Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 28, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Monday, December 28, 2020, the Fourth Day of Coynezaa. I think it will be a good day because I not only saw TWO cottontail rabbits on my way to work (total: 8 rabbits’ feet), but also ate two Southern biscuits with butter and Tiptree “Little Scarlet” Strawberry Jam for breakfast. (That was James Bond’s favorite jam:

In From Russia With Love we read that James Bond’s favourite meal of the day is breakfast and that it always remains the same; after two large cups of coffee brewed in a Chemex coffee maker he eats a boiled egg followed by wholewheat toast with Jersey butter and a choice of Tiptree “Little Scarlet” strawberry jam, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum and Mason.

I have to say that this isn’t a very substantial breakfast to support all of Bond’s secret-agent activities.

Also, it’s National Boxed Chocolates Day. And if I don’t miss my guess, two pounds of my favorite commercial chocolates—from See’s Candies—will be arriving on the last day of Coynezaa. It’s also National Card Playing Day, Call a Friend Day, and Pledge of Allegiance Day, and adopted by Congress on this day in 1942 as an attestation of fealty. The words “under God” were added only in 1954, largely at the urging of President Eisenhower, who wanted to affirm that we weren’t a godless nation like the Soviet Union.

News of the Day:

First (h/t Matthew), this:

A pilot in southern Germany took to the sky just before Christmas to celebrate the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine. Using a Diamond DA-20 Katana the pilot drew a 70 kilometer long syringe 5,000 feet in the air.

And a provocative headline from the BBC (h/t Jez); click on the screenshot:

This has nothing to do with transsexuals; it’s about the Boy Scouts having decided to accept girls:

A recruitment drive by the Boy Scouts of America is proving “highly damaging” to the Girl Scouts, lawyers acting for the latter organisation say.

The “infringement” meant many parents mistakenly signed their daughters up for Boy Scouts, thinking it was Girl Scouts, lawyers said.

In response, the Boy Scouts accused the Girl Scouts of starting a “ground war”.

The Boy Scouts dropped the word “boy” from its recruitment programme, and opened up to female members, in 2018.

It said at the time that it was renaming the Boy Scouts programme Scouts BSA as it prepared to allow girls to join.

But the Girl Scouts said the change would erode their brand, calling the move “uniquely damaging” to them, filing an initial lawsuit in November 2018 against trademark infringement.

According to the Guardian, a rare white (leucistic) kiwi named Manukura has died in New Zealand after surgery to remove an unfertilized egg that she couldn’t pass. This species, the North Island Brown Kiwi, lays the biggest eggs relative to its body size of any bird in the world. Individuals can live up to 35 year in captivity, so her life was cut really short. (h/t: Julian)

Does anyone recognize this “French doctor” arriving in Gaza to help the beleaguered Palestinians? Israel had no record of a French doctor passing into Gaza, and you’ll see why.  If you watched “Grey’s Anatomy”, you’ll recognize her. Palestinian propaganda, which often uses fake photos, really messed this one up. It’s Izzy! The Center has 750,000 Facebook followers.

Surprisingly, Trump came to his senses yesterday and signed the pandemic relief bill, so the government won’t shut down tonight. Does he like to scare people or what? The House is going to convene today to try to override Trump’s veto of the big defense spending bill. If they succeed (a 2/3 majority vote is required), the Senate will vote on Tuesday.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 333,242, an increase of about 1,200 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,773,407, an increase of about 7,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 28 includes:

  • 1065 – Edward the Confessor’s Romanesque monastic church at Westminster Abbey is consecrated.
  • 1795 – Construction of Yonge Street, formerly recognized as the longest street in the world, begins in York, Upper Canada (present-day Toronto).

In fact, the longest street in the world is still, as this article notes, “up for grabs.”

  • 1832 – John C. Calhoun becomes the first Vice President of the United States to resign.
  • 1836 – Spain recognizes the independence of Mexico with the signing of the Santa María–Calatrava Treaty.
  • 1879 – Tay Bridge disaster: The central part of the Tay Rail Bridge in Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom collapses as a train passes over it, killing 75.

Actually, as Wikipedia notes itself, the 75 dead may be too high, though there were at least 59—everyone on board.

William McGonagall, the world’s best bad poet, wrote an ode to this disaster which you can read here. Here’s the last verse:

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
Here’s the bridge before it collapsed (wind facilitated it, and the bridge wasn’t designed taking wind into account):
  • 1895 – The Lumière brothers perform for their first paying audience at the Grand Cafe in Boulevard des Capucines.
  • 1895 – Wilhelm Röntgen publishes a paper detailing his discovery of a new type of radiation, which later will be known as x-rays

Here’s Röntgen’s first “medical X-ray”: of his wife’s hand:

  • 1918 – Constance Markievicz, while detained in Holloway prison, became the first woman to be elected MP to the British House of Commons.

A feminist and Irish revolutionary, Markievicz was jailed for participating in the 1916 Easter Rising. She was released in 1917 as part of a general amnesty. Here she is trying out a Colt Revolver (picture from Wikipedia:

  • 1958 – “Greatest Game Ever Played”: Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants in the first ever National Football League sudden death overtime game at New York’s Yankee Stadium.

Here’s a short video of the game’s highlights:

  • 1973 – The United States Endangered Species Act is signed into law by Pres. Richard Nixon.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1856 – Woodrow Wilson, American historian and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1924)
  • 1882 – Arthur Eddington, English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician (d. 1944)
  • 1903 – John von Neumann, Hungarian-American mathematician and physicist (d. 1957)
  • 1922 – Stan Lee, American publisher, producer, and actor (d. 2018)
  • 1944 – Kary Mullis, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)
  • 1946 – Edgar Winter, American singer-songwriter, keyboard player, and producer
  • 1954 – Denzel Washington, American actor, director, and producer
  • 1978 – Chris Coyne, Australian footballer and manager

I don’t know from Chris Coyne, but perhaps he’s related to me.

  • 1979 – Noomi Rapace, Swedish actress

Those who became forever quiescent on December 28 include:

  • 1503 – Piero the Unfortunate, Italian ruler (b. 1471)
  • 1937 – Maurice Ravel, French pianist and composer (b. 1875)
  • 1983 – Dennis Wilson, American drummer, songwriter, and producer (b. 1944)
  • 1993 – William L. Shirer, American journalist and historian (b. 1904)
  • 2004 – Susan Sontag, American novelist, essayist, critic, and playwright (b. 1933)

I have to confess that I’ve never read anything by Sontag, and I’m not sure if that makes me culturally illiterate.

  • 2016 – Debbie Reynolds, American actress, singer and dancer (b. 1932)

As you remember, her daughter, Carrie Fisher, died one day before Reynolds. As Wikipedia noted:

The day after Fisher’s death, her mother Debbie Reynolds suffered a stroke at the home of son Todd, where the family was planning Fisher’s burial arrangements. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she died later that afternoon.  According to Todd Fisher, Reynolds had said, “I want to be with Carrie” immediately prior to suffering the stroke.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili once again expresses her hatred of sweet little Kulka:

Hili: You have a new task.
A: What is it?
Hili: To teach Kulka not to come into this room.
In Polish:
Hili: Masz nowe zadanie.
Ja: Jakie?
Hili: Musisz nauczyć Kulkę, żeby nie wchodziła do tego pokoju.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek is disappointed, for he loves the fuss of Christmas:

Mietek: Is the holiday over yet?

In Polish: Już po świętach?

A cartoon sent by Jean; I can’t make out the artist.

From Amy T., a Sherman’s Lagoon cartoon on free will:

From Jesus of the Day, a kid after my own heart.

Yes, Bryn Mawr, too, a school loosely associated with the execrable and strike-prone Haverford College. Here’s a tweet from the demonized CHS, and I’ve put a picture below it from the linked article:

Shoot me now. From Bryn Mawr:

A tweet from reader Barry. The man who made a dining table for raccoons is a man to be admired. What a brunch! (Sound up.)

Tweets from Matthew, who is ANGRY: over 400 of his countrymen snuck out of a Swiss village rather than be quarantined.

Recipe for a gorilla tummyache. If you’re a Yank and don’t know what squash is, it’s basically a concentrated fruit drink syrup meant to be heavily diluted with water (see below). He got the squash by escaping into a staff room. What the staff were doing with five liters of blackcurrent squash remains a mystery.

