Kuchnia to jeden z najlepszych wynalazków człowieka.
Ja: Możesz mieć rację.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon chastises Mietek:

Leon: “Move over a bit!”

In Polish: Posuń się trochę!

Here are two pictures of Paulina’s kitties:

Caption: Kulka and Szaron through Paulina’s lens. (In Polish: “Kulka i Szaron w Pauliny obiektywie.”)

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From Divy, “The Giving Cat” book for kittens:

From Charles. Boebart is of course the Official Loon of Congress who wants to carry her Glock onto the House floor.

Tweets from Matthew. I find this first one sad, and doubt that the frog can actually see:

And I’m worried about this, too: how will Mom and ducklings to the water? I asked that question below her post, but someone else answered, and unsatisfactorily!

Spiders mating; I don’t know the species.

Two black cats joined these folks for a very long walk, and even brought them a mouse (poor mouse!)

The parachute of the Perseverance rover displayed a complex code, explained a bit in the tweets below (see the thread for more information).

This isn’t a real penguin, but the explanation of the jumpers (second tweet) is sweet:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon and Kulka monologues)

December 30, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. And guess what: it’s the last day of Coynezaa:—my birthday! And guess what else? I have to go to the dentist and may have to get a tooth pulled. Some fun! The end of the annus horribilis. Because of this ill-timed annoyance, posting will be light today.

But the misery is leavened by this lovely birthday drawing that Jacques Hausser made for me. Ceiling Duck!!! (Jacques studies shrews, so there’s one in there, too.)

Well, it’s a crappy food day: National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, presumably to recover from all your holiday eating. It’s Bacon Day, for those still indulging,

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates Elizabeth Peratovich (1911-1958), described by Wikipedia as

“. . . an American civil rights activist and member of the Tlingit nation who worked on behalf of equality for Alaska Natives. In the 1940s, her advocacy was credited as being instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States.”

News of the Day:

We have two waterfowl stories today, both about bird love. This first one is sad, and comes from the Guardian. It’s about a swan mourning for its dead mate (h/t: Jez):

Police and firefighters in Germany were forced to intervene to move an apparently “mourning” swan that was blocking a high-speed railway line, according to a statement released by the rescuers on Monday.

The swan was pictured blocking the line near Fuldatal, causing at least 20 trains to be cancelled, after a second swan was killed when it flew into the overhead line above the tracks.

After the accident the second swan settled on the railway tracks below, preventing trains from passing on the route from Kassel to Göttingen. According to reports in local media, firefighters brought in specialist equipment to remove the dead swan from the overhead lines and the second swan from the tracks, taking it to the Fulda river where it was released.

This almost brings tears to my eyes. And here’s a photo:

Reader Jeremy pointed me to a story about another beautiful but errant Mandarin duck drake (Aix galericulata), this one in a pond near Cincinnati. (If you recall, a Mandarin showed up in the Central Park pond last winter.)  But the Ohio drake seems to be in love with a mallard hen, and the species aren’t all that closely related (their common ancestor lived about 20 million years ago).  Reader Jeremy went to see the duck, snapped a photo of the drake and his would-be paramour, and said this:

I stopped by and took a couple of pictures from my phone last week. Thought you might be interested. Beautiful bird indeed!

Matthew tweeted this, and it looks like the new UK coronavirus mutant really is spreading much faster that the “normal” one:

The first isolate of this mutant has now been identified in the U.S.—in a Colorado man in his twenties with no recent travel history.

Yesterday, Republican congressman-elect Luke Letlow, only 41, died from complications of coronavirus. There will be a special election to fill his seat.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 338,767, a huge increase of about 3,600 deaths from yesterday’s figure, equivalent to 2.5 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,799,076, another big increase of about 15,500 over yesterday’s total and representing about 10.8 deaths per minute from Covid-19—more than one every 6 seconds.

Stuff that happened on December 30; pickings are slim!

  • 1066 – Granada massacre: A Muslim mob storms the royal palace in Granada, crucifies Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacres most of the Jewish population of the city.
  • 1890 – Following the Wounded Knee Massacre, the United States Army and Lakota warriors face off in the Drexel Mission Fight.
  • 1916 – Russian mystic and advisor to the Tsar Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was murdered by a loyalist group led by Prince Felix Yusupov. His frozen, partially-trussed body was discovered in a Moscow river three days later.

The postmortemrumors were that he had been almost impossible to kill, but we don’t really know what happened with a group of nobleman, worried about Rasputin’s influence over the Czar, decided to murder him. Here he is with his wife and daughter Matryona (Maria) in his St. Petersburg apartment in 1911. Matryona later moved to the U.S. where she became a riveter and a circus performer, and died in 1977. 


  • 1922 – The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed.
  • 2006 – Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein is executed.

Notables born on this day include:

  • AD 39 – Titus, Roman emperor (probable; d. 81)
  • 1865 – Rudyard Kipling, Indian-English author and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1936)

Kipling and his family lived in Vermont for several years, where he began The Jungle Books(a great favorite of Matthew). Here’s Kipling in his study at Naulakha, Vermont in 1895:

  • 1910 – Paul Bowles, American composer and author (d. 1999)
  • 1928 – Bo Diddley, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2008)
  • 1931 – Skeeter Davis, American singer-songwriter (d. 2004)
  • 1935 – Sandy Koufax, American baseball player and sportscaster
  • 1945 – Davy Jones, English singer-songwriter and actor (d. 2012)
  • 1946 – Patti Smith, American singer-songwriter and poet
  • 1949 – Jerry Coyne, American biologist and author.

Here’s Coyne in the Karni Mata “Rat Temple” in Deshnoke, India.  In the rear are some of the thousands of resident rats, drinking a sacred offering of cream.

  • 1959 – Tracey Ullman, English-American actress, singer, director, and screenwriter
  • 1965 – Heidi Fleiss, American procurer
  • 1975 – Tiger Woods, American golfer

Those who kicked the bucket on December 30 include:

  • 1916 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic (b. 1869) [see above]
  • 1979 – Richard Rodgers, American playwright and composer (b. 1902)
  • 2006 – Saddam Hussein, Iraqi general and politician, 5th President of Iraq (b. 1937)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I got special birthday greetings from Hili!

Hili: Is a birthday an adaptation?
A: Probably not. Why do you think it is?
Hili: Gifts help survival. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
In Polish:
Hili: Czy urodziny są adaptacją?
Ja: Chyba nie, dlaczego tak sądzisz?
Hili: Prezenty pomagają przetrwać. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
And I’m told that Szaron wishes me a happy birthday in his “shy and silent way”:

Happily, we have our first Kulka monologue: she got so excited that she finally spoke!

Kulka: A new cardboard box!

Kulka: Nowy karton!

In nearby Wlocawek, Leon also has a few words to say (unlike Mietek, he likes the holidays and parties).

Leon: My place for the New Year’s Eve party
In Polish: Moja miejscówka na sylwestra

From Stephen, who says, “A vivid example of the law of the excluded middle.” I like it, though. 

A cat mugshot from John:

An old cartoon from Sarah:

From Titania:  This is an actual poster from the strike at Bryn Mawr College. It was posted in the Science Building on November 9 of this year.

From Simon, a good XKCD cartoon:

Tweets from Matthew, who points out: “Alfred Russel Wallace falls even further. After spiritualism and human specialness, he became an anti-vaxxer.” The story is a bit more complicated, as doctors were exaggerating the effiacy of vaccination back then.

They need to get these individuals together:

This is sad and sweet at the same time.


Pandemic albatrosses:


Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 29, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Tuesday, the Cruelest day: December 29, 2020: the fifth day of Coynezaa, the fifth day of Christmas, and the fourth day of Kwanzaa (United States). It’s not a food holiday but the end of one: National “Get on the Scales Day”. (Hili is going to the vet soon as she’s gotten too fat.) It’s also National Pepper Pot Day, celebrating a soup that in its authentic version has tripe in it. I’ve tried tripe at least twice, and couldn’t abide it either time. I will not try it again.

Wine of the Day: This lovely Argentinian Torrontés, drunk with chicken, was a bit old for this grape, and I could tell that oxidation was beginning to set in. But it was still a decent tipple, smelling for all the world like candied grapefruit peel. Torrontés can be a great white wine when you find a good specimen, and it’s not at all expensive. Just drink it fairly young.

News of the Day:

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 322-87 to override Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill (note: this is not the pandemic relief bill!). If the Senate also votes to override, which is not certain, it would be the first time Congress had repudiated a veto.  One of his big objections to the bill was its call to change the name of military bases named after Confederate generals.

By now most Americans know that Trump gave in and signed the pandemic relief bill on Sunday. Yesterday the House passed a bill increasing the checks given to many Americans from the $600 specified in the original bill to $2000.  But this won’t happen until the Senate also approves the measure, and it’s not clear when this will happen.