Ten to one this guy claimed he sat on a candycane during the holidays and it went up his butt (that’s what they always say). You can see the list of stuff that doctors removed here; items in the rectum are particularly numerous.

A lovely astronomy photo. Either the Sun is too big or Mercury is too small:

And this is stunning, beating the previous record by a factor of 15! Somehow that seed retained some capacity to revive for all that time; one would have to say it was alive for 32,000 years.

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 24, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s December 24, 2020, with one shopping day left before Christmas and The First Day of Coynezaa. And oh, dear lord, it’s National Eggnog Day, the world’s most cloying and unappetizing of alcoholic beverages (note that West Point’s Eggnog Riot of 1826 took place on this day). It’s also Last-Minute Shoppers’ Day and, of course, Christmas Eve, with these national variants:

Here’s the traditional multi-dish Polish feast for Wigilia. I wish I were there (I would eschew the fish dishes, but let me at the borscht, pierogi, and desserts!):

News of the Day:

Crikey, what a mess! The President-Eject has just issued a new batch of 26 federal pardons, many to his pals like Charles Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law’s dad), as well as Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, Jr. It’s gonna get worse—I’m betting he’ll try to pardon himself before January 20.

But wait! There’s more! Trump tweeted this, threatening the stimulus-recovery bill (the temporary stopgap measure expires in two days).

But wait! There’s STILL more! Trump did veto a defense-spending bill on the grounds that it mandates the renaming of military bases named after Confederate generals. This, too, has thrown the Congress—and especially Republicans—into turmoil.  The bill did pass Congress with a veto-proof majority, but will Republicans now stand with Trump and refuse to override his veto? This is all good for Democrats, especially in the two Senate races in Georgia, but nixing the stimulus-recovery bill would be dreadful for Americans. There’s still some drama left in the next month.

Yesterday I saw on the news that Trump hasn’t been seen in public for ten days. Now this: the Sore Loser leaves town. Will he be back for the inauguration of Biden?

Despite warnings of all the experts to stay put during the Christmas holidays, nearly 85 million Americans are expected to drive or fly over the next two weeks. With the vaccine only beginning to find its way into our arms, you know what that means.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 326,413, a substantial increase of about 3,400 from yesterday’s figure and roughly 2.4 deaths a minute. The world death toll is 1,739,816, a big increase of about 13,700 over yesterday’s report and the equivalent of about 9.5 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 24 include:

  • 1737 – The Marathas defeat the combined forces of the Mughal Empire, Rajputs of Jaipur, Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Awadh and Nawab of Bengal in the Battle of Bhopal.
  • 1777 – Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, is discovered by James Cook.

This island, part of the nation of Kiribati, has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world (388 km² or 150 mi². At least one of our readers has been fishing there. Here’s an aerial view:

  • 1814 – Representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States sign the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
  • 1818 – The first performance of “Silent Night” takes place in the church of St. Nikolaus in OberndorfAustria.

The music was by Franz Xaver Gruber, a local schoolteacher, with lyrics by Joseph Mohr, a priest

  • 1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy begins that night, wrapping up the following morning.
  • 1865 – Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby form The Ku Klux Klan.

Here’s the Anti-Defamation League’s list of currently active Klan chapters. They are a waning organization!

  • 1871 – The opera Aida premieres in Cairo, Egypt.
  • 1906 – Radio: Reginald Fessenden transmits the first radio broadcast; consisting of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
  • 1914 – World War I: The “Christmas truce” begins.

Yes, these did happen, with Brits and Germans fraternizing over the holidays; indeed, some of them even played soccer. Here’s a photo with the Wikipedia caption:

British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux–Rouge Banc Sector)
  • 1943 – World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is named Supreme Allied Commander for the Invasion of Normandy.
  • 1968 – Apollo program: The crew of Apollo 8 enters into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed ten lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures.
  • 1980 – Witnesses report the first of several sightings of unexplained lights near RAF Woodbridge, in Rendlesham ForestSuffolk, England, United Kingdom, an incident called “Britain’s Roswell“.

There are scientific explanations of these lights, involving stars, lighthouses, and falling stars, but we don’t know which are responsible (the lighthouse is a good candidate).

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1809 – Kit Carson, American general (d. 1868)
  • 1868 – Emanuel Lasker, German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher (d. 1941)

Lasker was World Chess Champion for 27 years. Here he is in Berlin in 1933, 12 years after he no longer reigned:

  • 1907 – I. F. Stone, American journalist and author (d. 1989)
  • 1922 – Ava Gardner, American actress (d. 1990)

Here’s the Gardner in the wonderful movie “Night of the Iguana” (1964), also starring Deborah Kerr (seen here) and Richard Burton. Gardner was 42 at the time.

George the Fourth wasn’t the real Patton (i.e., the WWII general George S. Patton, Jr.), but, like his dad he still became a major general in the U.S. Army. And by God, did he look like his dad!

Son:

Patton père:

Fauci turns 80 today!

  • 1962 – Kate Spade, American fashion designer (d. 2018)
  • 1960 – Carol Vorderman, English television host

I suspect that, as a stripling much taken by Vorderman’s brains and beauty, I wasn’t alone. I wonder if British adolescents shared my smitten-ness.  In 2014, Vorderman was named an ambassador to the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, and became an “honorary group captain”.

Those who expired on December 24 include:

  • 1524 – Vasco da Gama, Portuguese explorer and politician, Governor of Portuguese India (b. 1469)
  • 1873 – Johns Hopkins, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1795)
  • 1914 – John Muir, Scottish-American geologist, botanist, and author, founded Sierra Club (b. 1838)
  • 1994 – John Boswell, American historian, author, and academic (b. 1947)

John, know to us as “Jeb”, lived across the dorm hall from me sophomore year at William and Mary, and was already, as one known to have big brains, destined for great things. He went on to become a Yale professor specializing in religion and homosexuality (he was gay), made a big mark in academia, and, tragically, died of AIDS at only 47 (here’s his obituary in the New York Times). A photo:

  • 1997 – Toshiro Mifune, Chinese-Japanese actor and producer (b. 1920)

Here’s a montage of some of Mifune’s roles:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili questions scripture:

Hili: Is it true that in the beginning was a word?
A: Probably not.
Hili: I doubt it too.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy to prawda, że na początku było słowo?
Ja: Raczej nie.
Hili: Też tak myślę.

And in nearby Wloclawek, young Mietek thinks the Christmas festivities and decorations are celebrating him. Well, he can’t help it, for he’s a cat.

Mietek: Oy, and all this is for me?

In Polish: Ojej, to wszystko dla mnie?!

Little Kulka, who was just neutered, finally had her anti-licking jacket removed yesterday. She hated it, but now is free and bouncing around with joy. Here’s Paulina with Kulka before the jacket was removed:

From Facebook. Does Sir Patrick really knit and wear Santa jammies?

Also from Facebook. The termites are everywhere! (Jen Silverman was amazed that her post got half a million likes.)

From Facebook, and I hope this is a real photo, because that’s an awful big foot!

 

A tweet from reader Barry, who replaces Titania McGrath today:

I didn’t know that “essential workers” include liquor store clerks and bankers! Yes, this is unfair.

I’ve known about this for a while, and always wondered if it was painful for the mother:

I retweeted a tweet from Matthew, and of course I was right about the calendar:

Tweets from Matthew. 3 pennies per sprout! That’s a bargain—if you like that vile vegetable.

We saw a video of this the other day:

I’d enlarge this so you can see the complex shape of the spermatophore, which emerges at the end (presumably a female picks it up):

And an early Merry Christmas to you!

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 22, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the cruelest day: Tuesday, December 22, 2020. But cheer up: we have two vaccines now, it’s only three days until Christmas and the beginning of Coynezaa, most people will have a week’s break until the New Year, and most Americans will have a $600 stimulus check to defray those holiday expenses. It’s also National Date Nut Bread Day, which nobody eats any more, National Cookie Exchange Day (I got some but didn’t have any to exchange), and, in India, it’s National Mathematics Day.

News of the Day:

The big news for science buffs is the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn since the 13th century!  For many, like those in Chicago, it was too cloudy to see anything. But, And, as I’d hoped, a reader sent in photos. These are from Terry Platt, and you can make out Saturn’s rings in its shape! Terry’s caption is indented, and please click on the photos to enlarge them.

The weather is bad today, but I got some quite nice shots of Jupiter and Saturn last evening (20th). Here’s a moderately wide shot with a nice old oak tree framing the pair, plus a closer shot to show the disks of the planets with Jupiter’s moon Callisto a little up and left of Jupiter. Taken with a Nikon D7200 + telephoto lens.

But damn NBC News, anyway! They finished their final piece of the evening on the conjunction by asking whether that could have been the star of Bethlehem (was there even a conjunction at the purported time of Jesus’s birth?). They said astronomers don’t think so, but in these dark times we can always use a little added light. And then Harry smith said, “Behold” showed the conjunction behind a CROSS on top of a church. We can’t get rid of these Christian myths! To see this juxtaposition, go here and then go about 20 minutes in.

BEHOLD! (Thanks to NBC News for the image. . . )

There’s been a big cheating scandal at West Point: 73 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy were accused of cheating on a remotely-given calculus exam. Most admitted they did it:

After an investigation by an honors committee made up of trained cadets, two cases were dropped for lack of evidence and four were dropped because the cadets resigned, Ophardt said. Of the remaining 67 cases, 55 cadets have admitted cheating and have been enrolled in a six-month rehabilitation program focused on ethics. They will be on probation for the rest of their time at the academy. Three more cadets admitted cheating but weren’t eligible for the rehabilitation program.

The evening news characterized this by saying “the honor code is working well.” Yes, I suppose so since the miscreants admitted they cheated, but this is West Point, in the business of turning out military officers. Why weren’t the 55 booted out of the Academy?

Joe Biden got his first injection of the coronavirus vaccine yesterday—on live television. Here’s Joe’s Jab. He was a good boy and didn’t flinch or cry!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 319,762, an increase of about 2,000 from yesterday’s figure and roughly 1.4 deaths a minute. The world death toll is 1,710,967, an increase of about 9,900 over yesterday’s report and the equivalent of about 6.9 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 22 include:

  • 1807 – The Embargo Act, forbidding trade with all foreign countries, is passed by the U.S. Congress, at the urging of President Thomas Jefferson.
  • 1808 – Ludwig van Beethoven conducts and performs in concert at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, with the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto (performed by Beethoven himself) and Choral Fantasy (with Beethoven at the piano).
  • 1885 – Itō Hirobumi, a samurai, becomes the first Prime Minister of Japan.

Here’s Hirobumi, who was assassinated in 1909 by an advocate for Korean independence:

  • 1894 – The Dreyfus affair begins in France, when Alfred Dreyfus is wrongly convicted of treason.
  • 1944 – World War II: Battle of the Bulge: German troops demand the surrender of United States troops at Bastogne, Belgium, prompting the famous one word reply by General Anthony McAuliffe: “Nuts!”

As I’ve said before, when I was a teenager in Germany, with my father, an Army officer, stationed in Heidelberg he drove the family especially to Bastogne so he cold see where McAuliffe said “nuts”! He admired the man’s persistence!

This is being re-enacted now in the U.S., except the books are not by Mao but by Robin DiAngelo. And “re-education” courses are springing up in dozens of U.S. colleges.

  • 1984 – “Subway vigilante” Bernhard Goetz shoots four would-be muggers on a 2 express train in Manhattan section of New York, United States.

Goetz, a folk hero to many, served eight months in prison as well as probation for five years and also paid a $5,000 fine. A civil suit saddled him with $42 million dollars as well, but he couldn’t pay it, and declared bankruptcy.

His photo is below; as PopSugar reports, he’s in the same place but playing with squirrels. 

Goetz chose not to be a part of the Netflix docuseries, but a snippet at the end of the episode notes that as of 2017, he was still living in the same apartment on 14th Street as he was back in the 1980s. He has run for public office twice in recent years and currently spends his time advocating for legal marijuana and playing with squirrels. Trial by Media even mentions that Goetz still rides the New York City subways regularly.

  • 1989 – Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opens after nearly 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany.

Here’s a news clip of the re-opening. Freedom!

  • 1990 – Lech Wałęsa is elected President of Poland.
  • 2001 – Richard Reid attempts to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard American Airlines Flight 63.

Reid, shown below along with his explosive shoes, was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences plus 110 years with no possibility of parole. He’s also serving them in the Florence Supermax prison—the worst place to be incarcerated in America.  Have a look at his prison mates at the Wikipedia article on the prison.

  • 2010 – The repeal of the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy, the 17-year-old policy banning homosexuals serving openly in the United States military, is signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1639 – Jean Racine, French poet and playwright (d. 1699)
  • 1858 – Giacomo Puccini, Italian composer and educator (d. 1924)
  • 1912 – Lady Bird Johnson, American beautification activist; 38th First Lady of the United States (d. 2007)
  • 1945 – Diane Sawyer, American journalist

Here’s Sawyer with Nixon in 1972, when she was about 27. Sawyer worked at the Nixon White House, initially writing press releases and then working her way up to Staff Assistant to Nixon.

  • 1949 – Maurice Gibb, Manx-English singer-songwriter and producer (d. 2003)

Of the three Bee Gees and their brother Andy Gibb, only Barry Gibb (now “Sir Barry) is still alive. Robin (below), Maurice’s fraternal twin, is gone, and yet they were only a week older than I.

  • 1949 – Robin Gibb, Manx-English singer-songwriter and producer (d. 2012)
  • 1962 – Ralph Fiennes, English actor
  • 1970 – Ted Cruz, American lawyer and politician

Those who found Eternal Rest on December 22 include:

  • 1880 – George Eliot, English novelist and poet (b. 1819)
  • 1940 – Nathanael West, American author and screenwriter (b. 1903)
  • 1942 – Franz Boas, German-American anthropologist and linguist (b. 1858)
  • 1943 – Beatrix Potter, English children’s book writer and illustrator (b. 1866)

You can’t get better than this illustration from Potter. Tom Kitten AND ducks!

Tom Kitten, Moppet and Mittens with the Puddle-ducks
  • 1989 – Samuel Beckett, Irish author, poet, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)
  • 1995 – Butterfly McQueen, American actress and dancer (b. 1911)
  • 2014 – Joe Cocker, English singer-songwriter (b. 1944)
  • 2019 – Ram Dass, American spiritual teacher and author (b. 1931) [

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili mourns how technological progress has reduced the thrill of hunting.

A: There already is the first restaurant serving meat produced in a lab.
Hili: That is cruel.
In Polish:
Ja: Jest już pierwsza restauracja z mięsem produkowanym w laboratorium.
Hili: To okrutne.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek’s getting ready for Christmas:

Mietek: I will check whether this is edible.

In Polish: Sprawdzę, czy to jest jadalne.

A meme from Bruce:

From Nicole:

And, speaking of Jesus, this is from Jesus of the Day:

 

A tweet from Jez in the UK, who adds this:

I don’t know if the Thomas the Tank Engine books made it across to the US (Ringo Starr narrated the later popular TV adaptation for quite a while). Given that no trains, trucks, or planes can travel from the UK to France at the moment this tweet of the illustration from one of the original books is quite apt! And we haven’t even got started on the mess that will be Brexit…

Julia Galef on her favorite letter not just from Charles Darwin, but from any scientist. It shows Darwin’s graciousness in responding to critics. As to that critic’s claim that Darwin couldn’t show that the change that produced “macroevolution” was gradual, well, that’s true: Darwin didn’t have a fossil record worth speaking of. Now, though, we have direct fossil evidence of macroevolution: fish evolving into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles, reptiles into birds on one hand and mammals on the other, and so on.  As for Darwin being underrated for his intellectual honesty, I don’t agree: every Darwin scholar and maven knows about that virtue.

Matthew sent me the tweet, I explained it while retweeting it:

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up to hear these deer enjoying a hearty wallow in the mud:

The rescue ducks at Marsh Farm are being moved. Listen to them quack! And how they love their water!

I think the little specks are Jupiter’s moons, right?

Click on the photo to see the cat-eaten bit:

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:

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 19, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a Sabbath that Ceiling Cat made for all cats (mind you, cats weren’t made for the Sabbath): December 19, 2020. There are only 6 shopping days left until Coynezaa, which begins on Christmas Day.. It’s National Oatmeal Muffin Day, the kind of muffin you eat when you’re one of those who equates food and medicine. It’s also National Hard Candy Day, Holly Day, and Saint Nicholas Day, or “The Feast of Saint Nicholas”, in Eastern Orthodox countries.