This is a dog-bites-man story from Saudi Arabia, which seems to get much less flak than Israel despite its much more oppressive behavior. Right now the murderous ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who probably gave the go-ahead for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is busy cracking down on protests and anti-theocratic activism. Yesterday a Saudi court sentenced Loujain al-Hathloul, 31 years old and a well known women’s rights activist, to six years in prison.  (al-Hathoul was an influential figure in campaigning for, and winning, Saudi women’s right to drive.) The charge was “terrorism-related” according to her family, but prosecutors presented no evidence for terrorism or anything like it. She was prosecuted solely for activism. Given that she’s already been in prison for several years, and that some of the sentence was suspended—prosecutors wanted twenty years!—she could be out in six months.  Her sister alleges that she was tortured after being arrested and jailed in 2018.

Here’s a short video report:


Aunt Becky is out of jail, having served two months for the CollegeGate scandal.

Reader Christopher informs us that not only the Guardian has horoscopes, but also Canada’s Globe and Mail. Click if you want your prognostication for 2001:

But it’s just harmless fun, right?—even though people spend billions of dollars a year consulting these fraudulent people and their pages, and it buttresses faith and superstition.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 335,141, an increase of about 1,900 above yesterday’s figure, and about 1.3 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,783,597, an increase of about 10,100 over yesterday’s total and representing about 7 deaths per minute from Covid-19—one every 9 seconds.

Stuff that happened on December 29 includes:

Here’s the site of Becket’s killing, carried out by four knights after Becket pissed off King Henry. The caption is from Wikipedia:

Sculpture and altar marking the spot of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, Canterbury Cathedral. The sculpture by Giles Blomfeld represents the knights’ four swords (two metal swords with reddened tips and their two shadows).
  • 1845 – In accordance with International Boundary delimitation, the United States annexes the Republic of Texas, following the manifest destiny doctrine. The Republic of Texas, which had been independent since the Texas Revolution of 1836, is thereupon admitted as the 28th U.S. state.
  • 1890 – Wounded Knee Massacre on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 300 Lakota are killed by the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment.

A picture of the dead Native Americans being put in a common grave:

A signed British first edition of this book will run you about $138,700. Here’s one:

  • 1937 – The Irish Free State is replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution.
  • 1940 – World War II: In the Second Great Fire of London, the Luftwaffe fire-bombs London, England, killing almost 200 civilians.
  • 1989 – Czech writer, philosopher and dissident Václav Havel is elected the first post-communist President of Czechoslovakia.
  • 2003 – The last known speaker of Akkala Sami dies, rendering the language extinct.

The language, one of the Sámi languages, was spoken in only three villages of the Kola Peninsula in Russia.  Here’s an introduction to the 10 Sámi languages. There’s another that has only two native speakers.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1800 – Charles Goodyear, American chemist and engineer (d. 1860)
  • 1808 – Andrew Johnson, American general and politician, 17th President of the United States (d. 1875)
  • 1809 – William Ewart Gladstone, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1898)
  • 1876 – Pablo Casals, Catalan cellist and conductor (d. 1973)
  • 1936 – Mary Tyler Moore, American actress and producer (d. 2017)

Here’s Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) doing a number of the Dick Van Dyke Show. She was criticized for wearing Capri pants on the show (back then, women in sitcoms wore dresses), but she started a fashion.

  • 1943 – Rick Danko, Canadian singer-songwriter, bass player, and producer (d. 1999)
  • 1947 – Ted Danson, American actor and producer

Those who took the Big Nap on December 29 include:

  • 1170 – Thomas Becket, English archbishop and saint (b. 1118)
  • 1894 – Christina Rossetti, English poet and hymn-writer (b. 1830)

Rossetti in her late twenties:

by (George) Herbert Watkins, albumen print, late 1850s
  • 1926 – Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet and author (b. 1875)
  • 1986 – Harold Macmillan, English captain and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1894)
  • 2004 – Julius Axelrod, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1912)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is again wheedling for noms (like hobbits, many Poles do eat “second breakfasts”):

Hili: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
A: And then?
Hili: And then the second breakfast.
In Polish:
Hili: Śniadanie to najważniejszy posiłek dnia.
Ja: A potem?
Hili: A potem drugie śniadanie.

Little Kulka, hated by Hili, licks her paw:

And in nearby Wloclawek, housemates Leon and Mietek differ about the holidays. Mietek loves them, but Leon clearly doesn’t:

Leon: Such a hassle this holidays is!
In Polish: Zawracanie głowy z tymi świętami.


From Divy. Can you name the television game show that inspired this cartoon?

From Irena:

From Jesus of the Day: it’s all in the jingle bell, I guess.

From Matthew Cobb as well as Barry.  Richard issued the tweet below and got tons of pushback. There were jocular comments but a lot of stuff that, were I to receive it, would seem hurtful. I didn’t understand it; my view is that of Barry, who said this:

I don’t understand why this has been getting so much traction on Twitter or why people are so bothered by it. As this person tweeted: “Are people so churlish not to see that Richard Dawkins was creating a funny image to make a point about how he thinks spiders are under-appreciated?”

That’s true, and if you want to see all the people who made fun of this tweet, go over and have a look. I can attribute it only to the nastiness that Twitter evokes, and to the fact that people have a mysterious animus against Dawkins.

Tweets from Matthew. First, the world’s most beautiful duck:

I used to have an aquarium full of hissers as a grad student, and would horrify visitor by making them hiss:

This is a good person. (Sound up.)

A brilliant new Canadian sport:

Do read this article. It describes a genetic condition in which the fingerprints aren’t formed (they don’t mention toeprints). There are no bad medical side effects, but there are severe social side effects: these poor people can’t use smartphones and can’t get passports or driver’s licenses.

A map of the rabbits of North America. I’m guessing that a lot of the cottontail “species,” which live in geographic isolation from others, don’t really deserve the status of distinct species.

I broke my own rule and criticized this anti-athiest post on Twitter, but the best response is, “This isn’t atheism’s job. It’s just non-belief in gods, for crying out loud!”

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 21, 2020 • 6:30 am

Christmas week and Coynezaa week are at hand! It’s Monday, December 21, 2021: four shopping days to either holiday.

The Winter Solstice began at 4:02 a.m. Chicago time, and it’s now the shortest day of the year. Further, tonight is The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which will be visible in the night sky given that it’s clear. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates this Conjunction (click on screenshot):

As NASA reports,

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

The closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, they will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.

From our vantage point on Earth the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth.

The NASA site will tell you where and how to look for this rare event. You should definitely see this if you can, as one thing’s for sure: you won’t be around for the next one. Find an unobstructed view in the southwest (if you’re in the US) an hour after sunset, and you should see this:

It’s also National Fried Shrimp Day (not kosher!). National Hamburger Day, National Kiwi Fruit Day (a friend calls them “gorilla balls”), Anne and Samantha Day (read the link), Crossword Puzzle Day (see below), Yule (the first day of winter) and São Tomé Day

News of the Day:

On January 12, before Biden gets a chance to stay her execution, Lisa Montgomery will be executed in federal prison for a 2004 murder. If you want to see  a bunch of circumstances mitigating against her execution, read this NYT article about how Montgomery was sexually and physically abused, tortured, and traumatized during much of her early life.  At the very least she should not be killed (she also suffers from bipolar disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorder, psychosis, traumatic brain injury and most likely fetal alcohol syndrome). And her lawyers didn’t adequately represent her. Nevertheless, I doubt Trump will lift a finger to stop the lethal injection.

The Senate finally approved a $900 billion stimulus package for coronavirus, including loans for small businesses, checks for individuals (you can get up to $600), money for cultural institutions and for vaccine distribution—you name it. It was bipartisan, but the Democrats didn’t get what they wanted. That will come in a month when Joe Biden is President (thank Ceiling Cat!)

As the Moderna mRNA vaccine wends its way throughout the U.S., travelers are wending their way home for Christmas. Yes, I understand the impulse, but some California ICUs are already operating at nearly 300% of capacity and we don’t need yet another wave of infections. I wish people could just stay home—just this once. And many countries have stopped allowing flights from Britain to land because of the new extra-infectious mutant strain in the UK.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 317,800, an increase of about 1,500 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,701,085, an increase of about 7,500 over yesterday’s report.

Stuff that happened on December 21 includes:

  • AD 69 – The Roman Senate declares Vespasian emperor of Rome, the last in the Year of the Four Emperors.
  • 1620 – Plymouth Colony: William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims land on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • 1879 – World premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • 1913 – Arthur Wynne‘s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.

Here’s a re-creation of that puzzle. Can you solve it? Note that there are no “up” and “down” categories but pairs of numbers.

Disillusioned, the firebrand socialist (a hero of Hitchens, I believe), left Russia in 1923 and published a book about her stay there. Here she is on a streetcar in 1917:

Here’s a trailer for the movie. Can you name all the dwarfs? I can, but there used to always be two I forgot:

The heart, from a female donor, actually functioned perfectly, but Washkansky died from pneumonia contracted after getting immunosuppressive drugs.