News of the Day:

A few days ago, the Congress, in a rare show of bipartisanship between the House and Senate, seemed ready to pass a pandemic relief bill. Well, that fell apart yesterday, and both House and Senate passed a two-day extension of the deadline.  If nothing’s passed by Sunday night, the government shuts down.

One would expect a physician specializing in hospice and palliative care would have something useful to say about death, but don’t expect that from Dr. B. J. Miller’s piece in the New York Times, “What is death?”  Although Miller starts off all right trying to define death as a clinical phenomenon, he soon goes off the rails:

For revelation of the mysteries of an afterlife, or of the forces that kicked off this wondrous circus in the first place, we might look to religion. What is described above is plainly observable science. Yet science doesn’t do the question justice. It won’t tell us why,or what’s behind its laws. The body houses more than we can express; you are more than your body. Becoming a blade of grass is a sweetness that doesn’t compensate for all the heartache death connotes.

No, religion can pretend to know what happens to our “souls” (which we don’t have), but can’t tell us jack squat.  Miller goes on to try to make the best of death, which for most of us is something we don’t want. It’s not that bad!

We do have fuller ways of knowing. Who doubts that imagination and intuition and love hold power and capacity beyond what language can describe? You are a person with consciousness and emotions and ties. You live on in those you’ve touched, in hearts and minds. You affect people. Just remember those who’ve died before you. There’s your immortality. There, in you, they live. Maybe this force wanes over time, but it is never nothing.

Well, as Woody Allen said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.”

Our mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is in big trouble. In February, 2019, a dozen Chicago cops broke into the wrong house while executing a warrant. They cuffed and abused a naked woman (Anjanette Young, a social worker) who was completely innocent and told the cops forty times that they had the wrong address. There is video that completely corroborates Young’s claims. At first Hurhonor Lightfoot said she didn’t know about the case or the video until last week. In fact, she knew about the case for over a year, and says she “forgot.” Why didn’t she check before mouthing off? In the meantime, the city had stonewalled Young about giving her the video, finally handing it over but prohibiting its sharing. It’s now all over the news (see here, for instance). Young is going to get a big settlement, I’ll bet, but this could conceivably spell the end for Lightfoot as mayor. She’d done some good stuff, but is too authoritarian.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 313,740, a big increase of about 2,800 from yesterday’s figure, with deaths occurred at about 2 per minute. The world death toll is 1,683,309, a huge increase of about 12,800 over yesterday’s report—about 8.9 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 19 includes:

  • 1606 – The ships Susan ConstantGodspeed, and Discovery depart England carrying settlers who founded, at Jamestown, Virginia, the first of the thirteen colonies that became the United States.
  • 1777 – American Revolutionary War: George Washington’s Continental Army goes into winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

It was a rough winter. Ten soldiers died per day of starvation, disease, and cold. But Washington hung in there, one of the few men who stayed the whole time, and fixed things so the men left revitalized and ready to fight come Spring. The soldiers grew to love their general, but now his name is being removed from a high school in San Francisco.

Look at this beautiful car!

  • 1924 – German serial killer Fritz Haarmann is sentenced to death for a series of murders.

Haarmann, tried for killing 27 boys and young men. He was convicted and guillotined:

  • 1956 – Irish-born physician John Bodkin Adams is arrested in connection with the suspicious deaths of more than 160 patients. Eventually he is convicted only of minor charges.

Although Adams (below) may have killed 150 patients by injecting them with drugs, he got off pretty much scot-free, sustaining only a £240 fine for  forging prescriptions, making false statements on cremation forms, and violating the Dangerous Drugs Act. He eventually practiced medicine again, and died after a fall in 1983. Oy!

  • 1972 – Apollo program: The last manned lunar flight, Apollo 17, crewed by Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt, returns to Earth.
  • 1983 – The original FIFA World Cup trophy, the Jules Rimet Trophy, is stolen from the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

It had been stolen before, too, but found thanks to Pickles:

On 20 March 1966, four months before the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England, the trophy was stolen during a public exhibition at Westminster Central Hall.  It was found just seven days later wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a suburban garden hedge on Beulah Hill, Upper NorwoodSouth London, by a black and white mongrel dog named Pickles

Here’s Pickles, who got a silver medal for his find. His owner got £5,000 pounds, with which he bought a house:

Pickles
  • 1998 – President Bill Clinton is impeached by the United States House of Representatives, becoming the second President of the United States to be impeached.
  • 2001 – A record high barometric pressure of 1085.6 hPa (32.06 inHg) is recorded at Tosontsengel, KhövsgölMongolia.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1910 – Jean Genet, French novelist, playwright, and poet (d. 1986)
  • 1915 – Édith Piaf, French singer-songwriter and actress (d. 1963)

Here’s Piaf in 1960, toward the end of her career (she died of alcoholism at 47). This is her most famous song:

  • 1924 – Cicely Tyson, American actress
  • 1940 – Phil Ochs, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1976)
  • 1944 – Richard Leakey, Kenyan paleontologist and politician
  • 1963 – Jennifer Beals, American model and actress
  • 1972 – Alyssa Milano, American actress and television personality
  • 1980 – Jake Gyllenhaal, American actor and producer

Those who took up occupancy on a cloud on December 19 include:

Here’s the only undisputed likeness of Emily (and her sisters). Wikipedia caption: “The three Brontë sisters, in an 1834 painting by their brother Branwell Brontë. From left to right: Anne, Emily and Charlotte. (Branwell used to be between Emily and Charlotte, but subsequently painted himself out.)”  Branwell wasn’t such a great artist, but hey. . .  I’ve circled the author of Wuthering Heights.  Emily died of tuberculosis at thirty. 

  • 1915 – Alois Alzheimer, German psychiatrist and neuropathologist (b. 1864)
  • 1953 – Robert Andrews Millikan, American physicist and eugenicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868)
  • 1997 – Jimmy Rogers, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1924)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili gives a book review. Malgorzata’s explanation:

A few days ago Andrzej wrote a review of the newly published Polish translation of Richard Wrangham’s The Goodness Paradox, and Hili is commenting on the book.

Her take:

Hili: Wrangham misses the key role of cats in the domestication of humans.
A: Big cats or small cats?
Hili: Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about.
In Polish:
Hili: Wrangham pomija kluczową rolę kotów w udomowieniu człowieka.
Ja: Małych czy wielkich?
Hili: Nie udawaj, że nie wiesz o czym mówię.

And the newly-neutered Kulka is back on the beat, demanding fusses.

Caption: Morning greeting. Kulka believes that every morning has to start with a few minutes of intensive contact.

In Polish: Codziennne poranne powitanie. Kulka uważa, że ranek musi się zacząć od kilku minut intensywnego kontaktu.

And in Wloclawek, Mietek tells Elzbieta he needs a siesta:

Mietek: Time for an afternoon nap.

In Polish: Pora na popołudniową drzemkę.

From Charles: a clowder of cats that’s also a coven:

From Su:

From Jesus of the Day. The only proper reaction is “Oy, gewalt!”

From reader Barry, who is learning that treehoppers and planthoppers are the weirdest insects going:

Tweets from Matthew. Translation of Hebrew in this one: “Hurry to make the final arrangements before Shabbat” (Sabbath). Everything has to be done before sundown on Friday:

Here’s a heartwarmer:

I assume this painting is real, and if so the caption is sheer genius:

A nasty Jewish fowl. The Hebrew caption, translated by Google, reads: “Where it is forbidden to put a duck. They bite very hard.” But that’s a goose!

Two lovely videos of the same bobcat. Sound up.

A tweet showing the tweeter, presented in a quiz by his students:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 15, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a chilly Tuesday, December 15, 2020: National Lemon Cupcake Day as well as National Gingerbread Latte Day, a drink that, like anchovy pizza, has degraded the human palate. It’s also National Cupcake Day, International Tea Day, Zamenhof Day for the (International Esperanto Community), and Bill of Rights Day, celebrating the day in 1791 when Virginia ratified the first ten amendments to the Constitution, meeting the quorum that made them law. But it’s also Cat Herders’ Day, giving me the chance to show once again the very best commercial ever made (this was shown during a Superbowl):

It’s the ninth anniversary of the death of Christopher Hitchens, too (see below).

Wine of the day:  Yesterday I cooked myself a small strip steak (very rare, of course) and had it with rice,  fresh tomatoes and green peppers, washing it all down with this Coteaux du Languedoc. a little-known red wine that, like this bottle, can be excellent and not too expensive.  At ten years old, this one showed very well and, I expect, could improve for another few years.

News of the day:

Letter of the day: I awoke this morning to find this email from “Chaos G”, as well as several other emails of this ilk. You can’t win with science and religion, for this chowderhead tells me that everyone knew all along they were incompatible:

Hey Dumb Ass,

Just saw your article regarding war between science and Religion.  Of course, there is a war between the 2, there always has been.  Where has your dumb ass been?  You need to find something better to do…

Kvetch of the week: As the New Woke Times converges to Huffington Post, we see its editorial pages increasingly filled with personal “feels” like this ridiculous animation, floating the idea that the writer, longing mightily for the pre-covid times, nevertheless suggests that maybe our pandemic lockdown is the more desirable state. Oy! (click on screenshot). And get the bit in the title, “Also, I think I’m losing my mind.” That is ripped right from the pages of HuffPost.

Yesterday the Electoral College officially made Joe Biden the next President of the U.S., and Kamala Harris the next Vice-President. The electoral vote for Biden was, as I predicted before anyone else, 306, well over the 270 needed to win. Where is my kudos?

Will Trump now concede? In late November he said he’d leave office if Biden won the Electoral College vote, as did a lot of his advisors, but some Trump administration officials are now backing off. The Washington Post writes about one of them:

By Monday morning, [yesterday] White House senior adviser Stephen Miller suggested the challenges could continue until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“The only date in the Constitution is Jan. 20,” Miller told Fox News. “So we have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election.”

Right the wrong my furry tuchas! Trump is toast. But he keeps beating the drum, as he did yesterday:

The coronavirus vaccine has made its way across the country, and shots are already being administered. New York got the first one yesterday, and Illinois will see the jabs begin tomorrow. What’s sad is to think about all those people in the ICU, dying at a rate of one a minute, who can’t be helped as, elsewhere in the same hospitals, people are being immunized. Still, I tweeted this:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 301,006, an increase of about 1,700 from yesterday’s figure. America passed 300,000 total dead yesterday, and the deaths occurred at a rate of 1.2 per minute. The world death toll is 1,630,029, an increase of about 9,800 over yesterday’s report—about 6.8 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 15 includes:

This may be Sitting Bull, but there’s some controversy about the identity of the subject:

Here’s a video of the jubilation at the time:

Here’s the list of the highest-grossing films adjusted to 2019 dollars (from Wikipedia):

  • 1941 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: German troops murder over 15,000 Jews at Drobytsky Yar, a ravine southeast of the city of Kharkiv.
  • 1944 – World War II: a single-engine UC-64A Norseman aeroplane carrying United States Army Air Forces Major Glenn Miller is lost in a flight over the English Channel.
  • 1961 – Adolf Eichmann is sentenced to death after being found guilty by an Israeli court of 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of an outlawed organization.

Here’s the phony passport that Eichmann, under the name “Ricardo Klement”, entered Argentina in 1950. The Mossad, in a daring operation, nabbed him ten years later and brought him to Israel:

  • 1965 – Project Gemini: Gemini 6A, crewed by Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford, is launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. Four orbits later, it achieves the first space rendezvous, with Gemini 7.
  • 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association votes 13–0 to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders, the DSM-II.
  • 1978 – U.S. President Jimmy Carter announces that the United States will recognize the People’s Republic of China and sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
  • 1981 – A suicide car bombing targeting the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, levels the embassy and kills 61 people, including Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon. The attack is considered the first modern suicide bombing.
  • 2001 – The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000 spent to stabilize it, without fixing its famous lean.

It’s now supposed to be stable for another 300 years. The angle of lean is only 4 degrees, but it looks bigger, doesn’t it?

Notables born on this day include:

  • AD 37 – Nero, Roman emperor (d. 68)
  • 1859 – L. L. Zamenhof, Polish linguist and ophthalmologist, created Esperanto (d. 1917) [see above]
  • 1860 – Niels Ryberg Finsen, Faroese-Danish physician and educator, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1904
  • 1892 – J. Paul Getty, American-English businessman and art collector, founded Getty Oil (d. 1976)
  • 1916 – Maurice Wilkins, New Zealand-English physicist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2004)
  • 1919 – Max Yasgur, American dairy farmer and host of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair (d. 1973)

Here’s Yasgur with the debris of Woodstock:

Max and Miriam Yasgur on their land after the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. (Photo By Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
  • 1923 – Freeman Dyson, English-American physicist and mathematician (d. 2020)
  • 1981 – Michelle Dockery, English actress

Who doesn’t love Lady Mary?

Credit: Carnival Films

Those who entered oblivion on December 15 include:

Vermeer of course drew no cats, but he was one of the greatest painters of all time. Here’s “The Geographer” (1668-69):

  • 1683 – Izaak Walton, English author (b. 1593)
  • 1890 – Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota tribal chief (b. 1831)
  • 1943 – Fats Waller, American singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1904)
  • 1944 – Glenn Miller, American bandleader and composer (b. 1904)
  • 1958 – Wolfgang Pauli, Austrian-Swiss physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1900)
  • 1966 – Walt Disney, American animator, director, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded The Walt Disney Company (b. 1901)
  • 2009 – Oral Roberts, American evangelist, founded the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (b. 1918)
  • 2011 – Christopher Hitchens, English-American essayist, literary critic, and journalist (b. 1949)

This is my favorite Hitchens video, and you must watch it if you haven’t. It’s his 2006 defense of free speech at the University of Toronto’s Hart House Debating Club. The topic? “Be it resolved: Freedom of speech includes the freedom to hate.”

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili insults Andrzej:

Hili: People are ignoramuses.
A: That’s true, but why are you saying this?
Hili: Exactly: even you didn’t know this.
In Polish:
Hili: Ludzie są ignorantami.
Ja: To prawda, ale dlaczego to mówisz?
Hili: No właśnie, nawet tego nie wiesz.

And in nearby Wloclawek, teenager Mietek faces the week:

Mietek: A busy Monday.

In Polish: Pracowity poniedziałek

From Bruce. This is a most excellent meme, because I have this problem constantly. I finally put my spatula in a deeper drawer:

From Michael, some really, really bad ancient pictures of cats. When will they ever learn?

And a Christmas cat meme from Barb:

A tweet from Titania. Et tu, Hogarth? Hogarth??

From cesar. Why did the cat swat the horse?

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up for sure on this one, as their disputation is hilarious.

And another tweet from the same source:

like some of these names!

All right; now I have to go to Switzerland and take this ride:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

November 26, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Thanksgiving Day in America: Thursday, November 26, 2020, and National Cake Day. Here’s are some amazing cakes made by a tattoo artist:

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates the history Thanksgiving:

It’s also Unthanksgiving Day, also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, described as “a yearly event that takes place on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Coinciding with the National Day of Mourning in Massachusetts and a counter-celebration to Thanksgiving Day, Unthanksgiving Day honors indigenous people and promotes their rights. It commemorates the survival of indigenous people after the European colonization of the Americas and honors their resistance through the centuries.” Finally, it’s Turkey-Free Thanksgiving, and, truth be told, turkey is an awfully bland dish. Give me a ham, a pork roast, or roast beef! Better yet, rib tips!!!

News of the Day:

Well, we all know about this pardon; how many other undeserved and self-serving pardons will we see before January 20?

More on the shameful new Supreme Court decision on religion later today.

Diego Maradona died; the soccer legend was only 60 years old, but suffered a heart attack (he had abused cocaine earlier in his life, had other health problems, and was overweight). He was a very great player, and two of his goals (below) were notable—one “infamous”, as the video below notes, but the other deservedly famous. Both were scored in the same game: the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup, when England played Argentina. The “hand of God” goal was clearly an illegal handball

. . . and a memorial story (sound up):

For a video of Maradona training in the mud (and doing some incredible dribbling and shots), go to this Facebook video (h/t: Jez)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 262,137,  a big increase of about 2,300 from yesterday’s figure. Yesterday 1.6 Americans died every minute from the virus. The world death toll is 1,428,873, a big increase of about 12,100 over yesterday’s report. About 8.3 inhabitants of this planet died every minute yesterday. 