  • 1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 is launched from the Kennedy Space Center, placing its crew on a lunar trajectory for the first visit to another celestial body by humans.
  • 1988 – The first flight of Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest aircraft in the world.

Only one of these planes was built, designed to carry cargo. Wikipedia notes this: “The airlifter holds the absolute world record for an airlifted single-item payload of 189,980 kg (418,830 lb), and an airlifted total payload of 253,820 kg (559,580 lb). It has also transported a payload of 247,000 kg (545,000 lb) on a commercial flight.  Here’s the behemoth, and look at all those wheels!


Notables born on this day include:

  • 1550 – Man Singh I, Mughal noble (d. 1614)[8]
  • 1795 – Jack Russell, English priest, hunter, and dog breeder (d. 1883)
  • 1804 – Benjamin Disraeli, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1881)
  • 1866 – Maud Gonne, Irish nationalist and political activist (d. 1953)

Gonne was also an actress and a feminist, and well known for having been the love object of William Butler Yeats, who proposed to her four times (she turned him down every time) and wrote several famous poems inspired by her.

Two great geneticists were born on this day, one year apart (the first two below):

Wright almost made it to 100. I corresponded with him in his last years, and then, after his death, collaborated with two colleagues on two papers (1997, 2000) that dismantled what he saw as his greatest achievement, the “shifting balance theory of evolution”, a theory that was deeply flawed and no longer has much influence. Wright would have been furious, but fortunately he never saw them. He did send me a reprint of his article on evolution in the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Muller had a colorful life: he worked with T. H. Morgan in the “Fly Room”, tried to kill himself with sleeping pills in 1932, and then and went to the Soviet Union to do genetics between 1933 and 1936, where he became disillusioned with Lysenkoism and then moved to Edinburgh. He also never had a real academic job until after he won the Nobel Prize, which he got for showing that X-rays caused mutations. Indiana University then hired him. Muller was an absolutely brilliant geneticist but a difficult colleague, the kind who demanded constant credit for his work—perhaps the result of being unrecognized when younger.  Here he is looking at Drosophila—with an eye loupe!

  • 1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress, producer, and activist
  • 1940 – Frank Zappa, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 1993)
  • 1959 – Florence Griffith Joyner, American sprinter and actress (d. 1998)
  • 1969 – Julie Delpy, French model, actress, director, and screenwriter

If you’ve seen the “Before Trilogy“, you’ll know this actress, shown here with her co-star Ethan Hawke.

  • 1977 – Emmanuel Macron, President of France

Those who found their Heavenly Abode on December 21 include:

Fitzgerald died of a heart attack at 44 while eating a chocolate bar and reading the Princeton alumni magazine. He’s one of my literary heroes, though he couldn’t spell worth a damn (his editor Max Perkins corrected any errors). Gatsby is the book everyone reads, but I love Tender is the Night. When I read Fitzgerald’s first book—This Side of Paradise—as a teenager, I decided to go to Princeton (that’s where the book is set, and where Fitzgerald went to college), but my parents told me they didn’t have enough money to send me there. I wound up at William & Mary, which was probably better for me.  Here are Fitz and Zelda in 1921:

  • 2009 – Edwin G. Krebs, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a wise statement, informed by the Polish past:

Hili: How did humans create gods?
A: By looking for the best model of secret police.
In Polish:
Hili: Jak człowiek stworzył bogów?
Ja: Szukając najlepszego modelu tajnej policji.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon has a task:

Elzbieta: Find the angel!

In Polish: Znajdź aniołka.

And young Mietek is sleeping, saying this as he dozes off:

Mietek: Just until the holidays. . . .

In Polish: Byle do świąt…

Little Kulka is still wearing her jacket to prevent her licking her wounds after she was spayed.  She hates it! It will be removed on Wednesday.

From Facebook:

From Bruce:

Here’s a festive coffee mug for the holidays from Jesus of the Day:

More of Titania’s predictions come true:

Now Helen Keller is privileged?? What does it take to be unprivileged?

Tweets from Matthew. Yes, ’tis the season of cats and trees:

A lovely photo from 1959:

Don’t forget the Great Conjunction tonight. Here’s why it’s happening:

Such stealth!

Wonderful pictures, wonderfully restored and looking quite au courant:

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 17, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on another chilly day: Thursday, December 17, 2020. It’s National Maple Syrup Day, and here’s a tip from one who loves the stuff.  Maple syrup used to be graded A, B, or C, depending on how much flavor they took out of it (C, the darkest kind, was the best). Now it’s ALL grade A, but they have substituted adjectives describing the categories. Always get the “very dark color, strong taste” kind; it’s not only the cheapest, but also the best. (The “dark color, robust taste” is less intense.) This is getting harder to find, but is well worth the search; here’s an example from Amazon.

It’s also Wright Brothers Day, celebrating their first successful flight on December 17, 1903, and Pan American Aviation Day.

Wine of the Day: Forget the chardonnay and pinot grigio: there’s better value for money—and nicer wines— in sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc. This bottle of  2019 Matetic EQ sauvignon blanc, from Chile, is one of the finest specimens I’ve had at any price, and was under $15. Used to wash down a chicken dinner, it was a tad off-dry and had a lot more citrus in the aroma than the classic “grassy” nose customarily described for this grape. A very complex and powerful aroma leaps at you from the glass, urging you to have another. If you can get this, do so; it’s drinking very well.

News of the Day:

It’s been almost six years since the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, and, finally, the trial of the accused has concluded. All fourteen defendants were found guilty of criminal conspiracy or terrorist complicity, though the two shooters were killed shortly after the 2015 attack. The heaviest sentence was given to one defendant who provided weapons to the shooters: 30 years in prison with a minimum of 20 years before the possibility of parole.

And French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19 after showing symptoms. He’ll isolate himself for a week but still plans to work remotely.

And remember, this astronomical conjunction is TONIGHT:

Nabisco has announced the upcoming release of a new flavor of Oreo to celebrate the release of Lady Gaga’s new album, “Chromatica”, the new cookie announced by Gaga herself (below). The NYT describes the diversity of Oreo flavors, whose avowed purpose is not to make a profit but to keep attention on their classic brown-and-white cookie:

Since releasing the Birthday Cake Oreo in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its signature cookie, Oreo has introduced 65 flavors, including, in the last three years alone, Hot Chicken Wing Oreos, Wasabi Oreos, Crispy Tiramisù Oreos and Carrot Cake Oreos. (Certain flavors are only available in specific markets; the Wasabi and Hot Chicken Wing Oreos were released in China.)

Over the years, there have been Blueberry Pie Oreos; Waffle & Syrup Oreos; Jelly Donut Oreos; Mississippi Mud Pie Oreos; Key Lime Pie Oreos; Piña Colada Oreo Thins; Banana Split Oreos; PB&J Oreos; Root Beer Float Oreos; Neapolitan Oreos; Peeps Oreos; and “Mystery Oreos,” which were eventually revealed to be churro flavored.

I’ve tried several of these novelty flavors, including carrot cake (meh), mint (ok), and peanut butter (ok, but not as good as mnt), but the only one I really liked were the green tea Oreos, a package of which was sent by a kind reader in Japan.

Here’s Gaga touting Oreos (oy!):

Has Trump’s insanity been any more evident than now, when he’s continuously tweeting about the “stolen” election? Even Mitch “666” McConnell—and an increasing number of Republicans—admit that Joe Biden won.


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 307,295, a big increase of about 3,400 from yesterday’s figure, with deaths occurred at about 2.4 per minute. The world death toll is 1,657,385, a huge increase of about 13,400 over yesterday’s report—about 9.3 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 17 includes:

  • 497 BC – The first Saturnalia festival was celebrated in ancient Rome.
  • 1790 – The Aztec calendar stone is discovered at El Zócalo, Mexico City.

Made between 1502 and 1521, the stone isn’t really a calendar. The excellent Wikipedia entry says this:

The sculpted motifs that cover the surface of the stone refer to central components of the Mexica cosmogony. The state-sponsored monument linked aspects of Aztec ideology such as the importance of violence and warfare, the cosmic cycles, and the nature of the relationship between gods and man. The Aztec elite used this relationship with the cosmos and the bloodshed often associated with it to maintain control over the population, and the sun stone was a tool in which the ideology was visually manifested.

I saw this remarkable stone in 2012 when I visited the fabulous National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. I wasn’t allowed to take photos, so here’s one from Wikipedia:

  • 1862 – American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

WTF? Ulysses S. Grant expelled the Jews from the South???? Wikipedia says this:

General Order No. 11 was a controversial order issued by Union Major-General Ulysses S. Grant on December 17, 1862, during the Vicksburg Campaign, that took place during the American Civil War. The order expelled all Jews from Grant’s military district, comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Grant issued the order in an effort to reduce Union military corruption, and stop an illicit trade of Southern cotton, which Grant thought was being run “mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders.”