Stuff that happened on November 26 includes:

  • 1778 – In the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook becomes the first European to visit Maui.
  • 1789 – A national Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States as proclaimed by President George Washington at the request of Congress.
  • 1863 – United States President Abraham Lincoln proclaims November 26 as a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated annually on the final Thursday of November. Following the Franksgiving controversy from 1939 to 1941, it has been observed on the fourth Thursday in 1942 and subsequent years.
  • 1922 – Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years.

Here’s a view of the tomb when it was opened in 1922 (it had been plundered at least twice previously):

Harry Burton, View of tomb interior, November 1922 (Tutankhamun Archive, Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)
  • 1942 – Casablanca, the movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, premieres in New York City.

This needs no introduction:

  • 1950 – Korean War: Troops from the People’s Republic of China launch a massive counterattack in North Korea against South Korean and United Nations forces (Battle of the Ch’ongch’on River and Battle of Chosin Reservoir), ending any hopes of a quick end to the conflict.

Here’s an amazing fact:

  • 2003 – The Concorde makes its final flight, over Bristol, England.
  • 2004 – The last Poʻouli (Black-faced honeycreeper) dies of avian malaria in the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Olinda, Hawaii, before it could breed, making the species in all probability extinct.

Here’s one that was still alive:

  • 2008 – Mumbai attacks, a series of terrorist attacks killing approximately 166 citizens by 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan based extremist Islamist terrorist organisation, and the ship, Queen Elizabeth 2 is out of service, and docks in Dubai.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1607 – John Harvard, English minister and philanthropist (d. 1638)
  • 1853 – Bat Masterson, American police officer and journalist (d. 1921)
  • 1894 – Norbert Wiener, American-Swedish mathematician and philosopher (d. 1964)
  • 1907 – Ruth Patrick, American botanist (d. 2013)
  • 1933 – Robert Goulet, American-Canadian singer and actor (d. 2007)
  • 1943 – Marilynne Robinson, American novelist and essayist
  • 1954 – Roz Chast, American cartoonist

Now that the cartoons in the New Woker are going downhill, Roz Chast’s work remains a bright light. Here’s one of her pandemic cartoons:

Those who passed away on November 26 include:

  • 1504 – Isabella I, queen of Castile and León (b. 1451)
  • 1883 – Sojourner Truth, American activist (b. 1797)\

Her real name was  Isabella “Belle” Baumfree, she lived to be 86, and was a famous abolitionists and campaigner for women’s rights. Here she is in around 1870:

 

  • 1956 – Tommy Dorsey, American trombonist, trumpet player, and composer (b. 1905)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Hili dialogue is enigmatic. When I asked Malgorzata what it means, she replied, “This dialogue is not easy to explain and it can have many different interpretations, depending on the reader. One of them is that, maybe, it’s better to remain ignorant about how politics and sausages are made.”

Hili: Is it possible to understand all that?
A: No.
Hili, Maybe, it’s just as well.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy można to wszystko zrozumieć?
Ja: Nie.
Hili: Może to i lepiej.

In nearby Wloclawek, teenager Mietek has a question:

Mietek: What are you doing over there?

In Polish: Co tam porabiacie?

From Peter N., who saw this license plate on a car in front of a grocery store:

From Stash Krod:

From The Cat House on the Kings:

From reader Barry, a comparison between creationism and our “President”:

From Matthew. Here’s the most wonderful thread I’ve seen on Twitter in a long time: ANIMALS WHO ATE TOO MUCH!

DUCKLING!  This is the best one, right up there with the pastry-filled possum:

One of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions:

And other. As Matthew says in all caps: “NOTHING GROWS OR SHRINKS OR MOVES ITS POSITION HERE. IT’S ALL ILLUSORY”

And variants:

 

 

Saturday: Hili dialogue

November 14, 2020 • 6:30 am

Greet the Sabbath and get your shabbas goy in: it’s Saturday, November 14, 2020: both Pickle Appreciation Day and National Guacamole Day. It’s also National American Teddy Bear Day, World Diabetes Day, and Operating Room Nurse Day (a shout-out to those who helped in my recent hernia operation, including shaving my nether parts).

Today the Google Doodle (click on screenshot) goes to an animation celebrating the life of Maria Tallchief (1925-2011), a native American on one side (her father was from the Osage Nation), often considered America’s first star prima ballerina. It was on November 14, 1942, that Tallchief set out for New York City on her voyage to the Big Time. She danced first for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and then, after it was founded, for the New York City Ballet. Google has produced a nice video about her and the making of the Doodle.

News of the Day:

First, the good news. CNN reports an amazing hole in one by John Rahm at the Master’s. Rahm skipped the ball over the water, and it then took a tortuous course into the hole (see video below). When I wondered why he skipped the ball over the water, I found out that this was a practice round, and it’s a tradition to water-skip a ball at hole 16 during practice. (That sort of takes the shine off the achievement.)

Cloned kitten!: A Chinese man, bereft after the death of his cat “Garlic,” paid $35,000 to have a somatic cell from the late cat put into an egg, the egg implanted into a surrogate mother cat, and, mirabile dictu, they produced a seemingly normal kitten that was a genetic clone of Garlic:  (we shall see if it grows up okay). Although this is done fairly regularly with d*gs, it’s not done so often with cats. Meet Garlic 2.0 and its predecessor (there already appear to be some pattern differences):

Photo: Sinogene

In other news, Franco is still dead and Trump still hasn’t conceded the election. The President-Eject addressed reporters yesterday, but spoke mainly about the pandemic and the vaccine. He didn’t mention the election except very briefly (implying that it’s still undecided). And his team just lost two bids for election recounts, one (actually six separate suits) in Pennsylvania and the other in Michigan, where a judge proclaimed that Team Trump’s allegations of election fraud were unevidenced.

Here’s the NYT’s graph of newly reported Covid cases over time;  the 163,402 new cases reported on Thursday set a record.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 244,250, a big increase of about 1,400 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,311,047, a big increase of about 10,200 over yesterday’s report.

Stuff that happened on November 14 includes:

The source was of the “Blue Nile”, and comprised three small springs in the Ethiopian town of Gish Abay.

The first American edition will cost you a cool $65,000:

  • 1886 – Friedrich Soennecken first developed the hole puncher, a type of office tool capable of punching small holes in paper.
  • 1889 – Pioneering female journalist Nellie Bly (aka Elizabeth Cochrane) begins a successful attempt to travel around the world in less than 80 days. She completes the trip in 72 days.

Bly’s real name was Elizabeth Jane Cochran; here’s a photo from Wikipedia labeled, “A publicity photograph taken by the New York World newspaper to promote Bly’s around-the-world voyage.”

Bridges’ attending the school, where of course she was met with much hatred and bigotry (and had to be escorted by U.S. Marshals), was the subject of Norman Rockwell’s famous 1964 painting The Problem We All Live WithDuring his presidency, Obama had the painting hung outside the Oval Office, despite the presence of the n-word on the wall below:

  • 1967 – American physicist Theodore Maiman is given a patent for his ruby laser systems, the world’s first laser.
  • 1995 – A budget standoff between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress forces the federal government to temporarily close national parks and museums and to run most government offices with skeleton staffs.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1797 – Charles Lyell, Scottish geologist and lawyer (d. 1875)
  • 1840 – Claude Monet, French painter (d. 1926)

Here’s Monet’s “Cat Sleeping on Bed” (1865):

The first Prime Minister of India, Nehru served for 18 years until his death. Here’s a photo of him with his daughter Indira (the first woman Prime Minister of India, later assassinated by her guards), and his grandsons Rajiv (assassinated in a separate incident), and Sanjay (killed in a plane crash).

Banting, who got the prize at 32 with James Macleod for the discovery of insulin, is still the youngest winner in Physiology or Medicine. He’s shown below (right) with his colleague Charles Best, co-discoverer who was snubbed at Prize time (Banting split his prize money with Best).

  • 1900 – Aaron Copland, American composer, conductor, and educator (d. 1990
  • 1906 – Louise Brooks, American actress and dancer (d. 1985)
  • 1954 – Condoleezza Rice, American political scientist, academic, and politician, 66th United States Secretary of State

Those who bought the farm on November 14 include:

  • 1716 – Gottfried Leibniz, German mathematician and philosopher (b. 1646)
  • 1915 – Booker T. Washington, American educator, essayist and historian (b. 1856)
  • 1997 – Eddie Arcaro, American jockey and sportscaster (b. 1916)
  • 2016 – Gwen Ifill, American television journalist (b. 1955)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili begins her annual cold-weather kvetching. November is a grim month, weatherwise, in Dobrzyn:

Hili: And once again, Autumn has left all this litter.
A: There is nothing to it, we’ll have to rake it all up before Winter.
In Polish:
Hili: I znów jesień naśmieciła.
Ja: Trudno, trzeba to będzie przed zimą zgrabić.

In nearby Włocławek, Mietek, no longer a tiny kitten, muses. The title is “An Autumn Reverie”:

In Polish: Jesienna zaduma

From Stash Krod:

From Gregory James:

From Su:

Just to remind you that Iran still oppresses everyone, but especially women. Sound up to hear the illegal singing.

Via Simon:

From reader Ken who says, “If this courageous whistleblower isn’t proof positive of massive voting fraud, I dunno what is.” Unbelievable!

Tweets from Matthew. First, a lovely flying fox. Don’t you just want to rub its tummy?

Thomas, the ship’s cat, snug in his hammock:

A musical and educational video. Be sure to turn the sound up:

Here’s the channel-billed cuckoo from Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea: the largest brood parasite in the world:

If you enlarge the drawing, you might be able to see the fish swimming to the left. There’s only one.

 

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

November 9, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Monday, November 9, 2020: National Greek Yogurt Day, another day of cultural appropriation. It’s also National Scrapple Day, celebrating an indigenous American foodstuff, created by the Amish. I happen to like the stuff: it’s the northern equivalent of grits.  Here it is (Wikipedia notes that it’s ” a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then pan-fried before serving.”   It’s better than it sounds!

Finally, it’s World Freedom Day, curiously, an American holiday, but one celebrating the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 (see below).

News of the Day

Well, Trump is still not conceding the election, and if you expect him to I think you’ll be disappointed. Indeed, he’s still ranting on Twitter about the “stolen election”. Only two states remain to be called: North Carolina, which will go for Trump, and Georgia, where Biden is leading by about 10,000 votes out of five million.

Look at this:

Man, Philly has become a lot more populous since the last time I looked! The thing is, even if Trump wins all of his legal challenges, he still won’t get enough votes to win the election. It’s time for him to call it quits and go play gold.

If you want a very short precis of Biden’s policies on stuff like the pandemic, the economy, taxes, and healthcare, the New Woke Times has a useful summary. 

A few Republicans are urging Trump to concede (ex-President W. even called Biden to congratulate him), but most are keeping mum or even urging Trump to keep up his futile fight.

Meanwhile, Uncle Joe and Kamala have prepared the executive transition website, which you can see here.

Alex Trebek, the beloved host of the quiz show Jeopardy, died yesterday at 80. He’d been terminally ill with pancreatic cancer for a while, but taped his show right up to the end.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 238,031, an increase of about 500 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,263,1111, an increase of about 5,700 over yesterday’s report.

Stuff that happened on November 9 includes:

  • 1620 – Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower sight land at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  • 1851 – Kentucky marshals abduct abolitionist minister Calvin Fairbank from Jeffersonville, Indiana, and take him to Kentucky to stand trial for helping a slave escape.

Fairbank served 19 years in prison for helping slaves escape via the Underground Railroad.

  • 1906 – Theodore Roosevelt is the first sitting President of the United States to make an official trip outside the country. He did so to inspect progress on the Panama Canal.
  • 1907 – The Cullinan Diamond is presented to King Edward VII on his birthday.

What a present! The original diamond, the largest ever found at that time, weighed 3,106 carats (nearly a pound and a half), and was cut into about 100 smaller stones. Nine of the largest were given to the British Royal family. The pictures below show the whole rough diamond, Dutch cutter Joseph Asscher cleaving it in one mighty blow, and some of the royal geegaws containing bits of the Cullinan:

 

  • 1913 – The Great Lakes Storm of 1913, the most destructive natural disaster ever to hit the lakes, reaches its greatest intensity after beginning two days earlier. The storm destroys 19 ships and kills more than 250 people.
  • 1918 – Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany abdicates after the German Revolution, and Germany is proclaimed a Republic.
  • 1923 – In Munich, police and government troops crush the Nazi Beer Hall Putsch.
  • 1938 – The Nazi German diplomat Ernst vom Rath dies from gunshot wounds by Herschel Grynszpan, an act which the Nazis used as an excuse to instigate the 1938 national pogrom, also known as Kristallnacht.
  • 1985 – Garry Kasparov, 22, of the Soviet Union becomes the youngest World Chess Champion by beating fellow Soviet Anatoly Karpov.
  • 1989 – Cold War: Fall of the Berlin WallEast Germany opens checkpoints in the Berlin Wall, allowing its citizens to travel to West Berlin.

The opening of the Wall on the evening of this day in 1989 was actually a mistake—a mis-announcement by an East German official. But it was too late: East Berliners poured through the wall to West Berlin. This short documentary tells the tale:

  • 1998 – Capital punishment in the United Kingdom, already abolished for murder, is completely abolished for all remaining capital offences.
  • 2004 – Firefox 1.0 is released.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1818 – Ivan Turgenev, Russian author and playwright (d. 1883)
  • 1914 – Hedy Lamarr, Austrian-American actress and inventor (d. 2000)
  • 1918 – Spiro Agnew, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 39th Vice President of the United States (d. 1996)
  • 1922 – Dorothy Dandridge, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 1965)

Dandridge was the first black woman nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, for her performance in Carmen Jones (1954). Here’s a clip from the movie; you might recognize her co-star Harry Belafonte. Dandridge had a rough life, and died, probably of suicide, at 42.

Frank was a great street photographer. Here’s one of his famous photos, “Streetcar, New Orleans, 1955,” showing a segregated trolley:

 

  • 1928 – Anne Sexton, American poet and academic (d. 1974)
  • 1934 – Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist (d. 1996)
  • 1936 – Mary Travers, American singer-songwriter (d. 2009)

Those who found eternal rest on November 9 include:

Here’s are photos I took ten years ago of Thomas’s house and his grave in Laugharne, Wales:

  • 1970 – Charles de Gaulle, French general and politician, 18th President of France (b. 1890)
  • 2003 – Art Carney, American actor and comedian (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili once again proves that she needs to always be right.

Hili: Admit that I was right.
A: What about?
Hili: About everything.
In Polish:
Hili: Przyznaj, że miałam rację.
Ja: W jakiej sprawie?
Hili: We wszystkich sprawach.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek, a long way from kittenhood, recounts his odyssey. About a year ago he was a very sick stray kitten, not expected to live. Elzbieta and Andrzej the Second took him in, got him to the vet, and now look at the moggy!

Mietek:  And a year went by… or how I changed from the sick stray into a sybarite.
In Polish: I tak minął rok…czyli jak z chorego znajdka zamieniłem się w sybarytę.

From Jesus of the Day. Doesn’t anybody know what a Pez is any more?

Also from Jesus of the Day: God’s recipe for cats:

From Charles, a meme of futile hope:

Two “museum” cats: on from the Colosseum and an ancient Egyptian cat ring.

Interspecies love, one of Grania’s favorite themes:

From Barry: art imitates life:

From Peter. You probably heard about how Team Trump scheduled a press conference at the “Four Seasons”, thinking it was a hotel. It wasn’t.

Donald Trump’s increasingly desperate bid to hang on to the White House crossed into abject farce on Saturday, after his campaign staged a purportedly major press conference at a Philadelphia landscaping business situated between a crematorium and sex shop.

On Saturday morning, as Trump played golf and continued to baselessly accuse the Democrats of stealing the election for Joe Biden, the president announced, in a tweet that was subsequently deleted, a “big press conference” at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia.

Trump quickly altered his statement, revealing that the press conference venue was not a Four Seasons hotel, but Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a suburban business between a crematorium and an adult book store on the outer edges of the city.