The “running the world” trope never ends.

Here’s a remarkable photo of the first flight (there were three that day): the plane went 120 feet in 12 seconds. Orville is at the controls, while Wilbur runs alongside. The first flight captured on film! And 65 years later the Concorde was flying!

  • 1933 – The first NFL Championship Game is played. The game was at Wrigley Field between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears. The Bears won 23–21.
  • 1938 – Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

Hahn won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944, but, since he was a German in custody of the British when the prize was awarded the next year, couldn’t give his lecture. He did so in 1946.  His collaborator, Lise Meitner, a Jew who had fled to Sweden, should have shared that prize.

  • 1944 – World War II: Battle of the Bulge: Malmedy massacre: American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs are shot by Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Joachim Peiper.
  • 1989 – The Simpsons premieres on television with the episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire“.

Here’s that first episode:

  • 2014 – The United States and Cuba re-establish diplomatic relations after severing them in 1961.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1778 – Humphry Davy, English chemist and physicist (d. 1829)
  • 1853 – Pierre Paul Émile Roux, French physician and immunologist, co-founded the Pasteur Institute (d. 1933)
  • 1908 – Willard Libby, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1980).

Libby got the Prize for developing radiocarbon dating, and he did so at The University of Chicago. Here he is at the U of C:

  • 1936 – Pope Francis
  • 1987 – Chelsea Manning, American soldier and intelligence analyst

Those who made their final exit on December 17 include:

  • 1830 – Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan general and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (b. 1783)
  • 1833 – Kaspar Hauser, German feral child (b. 1812)

Well, he wasn’t a feral child, and his own story is full of holes. Still, it’s worth reading about Hauser.

Before she wrote books, Sayers worked in advertising, and she wrote this jingle for Guinness:

Why did an Irish stout use a toucan as advertising? You can read the story here.

  • 2008 – Sammy Baugh, American football player and coach (b. 1914)
  • 2011 – Kim Jong-il, North Korean commander and politician, 2nd Supreme Leader of North Korea (b. 1941)
  • 2012 – Daniel Inouye, American captain and politician (b. 1924)
  • 2013 – Janet Rowley, American geneticist and biologist (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Today’s Hili dialogue also needs an explanation from Malgorzata. “Hili sees her reflection in the window. So she talks about illusions. When Andrzej doesn’t want to approve of her very general statement she demands food for herself and for her reflection – if it’s not an illusion, the other cat should get food as well.”

Hili: The world is full of illusions.
A: Don’t exaggerate.
Hili: Fill the bowl for both of us.
In Polish:
Hili: Świat jest pełen iluzji.
Ja: Nie przesadzaj.
Hili: Napełnij miseczki dla nas obu.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon comments on a Polish tradition. Malgorzata explains: “Before Christmas, all proper women are cleaning their houses from top to bottom or the other way around. It’s as if they expected a sanitary inspector instead of family and friends.”

Leon: Oh, all this cleaning!

In Polish: Ach, te porządki!

From Facebook (perhaps from a reader, but I’ve no record):

A meme from Nicole:

From the Internet:


Yes, Titania’s irony is over the top on this tweet, but the renaming of Abraham Lincoln High School is real. In fact, San Francisco is renaming 44 of its 125 public schools, including those bearing the names of Thomas Edison, Herbert Hoover and—Dianne Feinstein, the latter because when she was mayor of S.F. 36 years ago, she allowed the Confederate flag to fly over City Hall. Cancel her IMMEDIATELY!

From Simon, who wonders if this is a real video. So do I!

From Barry: I’ll be damned if this cat isn’t enjoying the bovid tongue bath:

Tweets from Matthew. Look at this mimic! It is likely a Batesian mimic, repelling predators because it resembles a bumble bee, but it could be a Müllerian mimic if the beetle is toxic and the predator has learned to avoid both convergently evolved warning patterns.

I don’t think the analogy is really good here, as an empty bottle is useless, but one can reread books you’ve already read and benefit from it:

Talk about stealing the joy from Christmas!

Beautiful metro stations, with many in the thread. Only one in the US and none in the UK, though!

Saturday: Hili dialogue

November 28, 2020 • 6:30 am

Saturday is here already: due to the holiday, the week seems to have flown by. It’s November 28, 2020, and National French Toast Day (this is cultural appropriation in both name and object). I love French toast with sausages on the side and real maple syrup; my mom used to make it for me if I was a Good Boy. It’s also Turkey Leftover Day (this will go on for a week), Letter Writing Day (I can’t remember the last time I wrote a real letter, but we should do it more), and Red Planet Day, celebrating the launch of Mariner 4 in 1964, the first spacecraft to fly by Mars and give us close-up views of the planet.

News of the Day: I watched the news and read the NYT on Friday evening (as I write this), and it’s very grim. COVID-19 is making a huge comeback, and if I don’t miss my guess based on holiday travel data, in about two weeks we’ll see a huge spike.

Is there war impending in the Middle East? The top nuclear scientist of Iran, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated yesterday in his car, shot by gunmen along the road he was traveling. He’s long been identified by both the U.S. and Israel as a key figure in Iran’s supposed covert program for developing nuclear weapons, and Iran blamed both countries for the killing.  I doubt that there will be all-out war between Iran and Israel, but it’s unsettling, and I doubt Iran will do nothing in response.

Crikey, yesterday statues were defaced and toppled all over the U.S., and I’m not talking about Confederate statues, but those of respectable people. In Minneapolis, a statue of George Washington was toppled and defaced with the spray-painted words, “Genocidal maniac.” A statue of pioneers was also defaced. The Star-Tribune article mentions other vandalism that happened this week:

In Chicago, somebody tried to pull down a statue of President William McKinley in McKinley Park. The sculpture was also tagged with graffiti and the words “Land Back.” [JAC: This is the slogan for promoting giving land back to Native Americans.]

In Spokane, Wash., a statue of Abraham Lincoln was vandalized with red paint. In Portland, Ore., a monument in the city’s Lone Fir Cemetery, dedicated in 1903 to the veterans of the Civil War, Mexican, Spanish-American, and Indian wars, was tagged with anti-colonialism graffiti and its statue toppled and sprayed with red paint. Three people were arrested after protest-related vandalism damaging storefronts and spraying the words “Land Back” on buildings, Portland police said in a news release.

Here’s the photo of the toppled Washington in Minneapolis; you can read “Genocidal Maniac” on the left.  What genocide did Washington commit? And a “maniac”?

Photo: Shari Gross

I’ll pass along a reading recommendation from reader Ken. I’ve read the Brooks op-ed, which is good, but not yet the other one. The issue is distrust between the elites who determine what is “true”, and the others, who feel disenfranchised and empower themselves by embracing conspiracy theories. Ken’s note:

I don’t know whether you’ve had a chance to read David Brooks opinion piece in yesterday’s NYT “The Rotting of the Republican Mind.”

It cites, and is largely based upon a longer piece from National Affairs by Jonathan Rauch, “The Constitution of Knowledge.” That essay deals in greater depth with the Right’s detachment from reality covered by Brooks’s piece, but, in the latter part, also addresses the problems caused on campus, and in the media, by the radical left. It is well worth the read.
And some good news from the site: Matthew’s new book, The Idea of the Brain, has been named one of the Time’s “Best Philosophy and Ideas Books of the Year 2020” and a Sunday Times Book of the Year. The announcement:


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 264,724, an increase of about 1,400 from yesterday’s figure.  The world death toll is 1,451,167, a big increase of about 11,600 over yesterday’s report. 

Stuff that happened on November 28 includes this:

  • 1520 – An expedition under the command of Ferdinand Magellan passes through the Strait of Magellan.
  • 1582 – In Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway pay a £40 bond for their marriage licence.

Here’s the marriage record. Shakespeare was 18, Anne Hathaway 26, and pregnant with their first child:

A photo of that first vote from the New Zealand Herald:

Heavily outnumbered by men, women turn out to an Auckland polling booth in November 1893 to vote in their first election after securing the right to vote. The overall turnout of female voters was unexpectedly high. Photo / File

What this means is that this was the election in which Kiwi women were first allowed to vote.

Here’s Duryea’s winning vehicle. Average speed: 5.4 miles per hour (a marathon runner does way better than that!):

  • 1919 – Lady Astor is elected as a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. She is the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. (Countess Markievicz, the first to be elected, refused to sit.)

Lady Astor served until 1945; here’s a photo:

  • 1925 – The Grand Ole Opry begins broadcasting in Nashville, Tennessee, as the WSM Barn Dance.
  • 1941 – In Germany, Mufti of Palestine met Adolf Hitler in November-28-1941, whose agents had to convince themselves he is not “pure arab” in blood.  The nazi leader still refused to shake his hand or even drink coffee with him for considering Arabs inferior. They agreed on cooperation against Jews.

And here’s a photo of that meeting:

  • 1958 – First successful flight of SM-65 Atlas; the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), developed by the United States and the first member of the Atlas rocket family.
  • 1967 – The first pulsar (PSR B1919+21, in the constellation of Vulpecula) is discovered by two astronomers Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish.
  • 1972 – Last executions in Paris: Claude Buffet and Roger Bontems are guillotined at La Santé Prison.
  • 1980 – Iran–Iraq War: Operation Morvarid: The bulk of the Iraqi Navy is destroyed by the Iranian Navy in the Persian Gulf. (Commemorated in Iran as Navy Day.)
  • 1990 – British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigns as leader of the Conservative Party and, therefore, as Prime Minister. She is succeeded in both positions by John Major.

Notables born on this day include:

Like many artists, Blake couldn’t draw cats. Here’s his “Tyger”:

  • 1820 – Friedrich Engels, German-English philosopher, economist, and journalist (d. 1895)
  • 1904 – Nancy Mitford, English journalist and author (d. 1973)
  • 1908 – Claude Lévi-Strauss, Belgian-French anthropologist and ethnologist (d. 2009)
  • 1929 – Berry Gordy, Jr., American songwriter and producer, founded Motown Records

Gordy, now 91, is still with us, and is responsible for much of the great soul music of the Sixties and Seventies.

  • 1962 – Jon Stewart, American comedian, actor, and television host
  • 1987 – Karen Gillan, Scottish actress

Those whose lives were obliterated on November 28 include:

Part of Bernini’s interior for St. Peter’s Basilica:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s baldachin, interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Ivor Clarke/Alamy
  • 1859 – Washington Irving, American short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian (b. 1783)
  • 1939 – James Naismith, Canadian-American physician and educator, created basketball (b. 1861)
  • 1954 – Enrico Fermi, Italian-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1901)
  • 1960 – Richard Wright, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet (b. 1908)
  • 1976 – Rosalind Russell, American actress and singer (b. 1907)
  • 1994 – Jeffrey Dahmer, American serial killer (b. 1960)
  • 1994 – Jerry Rubin, American businessman and activist (b. 1938)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili finds a reason to go on living:

Hili: In spite of everything.
A: In spite of what?
Hili: In spite of everything I’m curious what will happen next.
In Polish:
Hili: Mimo wszystko.
Ja: Co mimo wszystko?
Hili: Mimo wszystko jestem ciekawa co będzie dalej.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek and Leon are on the prowl together (note that Mietek is now full grown!):

Leon:  Let’s go back, there is nothing for us here.

In Polish: Wracamy, nic tu po nas.

A meme from Divy:

An great early New Year’s meme from Bruce. Better early than never!

Posted by Seth Andrews on Facebook:

Screenshot of a tweet sent in by Smith Powell. This is a good one:

From reader Barry, two tweets showing Jordan Peterson. The first I don’t think shows that he’s a “grifter”, he simply hadn’t thought through the issue when he pronounced judgment.  The second is a bit reprehensible: a demonstration of confirmation bias by Peterson, who’s conversing with Matt Dillahunty.

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is indeed a stunning time-lapse photos. It also shows that the birds leave the tree in horizontal flight:

Here’s an Amazon comment on Matthew’s new book; the loon is apparently identified in the comment thread:

It wasn’t the cat!

Imagine what the staff had faced in the past!

Matthew channels Rudyard Kipling. Read about mosasaurs here.


Monday: Hili dialogue

October 26, 2020 • 6:30 am

Welcome to another work week: it’s Monday, October 26, 2020: National Mincemeat Pie Day, celebrating a pie that was once a main course but now, sans meat, is a dessert. It’s Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day,  a worthy Southern dish, and one indigenous to America (it’s not a schnitzel). Here’s one photographed at Hoover’s in Austin:

It’s also National Pumpkin Day and National Mule Day, marking the day the first Spanish donkeys arrived in the U.S., brought by Christopher Columbus, and Intersex Awareness Day.

News of the Day:

In a rare Sunday session, the Senate voted, as we all knew, to advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court to a final vote. That vote will be today. Yesterday’s vote was 51-48, pretty much along party lines, but with two Republicans—Susan Collins and Murkowski—voting against the advancement. Murkowski, however, will support Barrett in the vote tomorrow.

And Mitch “Beelzebub” McConnell said this, all but saying that Trump is going to lose in a week, but gloating nonetheless about the Supreme Court:

“We made an important contribution to the future of this country,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday, praising Barrett as a “stellar nominee” in every respect. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

The election is a week from tomorrow, and I suspect most of us have already voted. I’ve made about $400 worth of bets on Biden, and he hasn’t lost a beat since the debates. Here’s FiveThirtyEight‘s latest forecast and prediction of the electoral votes. Biden, of course, is in blue:

Do you feel better?

In response to Anthony Fauci’s suggestion that perhaps America needs a national mask mandate, and to new local mask regulations, yahoos throughout America are emitting howls of rage. On the evening news I saw a mask-burning ceremony, with the primates yelping as they torched masks, and you can read about this activity, most prominent in Florida, here.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 225,156, an increase of about 300 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,159,667, an increase of about 4,300 over yesterday’s report. 

Stuff that happened on October 26 includes:

  • 1825 – The Erie Canal opens, allowing direct passage from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
  • 1863 – The Football Association is founded.
  • 1944 – World War II: The Battle of Leyte Gulf ends with an overwhelming American victory.
  • 1958 – Pan American Airways makes the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York City to Paris.

The 707 was the first jet Boeing ever made. Here’s a flight on the last one used in passenger service, by Saha Air in Iran:

  • 1967 – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi crowns himself Emperor of Iran.
  • 1977 – Ali Maow Maalin, the last natural case of smallpox, develops a rash in Somalia. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider this date to be the anniversary of the eradication of smallpox, the most spectacular success of vaccination.

Here’s a photo of perhaps the last human to ever get smallpox; the Wikipedia caption is “Ali Maow Maalin (1954–2013), the last person to be naturally infected with Variola minor smallpox in October 1977, photographed in 1977, while the smallpox scabbing was still evident.”

Maalin, who spent much of his later life volunteering to give polio vaccines to children, died in 2013 of malaria:

  • 1999 – Britain’s House of Lords votes to end the right of most hereditary peers to vote in Britain’s upper chamber of Parliament.
  • 2002 – Approximately 50 Chechen terrorists and 150 hostages die when Russian special forces troops storm a theater building in Moscow, which had been occupied by the terrorists during a musical performance three days before.

Here’s an AP video of that horrific attack:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1874 – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, American philanthropist, founded the Museum of Modern Art (d. 1948)
  • 1902 – Beryl Markham, Kenyan horse trainer and author (d. 1986)

I recently reread Markham’s famous autobiography of her flying days in Africa, West with the Night. Well worth a read; here’s a photo of her and her plane:

  • 1906 – Primo Carnera, Italian boxer and actor (d. 1967)
  • 1916 – François Mitterrand, French lawyer and politician, 21st President of France (d. 1996)
  • 1951 – Julian Schnabel, American painter, director, and screenwriter

Those who perished on October 26 include:

  • 1764 – William Hogarth, English painter and engraver (b. 1697)
  • 1902 – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American activist (b. 1815)
  • 1952 – Hattie McDaniel, American actress and singer (b. 1895)

McDaniel, of course, was the first African-American to win an Oscar—for best supporting actress (she played “Mammy”) in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind. Here’s a video of McDaniel accepting her Oscar; the presenter was Fay Bainter, who also got an Oscar for Jezebel. Note her hopes that she “will always be a credit to [her] race.” Curiously, McDaniel’s Oscar statue, which would be worth a fortune now, has disappeared.

  • 1972 – Igor Sikorsky, Ukrainian-American engineer and academic, founded Sikorsky Aircraft (b. 1889)

Here’s a treat: photos of Matthew and I with our teddy bears, which we both still have. Matthew creatively named his bear “Teddy”:

Voila. You can see my mum replaced the leather patches on his paws, which fell apart, and also apparently embroidered a new nose and moth on him. He is still enucleated, but it doesn’t look too bad. He still smells of his stuffing, but that doesn’t bring back any Proustian memories sadly. I think the cloth the trousers are made out of came from a pair of my trousers I had when I was little.

My photo, taken just a few moments ago. I’m not yet caffeinated, and it shows. Anyway, meet Toasty, the bear I’ve had my entire life. My mother, too had to repeatedly fix him, including making him clothes and putting in new eyes. He’s sadly depilated now, and his overalls cover his shame.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on Andrzej’s desk, trying to carry out her duties as editor of Listy:

A: Could you sleep somewhere else?
Hili: No, because you would keep saying that I’m neglecting my duties.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy możesz spać w innym miejscu?
Hili: Nie, bo znowu będziesz mówił, że lekceważę moje obowiązki.