The tweet:

Tweets from Matthew. Before we forget The Nightmare that Was Trump, have a gander at this: it was real!

Tenrecs, weird mammals that are endemic to Madagascar, are often very cute. And they occupy their own familY:

A beautiful video of a beautiful euglossine bee:

Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

October 11, 2020 • 6:30 am

Happy Cat Sabbath: It’s Ceiling Cat’s Day, October 11, 2020: National Sausage Pizza Day, a comestible that clearly isn’t kosher. It’s also Southern Food Heritage Day, World Obesity Day, and Kraken Day, described this way:

Kraken Day, also known as Myths and Legends Day, is part of International Cephalopod Awareness Days, or Cephalopod Awareness Week, which takes place from October 8-12 each year.

Finally, in the U.S. it’s International Day of the Girl ChildInternational Newspaper Carrier Day (how many readers delivered papers?), and National Coming Out Day. 

News of the Day:

This happened yesterday (the CNN headline was “Trump delivers dark and divisive speech in first major appearance since Covid diagnosis“):

People wore masks, though the first thing Il Duce did when he appeared was to publicly peel off his mask, a clear signal; but there was no social distancing. Trump’s doctor (I don’t trust him) says he’s cleared to interact with people and is “no longer a transmission risk”, but still won’t say if he’s tested negative for the virus. And that surely means that he hasn’t tested negative.

The Washington Post reports that an after-midnight military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, featured the largest liquid-fueled, road-mobile nuclear missile anyone’s ever seen. Apparently it can carry several nuclear warheads that can be delivered inter-continentally, but the Great Leader says that it’s only for deterrence.  Here’s a photo, but I always wonder how experts can tell these are real missiles rather than dummies:

(from WaPo): This image made from video broadcast by North Korea’s KRT shows a military parade with what appears to be a possible new intercontinental ballistic missile at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. (KRT via AP)

A strident atheist proclaims, “I’m ready for an atheist president”—in Cosmopolitan, of all places! (h/t Barry) An excerpt:

We may think of ourselves as “one nation, under God” (that lil phrase was only added to our pledge of allegiance in 1954, btw), but right now, nothing about our nation is feeling whole, one. Our insistence on religion as a unifying American principle feels just as outdated and illusory as the notion of civility in the White House. And when politicians wield their faith as a means to convince voters that they’re “good,” it strikes me as downright condescending.

Good news! LiveScience reports that, after Tasmanian devils disappeared from the Australian continent about 3,500 years ago, probably outcompeted by dingos, they’re back on the mainland again (see also National Geographic).

Aussie Ark, a wildlife nonprofit in Australia, has been breeding and studying Tasmanian devils for more than a decade, with the goal of eventually reintroducing devils into the wild once conditions were sustainable for their survival, according to the statement. For the recent release, Aussie Ark partnered with GWC and WildArk, another wildlife conservation nonprofit; they released 11 Tasmanian devils on Sept. 10. (h/t Sue)

The wild devils in Tasmania have been hit hard by a contagious face cancer, transmitted by bites from other devils, but the released population on the mainland is cancer-free, so there’s no chance that an expanded population will be afflicted by the disease. You go, o lovely fierce marsupials!

Tasmanian Devil (from Aussie Ark via Nat. Geog.)

The New York Times has a figure and a list of coronavirus cases in American colleges and universities. Right now the total is more than 178,000 cases at 1400+ colleges. Ohio State seems to hold the record, with 3,051 reported cases, but it has a huge enrollment—66,400 or so. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is only ten cases behind Ohio State (enrollment: 43,820), but clearly has a higher infection rate. The University of Chicago is on the low side, with 79 reported cases (enrollment: 14,467 counting grad students), and I hope it stays that way.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 214,184, an increase of about 600 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll remains at “1.0 million +”, with 4,646 deaths reported yesterday.

Stuff that happened on October 11 includes:

  • 1531 – Huldrych Zwingli is killed in battle with the Roman Catholic cantons of Switzerland.
  • 1767 – Surveying for the Mason–Dixon line separating Maryland from Pennsylvania is completed.

Here’s the Mason-Dixon line [dark red] from the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Surveyed to resolve a border dispute, it later became the informal line of demarcation between slave states in the South and free states in the North.

  • 1852 – The University of Sydney, Australia’s oldest university, is inaugurated in Sydney.
  • 1906 – San Francisco sparks a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Japan by ordering segregated schools for Japanese students.
  • 1954 – In accord with the 1954 Geneva Conference, French troops complete their withdrawal from North Vietnam.
  • 1962 – The Second Vatican Council becomes the first ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church in 92 years.
  • 1968 – NASA launches Apollo 7, the first successful manned Apollo mission.
  • 1976 – George Washington is posthumously promoted to the grade of General of the Armies.

That took long enough, and what was accomplished by it?

  • 1984 – Aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan becomes the first American woman to perform a space walk.

Here’s an short interview with Sullivan that shows scenes from her space walk (trigger warning: d*g!)

  • 1991 – Prof. Anita Hill delivers her televised testimony concerning sexual harassment during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination.

Hill, now 64, teaches at Brandeis University and a works as a lawyer with the Civil Rights and Employment Practice group of the plaintiffs’ law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. And of course we all remember the tense standoff between her, Clarence Thomas, and the Senate.  Here’s Joe Biden, who gave Hill a hard time during the hearings, asking her to say “Long Dong Silver”. It didn’t matter, but I did and do believe that Hill was telling the truth.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1844 – Henry J. Heinz, American businessman, founded the H. J. Heinz Company (d. 1919)
  • 1918 – Jerome Robbins, American director, producer, and choreographer (d. 1998)
  • 1925 – Elmore Leonard, American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter (d. 2013)
  • 1937 – Bobby Charlton, English footballer and manager

There’s a good FIFA  video about Charlton, who played for Manchester United most of his career. You can see it on Youtube by clicking on the screenshot below (I can’t embed the video; it’s FIFA!):

  • 1946 – Daryl Hall, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer
  • 1968 – Jane Krakowski, American actress and singer

Those who met their Just Reward on October 11 include:

  • 1779 – Casimir Pulaski, Polish-American general (b. 1745)
  • 1809 – Meriwether Lewis, American captain, explorer, and politician, 2nd Governor of Louisiana Territory (b. 1774)
  • 1940 – Vito Volterra, Italian mathematician and physicist (b. 1860)
  • 1961 – Chico Marx, American comedian (b. 1887)
  • 1963 – Jean Cocteau, French author, poet, and playwright (b. 1889)
  • 1965 – Dorothea Lange, American photographer and journalist (b. 1895)

Lange became well known for her photographs of people affected by the Great Depression, taken for the Farm Security Administration . Here’s one of them:

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili likes to be admired, but not out in the open, where there may be d*gs. Here she is down by the Vistula:

Hili: Open spaces make me anxious.
A: Why?
Hili: Everybody can see me
In Polish:
Hili: Otwarte przestrzenie budzą niepokój.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Wszyscy mnie widzą.

In nerby Wloclawek, Mietek the kitten is no longer a kitten. He’s an adult cat, and showing all the signs of it.

Mietek: What do you mean that I had dinner already?!!!

In Polish: Jak to, jadłem już kolację?!!!

A Halloween meme from Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day; time to rectify the deficit of penguins in STEM:

And speaking once again about flies (I have to hand it to Pence—he’s made flies great again!), here’s a cat/fly meme from The Cat House on the Kings:

From Titania. This statement might sound ridiculous, but in fact it is the sentiment of some of the Woke:

I’m highlighting the second tweet below (I can’t figure out how to embed a single tweet in a thread). It shows Trump making another ridiculous statement (at the end). I guess he hasn’t heard of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the first video also shows one of his unhinged moments.

A tweet from Barry. Notice how the beasts become bipedal before the hit. As Barry says, “That’s gotta hurt!”, but I’m not so sure:

From Simon, the first animation I’ve seen from The Lincoln Project. Sound up. A “Walk of Shame” usually refers to a college woman sneaking back to her dorm or sorority house after spending a night with a guy, wearing the same clothes she wore the previous evening.

A lovely carving by a talented carver:

This is the most enlightened society ever:

LOL, a climbing frame:

More than one scholar has written me in the past week saying I was right about denying that Arab scholars anticipated Darwin’s theory of evolution hundreds of years before The Origin. And here’s another one.