Leon and Elzbieta have a selfie. The caption: “Saturday afternoon on the porch.”

In Polish: Sobotnie pogaduchy na przyzbie

And Paulina took four wonderful pictures of Kitten Kulka disporting herself:

From Bird and Moon, a great site and source of natural-history graphics by Rosemary Mosco. This goes for mallards, too!

Reader Charles sent a Mike Lukovich cartoon:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Paul via Carolyn Porco (sound up):

From Barry. Be sure to click on the embedded link (this one)!

From Luana, a Nobel Laureate reports that he’s been deplatformed, probably because he favors the unfavored “herd immunity” solution to the pandemic. Still, he wasn’t even going to talk about the virus in his scheduled lecture:

Tweets from Matthew, who must be feeling Pandemic Malaise:

The ballot is supposed to be SECRET!

A “bait ball” isn’t something created by humans, but a big, dense school of fish:

As I said when I retweeted this, it’s likely that in our lifetime we’ll see the last camp survivor pass away.

The anti-Trump conservative tweeted this yesterday:



Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

October 20, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, October 20, 2020: National Brandied Fruit Day and National Eggo Day. (If you don’t know what an Eggo is, go here). It’s also International Chefs Day, the Birth of the Bab (see below), and World Statistics Day. 

Here’s a statistic to celebrate the day: the average height of the American male is 5 feet, 9.3 inches (176 cm), and of American women is 5 feet, 3.7 inches (160 cm). That makes me, at about 5’8″,  a shorty.

News of the Day:  This is a pretty funny article about words that were censored (by software filters) in the discussion sessions of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology online meetings. Those words include “bone,” for chrissake (it’s also American slang for “to copulate”), but also “penetrate,” “stream,” “knob”, “crack”, and “sex”. Hard to have a fossil meeting without some of those words!



Trump rarely surprises me any more with his rudeness and mendacity, but his latest trashing of Anthony Fauci is beyond the pale. He could only wish he had the integrity and self-control of Fauci.  From CNN:

Referring to Fauci and other health officials as “idiots,” Trump declared the country ready to move on from the health disaster, even as cases are again spiking and medical experts warn the worst may be yet to come.

Baselessly claiming that if Fauci was in charge more than half a million people would be dead in the United States, Trump portrayed the recommendations offered by his own administration to mitigate spread of the disease as a burdensome annoyance.

“People are tired of Covid. have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had, and we have Covid,” Trump said, phoning into a call with campaign staff from his namesake hotel in Las Vegas, where he spent two nights amid a western campaign swing. “People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”

“Fauci is a nice guy,” Trump went on. “He’s been here for 500 years.”

Let’s hope Trump is only here for three more months.

BTW, Microphones will be muted during part of Thursday’s Presidential debate. During each candidate’s two-minute initial response to a question, the other candidate’s mike (not “mic”) will be turned off. Do you think that will stop Trump from bloviating? I don’t think so—he’ll just yell across the stage. Trump says he consider the muting “very unfair.”

And OMG—Jeffrey Toobin? Oy gewalt! Read about it here.

How many ideological missteps can you find with this statue of Medusa holding the head of Perseus, just installed in New York as a tribute to the #MeTooMovement (yes, it was reversed in mythology, with Medusa decapitated). But the Offense Brigade is out in force after this one. Read about it at the Washington Post.

Illinois, long one of the lowest states for Covid-19 infections, is now joining nearly every other state in experiencing the dreaded “second wave” (remember when Trump said the virus would disappear in the summer)? Here are the latest Illinois data from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 220,058, an increase of about 500 over yesterday. The world death toll is 1,123,472, an increase of about 4,600 over yesterday’s report.   

Stuff that happened on October 20 includes:

Here’s what we got from the French (area in white), at $15 million, or about 3¢ per acre:

  • 1935 – The Long March, a mammoth retreat undertaken by the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party a year prior, ends.

Here’s a map of the Long March (caption from Wikipedia), which lasted almost exactly a year:

Light red areas show Communist enclaves. Areas marked by a blue “X” were overrun by Kuomintang forces during the Fourth Encirclement Campaign, forcing the Fourth Red Army (north) and the Second Red Army (south) to retreat to more western enclaves (dotted lines). The dashed line is the route of the First Red Army from Jiangxi. The withdrawal of all three Red Armies ends in the northeast enclave of Shaanxi.
  • 1941 – World War II: Thousands of civilians in German-occupied Serbia are murdered in the Kragujevac massacre.
  • 1944 – American general Douglas MacArthur fulfills his promise to return to the Philippines when he comes ashore during the Battle of Leyte.
  • 1947 – The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of the Hollywood film industry, resulting in a blacklist that prevents some from working in the industry for years.
  • 1951 – The “Johnny Bright incident” occurs during a football game between the Drake Bulldogs and Oklahoma A&M Aggies.

Bright was a nationally-ranked player for Drake, and was black. The Oklahoma players targeted him because of his race, and he was knocked unconscious three times in the first seven minutes of the game by defensive tackle Wilbanks Smith, the last hit breaking his jaw. Bright stayed in the game for a while as halfback/quarterback, and even completed a touchdown pass.

But there was a photograph showing a deliberate and grossly illegal hit; in fact, it qualifies as assault:

A six photograph sequence of the incident captured by Des Moines Register cameramen John Robinson and Don Ultang clearly showed Smith’s jaw-breaking blow was thrown well after Bright had handed the ball off to Drake fullback Gene Macomber, and was well behind the play. Robinson and Ultang had set up a camera focusing on Bright before the game after the rumors of him being targeted became too loud to ignore. They rushed the film to Des Moines as soon as Bright was knocked out of the game. Ultang said years later that they were very lucky that the incident took place when it did; they had only planned to stay through the first quarter so they could have enough time to develop the pictures before the deadline. The sequence won Robinson and Ultang the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Photography, and eventually made it into the November 5, 1951, issue of Life.

Oklahoma refused to admit wrongdoing, and Oklahoma didn’t apologize until 2005! Smith never admitted wrongdoing, and Bright went on to a stellar career in the Canadian Football League.

Look at that hit in the last photo!

(From Wikipedia): The Pulitzer Prize-winning sequence of photos showing the first hit on Johnny Bright by Wilbanks Smith.
  • 1973 – “Saturday Night Massacre“: United States President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who is finally fired by Robert Bork.

I remember this well, and once encountered Elliot Richardson on the subway in Harvard Square some years later (a handsome and public figure, he was instantly recognizable). I thanked him for his refusal to fire Cox.

  • 1973 – The Sydney Opera House is opened by Elizabeth II after 14 years of construction.

Notables born on this day include:

In 1831, 28 years before the publication of Darwin’s Origin, Matthew published a book about wood and shipbuilding: On Naval Timber and ArboricultureIn the Appendix’s last 28 pages, Matthew proposed a theory very similar to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. You can read some excerpts here and at Wikipedia, and learn why Matthew doesn’t really get credit for natural selection. Here’s a picture of the book from Wikipedia:

It’s another day for the birth of artists and musicians:

  • 1819 – Báb, Iranian religious leader, founded Bábism (d. 1850)
  • 1854 – Arthur Rimbaud, French soldier and poet (d. 1891)
  • 1859 – John Dewey, American psychologist and philosopher (d. 1952)
  • 1874 – Charles Ives, American composer (d. 1954)
  • 1885 – Jelly Roll Morton, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (Red Hot Peppers and New Orleans Rhythm Kings) (d. 1941)
  • 1925 – Art Buchwald, American soldier and journalist (d. 2007)
  • 1931 – Mickey Mantle, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 1995)
  • 1950 – Tom Petty, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 2017)
  • 1971 – Snoop Dogg, American rapper, producer, and actor

Snoop registered to vote for the first time this year—at age 48. Here he shows us how to do it online. (His real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus.)

Those who cashed in their chips on October 20 include:

  • 1890 – Richard Francis Burton, English-Italian geographer and explorer (b. 1821)
  • 1926 – Eugene V. Debs, American union leader and politician (b. 1855)
  • 1936 – Anne Sullivan, American educator (b. 1866)
  • 1964 – Herbert Hoover, American engineer and politician, 31st President of the United States (b. 1874)
  • 1983 – Merle Travis, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1917)
  • 1984 – Paul Dirac, English-American physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)

A four-minute bio of the great but eccentric Dirac:

Here’s Lancaster in a very famous scene: the “beach scene” in From Here to Eternityplaying sergeant Milt Warden, who has an affair with his commanding officer’s wife, played by Deborah Kerr. This scene was considered extremely erotic for the time.  The movie is well worth seeing: it also stars Frank Sinatra (in a role that was a comeback for him), Montgomery Clift, and Ernest Borgnine.

  • 2011 – Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan colonel and politician, Prime Minister of Libya (b. 1942)
  • 2012 – Paul Kurtz, American philosopher and academic (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is importuning Andrzej, but for what?

A: Is there something you want?
Hili: I have to think about it.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy jest coś, czego chcesz?
Hili: Muszę się zastanowić.

Here’s Kulka, who no longer qualifies as a “kitten”

Here’s an oldie from 2014 that I don’t think I’ve posted before. Leon went hiking, and has a monologue:

Leon: Learning the world is tiresome.

In Polish: Męczące jest to poznawanie świata.

A good question from Facebook:

From Nicole: I may have posted this before, but if so, here it is again:

From Jesus of the Day:

I tweeted! Many, many readers sent me links to articles about this Nazca-line cat, making it, I think, the story sent to me most often in the history of this website.

Speaking of social-media offense, Titania expresses the feelings of many:

From Simon, a tweet from the famous Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, once spoken of as a possible Supreme Court nominee (as you see, he’s a liberal):

And the rest of the tweets from the estimable Dr. Cobb. This way of sleeping seems very maladaptive for avoiding predation, but I suppose they have to rest sometime.

This event partly armed the warheads, but, thank Ceiling Cat, nothing bad happened.

An amazing roadcut showing the distortion of sediments by colliding tectonic plates:

Try this with your cat and get back to me:

What’s the technical name for a huge mess of geckos?


Monday: Hili dialogue (Leon exchange with Mietek)

October 12, 2020 • 6:30 am

Well, another damn work week is upon us, it being Monday, October 12, 2020. It’s National Pumpkin Pie Day, and if you’re a member of Costco, I recommend heading over there to pick up one of their 12-inch diameter pumpkin pies, made of quality ingredients and costing only $5.99. It’s very tasty, weighs nearly four pounds, and if you can’t finish it, it freezes well, too.

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada (I bet they’re giving thanks that they’re not Americans!), as well as National Gumbo Day, Pulled Pork Day, Columbus Day (see below; not to be mentioned further), Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Native American Day, and Freethought Day, celebrating the end of the Salem Witch trials in 1692.

News of the Day: The charade Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett begins today at 9 a.m., lasting through Thursday.  I don’t even know what could possibly result in a negative vote, so it’s going to be softballs by Republicans and virtue-flaunting by Democrats, who have nothing to gain from their questions. Only an unearthed skeleton in the closet could create an “October surprise.”

Hypocrite Lindsey Graham, head of the Judiciary Committee, will be running the hearing. For a takedown of this sorry excuse for a Senator, see this article by Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian. Suffice it to say that Blumenthal calls Graham “Trump’s poodle.  (h/t Jez).

Speaking of that, a misguided rabbi, writing at the New York Times, said that we shouldn’t be judging Amy Coney Barrett based on her religious beliefs.

A judge’s jurisprudence — as well as the propriety of such a nomination so close to an election — are worthy matters of debate, and they are appropriate reasons to oppose or support Judge Barrett’s nomination. But her faith is not.

But Rabbi Soleveichik doesn’t seem to realize that Senators won’t be opposing Barrett simply because she is a Christian, but because it seems likely, and so she has written, that her judicial opinions should align with her strong Christian beliefs. If she’s pre-decided cases based on the words of Jesus, we should know that

In a news analysis at the New York Times, David Sanger recounts Trump’s last-minute attempt to settle scores against political opponents like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. These include Trump ordering Secretary of State Pompeo to release more of Hillary Clinton’s emails  (h/t Woody). A quote:

[Trump] is making it clear that prosecutions, like vaccines for the coronavirus, are useless to him if they come after Nov. 3. He has declared, without evidence, that there is already plenty of proof that Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton, among others, were fueling the charges that his campaign had links to Russia — what he calls “the Russia hoax.” And he has pressured his secretary of state to agree to release more of Mrs. Clinton’s emails before the election, reprising a yearslong fixation despite having defeated her four years ago. [JAC: Pompeo is following orders]

Presidential historians say there is no case in modern times where the president has so plainly used his powers to take political opponents off the field — or has been so eager to replicate the behavior of strongmen.

He’s running scared, and striking out like a bull who’s faced the picador.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 214,604, an increase of about 400 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll remains at “1.0 million +”, with 3,943 deaths reported yesterday.

Stuff that happened on October 12 includes:

  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus’s first expedition makes landfall in the Caribbean, specifically in The Bahamas.
  • 1692 – The Salem witch trials are ended by a letter from Province of Massachusetts Bay Governor William Phips.
  • 1773 – America’s first insane asylum opens.

This was Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia (where I went to college), originally known as “The Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds”. It was originally brutal:

Though the aim was noble, the practices were brutal by modern standards. Bleeding, bullying, blistering salves, and electrocution were all standard treatments. This was changed under the supervision of Dr. John Galt, who believed the mentally ill were entitled to dignity and could be reintegrated with society.

Galt also knew that just because the patients were crazy didn’t mean they weren’t witty. It is said that when hospital sponsor John D. Rockefeller strolled through the grounds and introduced himself to an inmate, the inmate replied, “Oh sure. And I’m Napoleon Bonaparte.” Thanks to a donation from Rockefeller, the hospital was moved about 3 miles west to Dunbar Farms, to accommodate its large patient population.

By the time I arrived there, some of the buildings had been converted to student dorms on the outskirts of town, which are in the photo below. All of us were scared to go near the real hospital.


  • 1792 – The first celebration of Columbus Day is held in New York City.
  • 1810 – The citizens of Munich hold the first Oktoberfest.
  • 1892 – The Pledge of Allegiance is first recited by students in many US public schools.

The words “under God” weren’t added until 1954.

  • 1915 – World War I: British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium.

Cavell was shot at only 49 despite international pleas for mercy. Here she is:

The toll?  2,735 New Zealand casualties, of whom 845 were killed.

Here’s one of the first iron lungs (they are no longer used). When I was a kid, and before polio vaccine was widespread, we were all afraid of winding up in one of these:

  • 1945 – World War II: Desmond Doss is the first conscientious objector to receive the U.S. Medal of Honor.

The movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” which is quite good, was made about Doss’s life, starring Andrew Garfield as Doss and directed by Mel Gibson (Garfield got an Oscar nomination for his performance). Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist, wouldn’t carry a gun, but became a medic and saved the lives of 75 men, dragging them to safety under heavy fire. If there is a CO hero who was a soldier, he’s mine.   Here’s a short video that shows some of the scenes from the movie and from Doss’s life, followed by a photo of Doss getting the Medal of Honor from Harry Truman:

Doss getting his Medal of Honor. Photo from Getty. Source.
  • 1960 – Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pounds his shoe on a desk at the United Nations to protest a Philippine assertion.

Yes, he did, and I remember it. Here’s a rare video showing it:

  • 1998 – Matthew Shepard, a gay student at University of Wyoming, dies five days after he was beaten outside of Laramie.
  • 2002 – Terrorists detonate bombs in the Sari Club in Bali, killing 202 and wounding over 300.
  • 2019 – Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya becomes the first person to run a marathon in less than two hours with a time of 1:59:40 in Vienna.

Here’s the last kilometer of the race showing Kipchoge’s victory:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1865 – Arthur Harden, English biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1940)
  • 1875 – Aleister Crowley, English magician and author (d. 1947)
  • 1921 – Art Clokey, American animator, producer, screenwriter, and voice actor, created Gumby (d. 2010)
  • 1932 – Dick Gregory, American comedian, actor, and author (d. 2017)
  • 1970 – Kirk Cameron, American actor, screenwriter, and Christian evangelical/anti-evolution activist

We mustn’t forget Cameron and Ray Comfort’s famous “banana video”, with the principals forgetting that the commercial banana is a sterile triploid, bred by humans, not God:

Those who cashed in their chips on October 12 include:

  • 322 BC – Demosthenes, Athenian statesman, (b. 384 BC)
  • 1858 – Hiroshige, Japanese painter (b. 1797)
  • 1870 – Robert E. Lee, American general (b. 1807)
  • 1915 – Edith Cavell, English nurse (b. 1865)
  • 1924 – Anatole France, French journalist, novelist, and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1844)
  • 1940 – Tom Mix, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1880)

Mix, of course, was a famous cowboy movie star, and helped popularize cowboy boots. Here’s a pair of his personal boots that were auctioned off for a lot of dosh. Note the hand tooling and extra-high heels. (This reminds me; it’s almost boot season.)

  • 1946 – Joseph Stilwell, American general (b. 1883)
  • 1969 – Sonja Henie, Norwegian figure skater and actress (b. 1912)
  • 1978 – Nancy Spungen, American figure of the 1970s punk rock scene (b. 1958)
  • 1997 – John Denver, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (b. 1943)
  • 1999 – Wilt Chamberlain, American basketball player and coach (b. 1936)
  • 2003 – Bill Shoemaker, American jockey (b. 1931)
  • 2012 – James Coyne, Canadian lawyer and banker, 2nd Governor of the Bank of Canada (b. 1910) [JAC: I don’t know him but perhaps he’s a distant relative.]

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili begins her kvetching as the cold weather approaches.

Hili: The leaves on the trees are starting to change colors.
A: I like it.
Hili: I prefer spring.
In Polish:
Hili: Liście na drzewach zaczynają zmieniać kolory.
Ja: Ja to lubię.
Hili: Ja wolę wiosnę.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek and Leon, BFFs, seem to be looking for mushrooms.

Leon:  You look at the left and I will look at the right side. They must be here somewhere.

In Polish: Ty patrz z prawej, ja z lewej. Muszą tu gdzieś być.

From Bruce:

From Nicole, a holiday decoration:

Another pandemic meme from Moto:

From Titania. I wonder if this is a real prom. I suspect so because everyone’s wearing masks. Still . .  .

From Barry. THIS is why I never feed bread to waterfowl and tell others they shouldn’t, either. This bird won’t ever fly because people fed him bread:

Also from Barry. There’s sound.

This woman may become mayor of Portland in the next election. She’s not as bad as her dress, but she’s not great, either. As cesar says, “Under Mao’s Cultural Revolution, several million people were murdered. Che was ruthless and vicious toward gays.” But of course the Portlanders don’t worry about that; they like revolutionaries. 

One from Simon:

Tweets from Matthew:

Well, I don’t think Hunter Biden really won the Nobel Prize this year, as he wasn’t with the organization, but even so, this is a gotcha moment:

What an excellent carver!

Now this is a tree! I’ve never seen one this big as gingkos weren’t introduced to America until much more recently:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

September 6, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the Christian cats’ Sabbath: Sunday, September 6, 2020: National Coffee Ice-Cream Day (they put an hyphen in “ice cream” for reasons unknown). It’s also Barbie Doll Day (the doll first went on sale on September 6, 1959) and Read a Book Day,

News of the Day: The horse Authentic won the Kentucky Derby yesterday, leading from beginning to end. It was the seventh fastest finish ever.

As I’m writing this on Saturday evening, Portland, Oregon is bracing for its 100th straight night of protests, which have gotten quite violent: several deaths, violence on many sides, and people arrested for felonious rioting. I wonder what the point is any more, and it’s dispiriting. Rochester, New York, is also predicted to have a rough night. I’ll update this Sunday morning,  Similar clashes, but without the shootings, are occurring in Rochester, New York, where people are reacting to the death of Daniel Prude.

SUNDAY UPDATE: ABC News reports that the protesting in Portland last night, which was violent, was declared a “riot”, with protestors reported throwing “fire bombs” at police.  Well, at least nobody was shot.  Protesting was also violent in Rochester, New York, with protestors throwing fireworks at cops and cops shooting pepper balls and tear gas at protestors.

After Fox news reporter Jennifer Griffin confirmed and extended the Atlantic report about Trump’s denigration of military people who died in action, she was defended by her colleagues at Fox. This really pissed off Trump, whose favorite source of news is the right-wing Fox, and he tweeted this:

The Boston Globe reports that 11 first-year Northeastern University students were sent packing without a refund of their tuition; they violated social-distancing requirements in their “dorm”: the Westin Hotel in Boston. They’ll be allowed to return in the Spring. Universities should take a similar hard line if they’re serious about avoiding pandmic outbreaks.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 188,409, 187,698, an increase of about 700 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 878,858, an increase of about 500 deaths from yesterday. It looks like the prediction of 200,000 deaths in the U.S., once considered shocking and unthinkable, will be surpassed soon, and the world total will go over a million. 

Stuff that happened on September 6 includes:

  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus sails from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, his final port of call before crossing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.
  • 1522 – The Victoria returns to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain, the only surviving ship of Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition and the first known ship to circumnavigate the world.
  • 1628 – Puritans settle Salem which became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
  • 1803 – British scientist John Dalton begins using symbols to represent the atoms of different elements.

Here’s Dalton’s table of atomic weights, with photo and caption taken from Science Photo Library:

John Dalton’s table of atomic weights and the symbols he used for a number of “elements”. Compiled in 1808, some of the 20 substances included in the table are compounds & not pure elements: lime, for example. Dalton calculated the weight of each substance relative to hydrogen, the lightest, ending his list with mercury, to which he had incorrectly assigned a greater atomic weight than for lead. Dalton’s view of each element consisting of a unique type of indivisible atom was consistent with contemporary observations & “laws” concerning the combination of elements to form compounds.
  • 1870 – Louisa Ann Swain of Laramie, Wyoming becomes the first woman in the United States to cast a vote legally after 1807.
  • 1962 – Archaeologist Peter Marsden discovers the first of the Blackfriars Ships dating back to the second century AD in the Blackfriars area of the banks of the River Thames in London.

Here’s a reconstruction of one of the ships to scale; it was a Roman cargo ship:

  • 1972 – Munich massacre: Nine Israeli athletes die (along with a German policeman) at the hands of the Palestinian “Black September” terrorist group after being taken hostage at the Munich Olympic Games. Two other Israeli athletes were slain in the initial attack the previous day.
  • 1991 – The Russian parliament approves the name change of Leningrad back to Saint Petersburg. The change is effective October 1, 1991.
  • 1995 – Cal Ripken, Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles plays in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking a record that had stood for 56 years.

Ripken eventually played 2,632 games, a record unlikely to be broken. (The first record was held, of course, by Iron Man Lou Gehrig.) Here’s a short video of Ripken’s record-breaking game:

  • 1997 – The Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales takes place in London. Well over a million people lined the streets and 2​12 billion watched around the world on television.
  • 2018 – Supreme Court of India decriminalised all consensual sex among adults in private, making homosexuality legal on the Indian lands.

Notables born on this day include:

Addams, a Chicago resident, was a pathbreaking social worker and sociologist, who built her famous Hull House in my town. This picture was taken in either 1924 or 1926. I didn’t know until today that she’d won the Nobel Prize:

  • 1888 – Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., American businessman and diplomat, 44th United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom (d. 1969)
  • 1947 – Jane Curtin, American actress and comedian
  • 1980 – Kerry Katona, English singer and actress

Those who packed it in on September 6 include:

  • 1907 – Sully Prudhomme, French poet and critic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1839)
  • 1939 – Arthur Rackham, English illustrator (b. 1867). Here’s one of Rackham’s paintings: “Benevolent Cat” (1920):

  • 1972 – Perpetrator and victims of the Munich massacre
    • Luttif Afif, Palestinian terrorist (b. 1945)
    • David Mark Berger, American-Israeli weightlifter (b. 1944)
    • Ze’ev Friedman, Polish-Israeli weightlifter (b. 1944)
    • Yossef Gutfreund, Israeli wrestling judge (b. 1931)
    • Eliezer Halfin, Russian-Israeli wrestler (b. 1948)
    • Amitzur Shapira, Russian-Israeli runner and coach (b. 1932)
    • Kehat Shorr, Romanian shooting coach (b. 1919)
    • Mark Slavin, Israeli wrestler (b. 1954)
    • Andre Spitzer, Romanian-Israeli fencer and coach (b. 1945)
  • 1984 – Ernest Tubb, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1914)

Here’s Tubb, a pioneer of country music, singing his most famous song:

  • 2017 – Kate Millett, American feminist author and activist (b. 1934)
  • 2019 – Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean politician, 2nd President of Zimbabwe (b. 1924)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, being a Jewish cat, is having some angst:

Hili: I’m feeling melancholy today.
A: Why?
Do you have to have a reason?
In Polish:
Hili: Jestem dziś w melancholijnym nastroju.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: A trzeba mieć powód?

And, as fall comes along, Leon and Mietek are enjoying the future site of their country home, where Elzbieta and Andrzej the Second have planted a lovely garden:

From Merilee. I wish this were real!

Our Savior, from Divy:

From reader Charles. This is a real sign because a friend sent me a photo of it from South Africa.  What worries me is how many penguins got squashed before they put it up.

Actress Meggie Foster does Meghan (“Meggie”) Markle à la Sarah Cooper:

From Simon, who likes this account that makes science metaphors from videos:

From gravelinspector. Check out the photos and videos at the link.


Tweets from Matthew. He didn’t know what this was and neither did I till I looked it up. It is indeed a real bird, the smew (Mergellus albellus), and breeds in northern Eurasia. Females are brown and look nothing like these white males. Anyway, Matthew sent me the original tweet and I retweeted it.

Here’s Dr. Cobb at his most cynical (sound up).

And yes, Matthew: they do catch oysters:

What a fantastic picture! Did the camera stay mounted in one spot for a year?

Squid spawning. The Google translation of the Japanese is “The spawning of the squid is truly mysterious no matter how many times you look at it. I am impressed by the appearance of a squid that exceeds 80 centimeters passing in front of me and the effort to connect the next life. Scenes that can never be seen in everyday life are taken for granted in the sea.”

Flu avoidance during the last pandemic. Only the last panel gives an efficacious preventive measure: