Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 24, 2022 • 6:45 am

It’s positively tropical in Chicago today: Here’s the temperature in Fahrenheit, which is -17° C. With the wind, the temperature equivalent is -24° F, or -31° C.  The flight out of Chicago have largely been canceled or delayed, but what do I care? I ain’t going nowhere.

Welcome to a special Christmas Eve CatSaturday, December 24, 2022: National Eggnog Day. I cannot fathom why anybody drinks this stuff, for I’ve never had one I could stomach. But to each their own. . .

Here’s a guy who drank a GALLON of eggnog. It made him very ill.

It’s also Last-Minute Shopper’s Day (who is the one person implied by the apostrophe?), as well as Christmas Eve and its related observances: Aðfangadagskvöld, the day when the 13th and the last Yule Lad arrives to towns. (Iceland) Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian Americans), Juleaften (Denmark)/Julaften (Norway)/Julafton (Sweden) Nittel Nacht (certain Orthodox Jewish denominations), Nochebuena (Spain and Spanish-speaking countries), the Declaration of Christmas Peace (Old Great Square of Turku, Finland’s official Christmas City), and Wigilia (Poland).

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 24 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The NYT has a quiz on whether which of 26 “problematic” terms you’d use (terms like “master bedroom” or “chestfeeding”). Take the quiz and then scroll down the article to see how you compare with other Americans. It turns out that Americans are far less fascistic about language than I supposed, once again giving us heart that wokeness is not as widespread as we think.

*The House’s January 6 panel just issued its final report, which I can’t be arsed to read, but it pins the lion’s share of the blame on the Orange Man. Just in time, too: another couple of weeks and there would be no committee:

Declaring that the central cause of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was “one man,” the House committee investigating the assault delivered its final report on Thursday, describing in extensive detail how former President Donald J. Trump had carried out what it called “a multipart plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election” and offering recommendations for steps to assure nothing like it could happen again.

It revealed new evidence about Mr. Trump’s conduct, and recommended that Congress consider whether to bar Mr. Trump and his allies from holding office in the future under the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists.

“The central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed,” the report said. “None of the events of Jan. 6 would have happened without him.”

The release of the full report was the culmination of the panel’s 18-month inquiry and came three days after the committee voted to formally accuse Mr. Trump of inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an act of Congress and one other federal crime as it referred him to the Justice Department for potential prosecution. While the referrals do not compel federal prosecutors to take any action, they sent a powerful signal that a select committee of Congress believes the former president committed crimes.

The link above will take you to the full report, which is 814 pages long.  I wasn’t aware that Congress could in fact bar Trump from another run for the Presidency, but the vote for that won’t go given that the next Congress will have a Republican-majority House, and unless there are Republicans willing to disenfranchise Trump as an insurrectionist, fuggedaboudit.

*The Washington Post has a list of 7 key findings of the report plus one list of issues unresolved.  Here are two:

One of the most striking new revelations is a text message from a Trump aide, Robert Gabriel. At 2:49 p.m., as the Capitol was under siege, Gabriel texted, “Potus im sure is loving this.”

The text builds upon previously known evidence.

Shortly after Jan. 6, 2021, and amid Trump’s impeachment, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) relayed that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had said Trump told McCarthy during the riot, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

White House aide Sarah Matthews has said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told her that Trump resisted calling on the rioters to be “peaceful” in a tweet. (In texts from the time and in later testimony to the committee, Trump aide Hope Hicks also said that, before Jan. 6, both she and White House lawyer Eric Herschmann called for Trump to preemptively urge peacefulness, but that Trump “refused.”)

White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has also testified that, amid a frantic effort to get Trump to act, she overheard chief of staff Mark Meadows telling White House counsel Pat Cipollone, “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.”


We’ve known that Trump and his allies pressured lawmakers and officials far and wide to help overturn the election results in key states. But the report lays out the vast scale of this effort.

It says, “President Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 apparent acts of public or private outreach, pressure, or condemnation, targeting either State legislators or State or local election administrators, to overturn State election results.”

What qualifies as “targeting” an official is, of course, subjective. But several officials indicate they felt the pressure.

*But there’s good news today, too! Reader Brian sent me a link to a BBC article that reports a swell advance in genetics that will prevent the deaths of millions of baby roosters: animals usually ground up alive when young because what the industry wants is chickens. 

Israeli researchers say they have developed gene-edited hens that lay eggs from which only female chicks hatch.

The breakthrough could prevent the slaughter of billions of male chickens each year, which are culled because they don’t lay eggs.

The female chicks, and the eggs they lay when they mature, have no trace of the original genetic alteration

Animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming, has backed the research.

Dr Yuval Cinnamon from the Volcani institute near Tel Aviv, who is the project’s chief scientist, told BBC News that the development of what he calls the ”Golda hen” will have a huge impact on animal welfare in the poultry industry.

“I am very happy that we have developed a system that I think can truly revolutionise the industry, first of all for the benefit of the chickens but also for all of us, because this is an issue that affects every person on the planet,” he said.

The scientists have gene edited DNA into the Golda hens that can stop the development of any male embryos in eggs that they lay. The DNA is activated when the eggs are exposed to blue light for several hours.

Female chick embryos are unaffected by the blue light and develop normally. The chicks have no additional genetic material inside them nor do the eggs they lay, according to Dr Cinnamon.

The way they do this is clever:  since female chickens are ZW and males ZZ (in birds ,the heterogametic sex is female), they gene-edited the Z chromosome in a way that if blue light is shown on the embryo, it aborts. You then cross a ZZ male that has no modified Zs with a WZ* female with the modified Z.  The offspring will be either Z*Z males or WZ females. Blue light shined on the eggs kill the males, leaving only the WZ females, which are female and don’t have the genetically modified Z, since they get their Z from the fathers. Ergo, the chickens are not genetically modified so that the pusillanious people afraid of GMO foods can eat the chicken with impunity. And they don’t have to grind up newborn roosters, as they just don’t get born.

*The NYT is still touting religious fiction in its op-ed column, this time a piece called “Why Jesus loved friendship,” by Peter Wehner, a conservative whom Wikipedia describes as “He is a vice president and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank, and a fellow at the Trinity Forum, a nonprofit Christian organization.” Here’s what he tells us, all of course based on what the New Testament says:

The humanity of Jesus manifests itself in his moments of grief, agony, anger, frustration, joy and compassion. But one particular aspect of that humanity that has long intrigued me is his professed friendship with the rest of us.

In the New Testament, this point is made emphatically in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John. The context is Jesus’ discourse with his disciples, in which he tells them that as God the father has loved him, so he loves them. His command to his disciples is that they love one another. Jesus then says this: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you.”

. . .The concept of a vulnerable God, meek and lowly in heart, was almost unfathomable to many at the time, and for many people it still is. But a vulnerable God is an essential part of the Christian story. We see it in Jesus’ life, from his birth in a manger to his weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus to the anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was betrayed on the night before his crucifixion. Jesus was accompanied by three of his closest friends — Peter, John and James — whom he asked to stay awake and pray with him. (They failed, with Jesus finding them sleeping, “exhausted from sorrow.”)

Renée Notkin, a co-pastor of Union Church in Seattle, in explaining the friendship verses in John, told me that Jesus’ words “Love one another as I have loved you” are essential to understanding what Jesus meant. Among other things, a proper understanding of friendship radically changes our perspective on how we are to live in community.

Of course this is all exegesis of a single book that we know to be wrong, and Wehner has no more evidence for God or a divine Jesus than we do for Bigfoot. But there will never be an end to this kind of Biblical exegesis, and once again we see a guy, purportedly possessed of neurons, spouting complete nonsense because it makes him feel good.

John Swinton, an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and a professor at the University of Aberdeen, calls this shift from servant to friend a “profound act of renaming.”

*And there’s a new survey of 2,000 Americans (by Motel 6, for crying out loud) whose results are summarized here. It turns out that the idea of a wonderful family holiday reunion isn’t as great as we thought:

survey of 2,000 Americans who are traveling to visit family for the holidays found respondents can spend an average of three hours and 54 minutes with their family before needing a moment to themselves.

According to the survey, 75 percent of respondents will hit a point where they need time away from the crowd. They can be creative in their ways of escaping — 1 in 4 has hidden in a relative’s house to take a moment alone, while 37 percent have gone so far as to make an excuse and leave the house altogether.

The survey was commissioned by Motel 6 and conducted by OnePoll. It examined the delicate balance between wanting to spend time with family and also needing a bit of space.

The average respondent is staying with family for 3 1/2 days this holiday season –- but the sleeping arrangements might be one reason they’re not staying longer. When hosting family, nearly 40 percent say finding sleeping arrangements is one of the most stressful parts of preparing for guests.

Respondents report an average of two people will end up sleeping on something other than a bed this holiday season.

When staying with family, the top concerns were found to be a lack of privacy (22 percent), family getting on your nerves (20 percent), and drama between family members (20 percent). That’s in addition to feeling like they’re imposing (19 percent) and having the house be too loud or busy (18 percent).

I guess I should be grateful to Ceiling Cat that I’m spending Coynezaa alone (not by choice), but it’s still a bummer.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cats are squabbling over food again:

Szaron: She is going to eat from my bowl again.
A: Usually you are eating from her bowl.
Szaron: And so it should be.
In Polish:
Szaron: Znowu będzie jadła z mojej miski.
Ja: Zazwyczaj to ty wyjadasz jej jedzenie.
Szaron: I tak powinno być.

Here’s a photo of Hili as a baby (she’s now a dowager of ten):

And Christmas wishes from Mietek:

Mietek: Let’s be merry and rejoice!

In Polish: Weselmy się i radujmy się!


From The Catspotting Society:

From FB:

A Mark Parisi cartoon:

Lagniappe from FB:

A tweet of God on Mastodon:

Masih hasn’t added a new tweet in English, but here’s a substitute:

From Barry, who adds, “Just so you know, Pastor Alex’ isn’t a religious guy. That’s just a nom de plume, and he’s always finding stuff ‘that atheists want.'”

From Malcolm: Zelensky at Bahmut:

Dan Dennett doesn’t tweet much, but here he notes his appearance on the show “Closer to Truth” on “What is Philosophy of Science?” with other philosophers.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man shot after a month in the camp:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first is the weather done by a sports reporter:

Crikey, didn’t medieval artists ever LOOK at the animals they drew? This bat has 12 hands, when in fact each wing is one hand with five fingers. Oy!

I wish I had a dollar for every turtle hatching here!

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek with Leon)

November 12, 2022 • 6:30 am

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

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

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

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

Da Nooz:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One item from Bowles’ Friday news summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it  is:

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

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is very concerned:

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

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

The cats: Journeys educate

In Polish: Podróże kształcą


From Nicole:

From Blue:

From Rick:

God denigrates the way America treats its veterans:

Another brave Iranian woman:

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

A groaner from Malcolm:

From Merilee:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: Two girls gassed upon arrival:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

September 27, 2022 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the Cruelest Day of the Week: Tuesday, September 27, 2022. It’s National Chocolate Milk Day, the only kind of milk I’d have at lunch in junior high (it cost 2¢ per half-pint carton).

It’s also National Corned Beef Hash Day, Ancestor Appreciation Day, National Day of ForgivenessNational Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and World Tourism Day.

Although there’s nothing on Google about today being its birthday, Matthew has a tip about a google search. Do it!:


Stuff that happened on September 27 include:

Here’s an embroidery of William and his siblings from the famous Bayeux Tapestry. The caption: “Image from the Bayeux Tapestry showing William with his half-brothers. William is in the centre, Odo is on the left with empty hands, and Robert is on the right with a sword in his hand.”

  • 1590 – The death of Pope Urban VII, 13 days after being chosen as the Pope, ends the shortest papal reign in history.

The Pope died of malaria.

The model T (one shown below) was made at the plant for 15 months until its popularity forced production to a larger plant. Here’s one of the originals in great condition. The Wikipedia caption is this:

Ford Model T Touring serial number 220, built in December 1908 as part of the 1909 model year, on display in the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, Michigan, where it was originally built. This is the second-oldest Model T known to still exist (Serial number 90 is owned by a private collector in Surrey British Columbia Canada. Which is the earliest known Restored two pedal two lever.). It is one of a very small number of surviving Model Ts to have the original two-pedal, two-lever transmission, along with the early water-pump-equipped engine. Ford switched to the Model T’s standard three-pedal, one-lever transmission after the first 800 cars or so. This car also lacks the Touring model’s optional windshield.

It cost $825, which is the equivalent of $24,881 in 2021.

  • 1940 – World War II: The Tripartite Pact is signed in Berlin by Germany, Japan and Italy.

The Japanese version of this military alliance is shown below, signed by Joachim von RibbentropGaleazzo Ciano and Saburō Kurusu.

  • 1949 – Zeng Liansong‘s design is chosen as the flag of the People’s Republic of China.
  • 1962 – Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is published, inspiring an environmental movement and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A signed first edition of this classic will run you $4,687.50. You can knock off $2,200 to get an unsigned one.

The protests were because the execution (of two Basque separatists, shot by a firing squad) took place under the autocratic rule of Franco, who had overthrown a democratic government. Franco died two months after the executions, and, according to the latest reports, is still dead.

  • 1998 – The Google internet search engine retroactively claims this date as its birthday.

Da Nooz:

*Edward Snowden, a fugitive from America after being charged with violations of the Espionage Act, has been granted Russian citizenship (along with others) in a new decree from Putin. Snowden, 39, leaked dozens of National Security Agency documents to the press revealing a variety of surveillance programs throughout the world, some by foreign governments.

After giving hundreds of highly classified N.S.A. documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post in 2013, Mr. Snowden had planned to seek asylum in Ecuador, and set out from Hong Kong to reach South America. But as the U.S. authorities sought to reach him, he became stranded on a layover in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.

After 40 days, he was allowed to leave the transit zone, and he has remained in Russia for the nine years since.

. . . Mr. Snowden has said he has not cooperated with Russian intelligence services while in Moscow, and that he hopes to someday return to the United States.

. . .In 2020, after he received permanent residency in Russia, Mr. Snowden wrote on Twitter that he and his wife would “remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love — including the freedom to speak his mind.”

He added, “And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited.”

That will happen only when pigs fly!  Finally, there’s this:

According to RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned news agency, Mr. Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said that his client would not be eligible for the “partial mobilization” that Mr. Putin declared last week to bolster his country’s forces in the war in Ukraine. Mr. Kucherena said that Mr. Snowden was ineligible for the draft because he had no experience in the Russian Army.

But Snowden is within the age limits for the draft and although he’s not a reservist and thus ineligible for the recent mobilization, he would be in a general mobilization. If he fights for Russia against the Ukraine, whatever chance he’d have for returning to the U.S. would be gone completely.

*Both the NYT and the Washington Post had as their headlines yesterday afternoon the Congressional Budget Office conclusion that Biden’s promise to forgive student loan debt will cost a cool $400 billion. the CBO is a nonpartisan agency. From the WaPo:

The [CBO] also found that the White House’s plan to temporarily extend an existing pause on student loan payments would cost roughly $20 billion.

The new estimate will add new fuel to the debate over President Biden’s student debt decision, which was cheered by advocates but immediately assailed by Republican lawmakers as a wasteful and inefficient use of government money. Biden announced in August that his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for lower- and middle-class borrowers.

Supporters of student debt cancellation have argued that similar estimates in the past have overstated the policy’s cost to the federal government, because despite formally owing the federal government money many borrowers never pay back the loans.

I’m not sure how this leads to overestimates, because the government is still out the money for a loan that isn’t repaid. But this estimate is an underestimate:

The Congressional Budget Office’s estimate excludes the White House’s simultaneous move to lower the monthly amount borrowers can be forced to repay as a percentage of their income from 10 percent to 5 percent. That policy is set to cost an additional $120 billion, according to estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a D.C.-based think tank that has opposed Biden’s policy.

Total dosh: $520 billion, roughly $3,500 per American taxpayer.

“The president announced possibly the most expensive executive action in history without a score, and we’re now seeing just how expensive this policy is going to be,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president for policy with the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, in an interview before the score’s release.

Well, there are conflicts about how to count the cost, but there’s no doubt that it will be HUGE. Advocates dispute the CBO figures:

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who led the charge on the debt forgiveness policy, released a joint statement taking issue with the assumptions underlying the CBO analysis.

I’m on the fence about this one; I sympathize with the plight of the impecunious who have trouble paying the money back, but on the other hand it seems unfair to those who did pay what they owed, and when you take out a loan, you’re supposed to repay it. I reserve judgement until I read further

*More trouble in Russia: a Russian military recruiting officer in the Siberian city of  in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk was shot, but apparently not killed, by a protestor, as other recruiting offices in Russia have been torched and 2,000 protestors arrested:

In the attack in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk, 25-year-old resident Ruslan Zinin walked into the enlistment office saying “no one will go to fight” and “we will all go home now,” according to local media.

Zinin was arrested and officials vowed tough punishment. Authorities said the military commandant was in intensive care. A witness quoted by a local news site said Zinin was in a roomful of people called up to fight and troops from his region were heading to military bases on Tuesday.

Protests also flared up in Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorer regions in the North Caucasus. Local media reported that “several hundred” demonstrators took to the streets Tuesday in its capital, Makhachkala. Videos circulated online showing dozens of protesters tussling with the police sent to disperse them.

. . . Demonstrations also continued in another of Russia’s North Caucasus republics, Kabardino-Balkaria, where videos on social media showed a local official attempting to address a crowd of women.

Meanwhile, the phony referendums Russia is holding in parts of Ukraine that they control will be over today, and people fear that once these faux elections are over (the vote will be for takeover of course), Russia will begin resorting to tactical nuclear weapons.

The voting, in which residents are asked whether they want their regions to become part of Russia, began last week and ends Tuesday, under conditions that are anything but free or fair. Tens of thousands of residents had already fled the regions amid months of fighting, and images shared by those who remained showed armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting.

“Every night and day there is inevitable shelling in the Donbas, under the roar of which people are forced to vote for Russian ‘peace,’” Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said Monday.

Russia is widely expected to declare the results in its favor, a step that could see Moscow annex the four regions and then defend them as its own territory.

*Okay, this has me puzzled. The Wall Street Journal reports that the World Chess Champion has accused a young American grandmaster of cheating. At chess!:

World champion Magnus Carlsen on Monday broke his silence on the scandal that has shaken the chess world, explicitly accusing 19-year-old American grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann of cheating for the first time since their controversial meeting at the Sinquefield Cup this month.

In a statement posted to his social media accounts, Carlsen cited Niemann’s unusual progress through the chess ranks and his surprisingly relaxed behavior when they played in St. Louis.

“I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted,” Carlsen wrote. “His over the board progress has been unusual, and throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup I had the impression that he wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do.”

But how can you cheat at in-person chess? Granted, Niemann admitted cheating in online chess, and I guess in that case you can rely on a chess program.

Niemann didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Carlsen’s statement. He had earlier denied any allegations of impropriety in over-the-board chess, though he confessed to cheating on two occasions in online games. Niemann chalked those up as youthful errors, but saw fit to ban him from the platform.

This may be one way:

The controversy first exploded at the Sinquefield Cup, a tournament where Niemann beat Carlsen—to which the Norwegian responded by abruptly withdrawing from the event entirely. It was an unprecedented decision by Carlsen, and it quickly ignited breathless speculation that gripped the highest level of the game. Theories on how a player might attempt to cheat—and get away with it—soon raised talk of hidden transmitters and far-flung accomplices operating widely-accessible chess software.

But still. . . . Anyway, for chess mavens, there’s more scandal described in the article.

*Finally, Andres Valencia, a ten-year-old boy in San Diego, is becoming a highly collectable artist, with paintings going for up to $125,000.

In the last year, he has gone from a relative unknown to a bona fide art phenomenon. His surrealist-style paintings were acquired by deep-pocketed collectors like Tommy Mottola and Jessica Goldman Srebnick during Art Basel Miami Beach. In June, he had a solo exhibition at the Chase Contemporary gallery in SoHo, where all 35 works were sold, the gallery said, fetching $50,000 to $125,000.

One of his paintings went for $159,000 (with fees) at a Phillips de Pury auction in Hong Kong, and another hit $230,000 at a charity gala in Capri, Italy.

. . .They briefly enlisted the services of Nadine Johnson, a veteran publicist in New York, and now work with Sam Morris, a theater and arts publicist. Articles oohing and aahing over the baby-faced artist have appeared in The Miami HeraldThe New York PostForbes and The Times of London. ABC’s “World News Tonight” did a segment on him.

Their son’s high earnings are an opportunity to teach him “how to give back,” his mother said. A portion of proceeds from their son’s sales, which the Valencias said “so far is over $300,000,” have been donated to the AIDS charity group amfAR and the children’s charity Box of Hope.

The kid is already a millionaire at 10! Well, more power to him. The thing is, the NYT article shows only a portion of one of his works, so I can’t get a good idea about his work. And of course, I’m a complete washout at judging whether contempoarary art is considered “good”: much of it I see as almost fraudulent, but maybe the critics know better.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Kulka’s outside the kitchen window and sees Hili eating:

Kulka: What are you eating?
Hili: Just what you see.
In Polish:
Kulka: Co jesz?
Hili: To na co patrzysz.

And a statement from Mietek in Wroclawek:

Mietek: Fall is right around the corner.

In Polish: Jesień nadciąga.


From Stephen (I hate the stuff anyway):

From Jesus of the Day:

Also from Jesus of the Day. According to Atlas Obscura, this is true.

God is rather salacious today:

From Masih, another women removed her hijab and confronts the police—with the expected consequences:

From Malcolm. Do you think the bear was really rescuing the crow? I hope the bir was okay!


From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a lovely short video of an area I know well:


This is a superb thread. Matthew says the first one is what he looks like when he takes a selfie:

I’ve seen these chicks on East Falkland, but they didn’t follow me:

I just hope these sheep found their proper owner:

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

June 4, 2022 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the Cat Sabbath, Saturday, June 4, 2022, when all cats are expected to avoid work and study the Talmud. (Every day is Cat Shabbos.)  It’s graduation day at the University of Chicago, when the class of 2023 moves up to become four-year students. As always, we award honorary degrees only to scholars and do not solicit the likes of Taylor Swift to give commencement advice to our students. Foodwise, it’s National Cheese Day, a food that is kosher so long as it’s not mixed with meat. It’s also a favorite of many cats.

Finally, it’s the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. 

The Google Doodle today (click on screenshot below; there’s an animation at the click) celebrates the life of Kiyoshi Kuromiya, described as a “Japanese American author and civil rights, anti-war, gay liberation, and HIV/AIDS activist.”

A photo of Kuromiya from the Philadelphia Gay News:

Stuff that happened on June 4 include:

A poster announcing the opening of the Transcontinental Railroad 7 years before the record run:

  • 1896 – Henry Ford completes the Ford Quadricycle, his first gasoline-powered automobile, and gives it a successful test run.

Here’s Ford in his Quadricycle that same year. These were custom-built cars with 4 horsepower and a top speed of 20 mph, and they were very expensive. The average Joe wasn’t able to afford a car until Ford produced the Model T (and Ford got very rich).

Here are the current hourly minimum wages in the U.S. (from Wikipedia; click to enlarge).  California and Washington D.C. lead the nation, with hourly minimums of $15.00 or more:

  • 1913 – Emily Davison, a suffragist, runs out in front of King George V‘s horse at The Derby. She is trampled, never regains consciousness, and dies four days later.

Here’s the famous video of Davison, who didn’t intend to commit suicide, running in front of the King’s horse. It occurs at 2:11.


  • 1917 – The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded: Laura E. Richards, Maude H. Elliott, and Florence Hall receive the first Pulitzer for biography (for Julia Ward Howe). Jean Jules Jusserand receives the first Pulitzer for history for his work With Americans of Past and Present Days. Herbert B. Swope receives the first Pulitzer for journalism for his work for the New York World.
  • 1919 – Women’s rights: The U.S. Congress approves the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees suffrage to women, and sends it to the U.S. states for ratification.

Here it is:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This is a bit misleading: yes, we turned away the Jews (how could we have done that?), as did Canada, but all of them eventually found refuge in England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. It was the refugees to the latter two countries who were rounded up by the Nazis and later killed. Still. . . .

Some of the happy passengers arriving in Belgium:

The famous bit of that speech:

  • 1986 – Jonathan Pollard pleads guilty to espionage for selling top secret United States military intelligence to Israel.


*The Washington Post dissects the question of why the overwhelming majority of mass shooters are young men. They talk about developmental differences between the sexes, the prefrontal cortex, and so on, but not once do they mention the word “evolution”! We’re not the only species in which males are more aggressive, violent, and more willing to take risks than females (and we can imagine good evolutionary reasons connected with reproduction), but they should also have noted that most crime in general, including non-mass shootings, are also perpetrated by males.

But they always find somebody to implicate acculturation, which may be a factor but probably not the main one:

Eric Madfis, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Washington at Tacoma, talks about “White male grievance,” although he acknowledges that not all the shooters have been White. He suggests the perpetrators are trying to regain control through a “masculine” solution after a long period of frustration.

“We teach boys and men that the only socially acceptable emotion to have is not to be vulnerable and sensitive, but to be tough and macho and aggressive,” Madfis said in an interview.

*According to the Church Times, a British religious site, the Anglican Church is doomed to extinction in the UK, perhaps within four decades. The statistics come from calculating the rate at which believers “infect” each other with faith, qualified by the rate at which believers meet their maker. This is expressed as the statistic “R” (h/t Barry):

The study was compiled by Dr John Hayward, a mathematician at the University of South Wales and the founder of the church-growth modelling site. He analysed data from 13 denominations to calculate their R-rate — a technique more usually associated with calculating the spread of disease.

For a virus such as Covid-19, an R number of more than one indicates that the disease is spreading rapidly, while an R-rate of less than one points to its dying out. Dr Hayward has now applied the same model to church attendance.

He says that he saw the potential of applying R-number modelling to church growth in 1999. “The analogy works when existing church members add new members through personal contact, whether directly or indirectly,” he writes in his report.

He analysed attendance data from between 2000 and 2020, and found that Church of England and Roman Catholic churches across the UK have R numbers of just over 0.9. Their congregations could vanish by 2062, he concludes.

It’s appropriate to use an infection rate since, as Hitchens said, “Religion poisons everything.”

*In the NYT, sports writer Kurt Streeter asks a good question: why, among all sports, is the popularity of women’s tennis about equal to that of men’s tennis, when the sex-based athletic differential applies across many sports? Streeter says the answer is complicated, but in fact offers only one solution: women in other sports are too much “in your face”!

We still live in a world where strong, powerful women who break the mold struggle for acceptance. Consider the W.N.B.A., stocked with outspoken women, a majority of them Black, who have shown a communal willingness to take aggressive stands for L.G.B.T.Q. rights, reproductive freedom and politics. How do you think that goes down in many corners of America and the world?

Yes, tennis often has a few outspoken players willing to publicly buck against power. In the game’s modern era, Venus and Serena Williams did it just by showing up and dominating. Naomi Osaka bent the rules with her face masks protesting for Black rights. But the vast majority of women in tennis wear their significant power quietly, behind the scenes, and in a way that does not overly upset the male-dominated status quo. To think that this is not a factor in the pro tour’s popularity would be foolish.

Well, call me foolish, but I’m not buying this explanation. And I have no alternative, either. But I love watching women’s tennis, although basketball or baseball don’t attract me. I prefer watching women’s gymnastics, but the Big Show for that sport comes only once every four years.

*From the Insider, clever California judges took advantage of the literal law itself to protect bumble bees.  See explanation below the tweet, and a longer bit about the ruling, including the ruling itself, here.  (h/t Matthew, Ginger K.)

From the site:

A trio of judges in California said on Tuesday that bees could be legally classified as a type of fish as part of a ruling that gave added conservation protections to the endangered species.

“The issue presented here is whether the bumble bee, a terrestrial invertebrate, falls within the definition of fish,” the judges wrote in their ruling. And, they concluded, it does.

Formerly, the problem for bee lovers — and lovers of all Californian terrestrial invertebrates — was down to the way protected animals had been classified in the state’s laws.

While four bee species were classified as endangered in 2018, land invertebrates are not explicitly protected under the California Endangered Species Act, which protects endangered “native species or subspecies of a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant.”

But the law’s fish and game code, which establishes the basis on which plants and animals are protected, defines “fish” as “a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals.”

*The Wall Street Journal asks and answers the perennial question, “Why do ducks get in a row? To swim better.” The answer is that ducklings do it under the right conditions as a way of using wave motion to move forward with less energy—to draft.

The thing is, though, I covered and explained this issue in depth last OctoberWho’s a good boy? Who scooped the Wall Street Journal? Show me justice!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, two new friends are going for walkies:

A: Are you coming in?
Hili: No, I’m waiting for Szaron.
In Polish:
Ja: Wchodzisz?
Hili: Nie, czekam na Szarona.

A picture of baby Kulka:

And a rare Mietek monologue, as the ginger cat greets the weekend:

Mitek: Is it Saturday yet?

In Polish: Już sobota?

And a picture of Karolina in  back in Kyev, holding the Great Children’s Encyclopedia (note the cat ears)

Caption:  From yesterday’s mail. According to Natasza, Karolina is quickly making up for lost time.

In Polish: Z wczorajszej poczty. Jak informuje Natasza, Karolina pospiesznie nadrabia zaległości.

From reader Pliny the in Between’s Far Corner Cafe:  Some people who believe in evolution are still arguing how we could all have descended from a literal mated pair of Homo sapiens. It’s not true.

Paula found a picture of a Queen’s Jubilee Cake in a Facebook foodie group. Here it is! (Not a great likeness. . .  )

From Jesus of the Day:

Wisdom from G-d:

Ricky Gervais has a new Netflix special, “Supernature,” but I haven’t watch it. Here, however, is a relevant tweet:

Here’s an interesting analysis by a YouTuber and avowed feminist, explaining why Amber Heard came out second in the Depp/Heard fracas. It involves many tweets, but I found it useful. The short take: Heard’s evidence (and her own testimony) apparently didn’t prove credible to the jury.

From Barry, apparently a serious attempt to discredit evoution:

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s enjoying the holiday for the Queen. He’s not a fan of the royalty, though. About this tweet, showing Boris Johnson getting booed, Matthew says,

“Good news from the events at St Pauls. Worth listening to. If the union-jack bedecked loons are booing him, it means something.”



And one of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions:


Friday: Hili dialogue

February 18, 2022 • 7:30 am

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

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

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

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

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

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


News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JEWS is fine, thank you!

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

Stuff that happened on February 18 include:

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

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

An Indian stamp commemorating the first airmail:

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

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

See above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before the crash:

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

  • 1968 – Molly Ringwald, American actress

Those who became carcasses on February 18 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The caption, as characterized by Malgorzata:

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



Fostered tabby (isn’t it  beaut?):

A meme from Bruce, which rings so true!

More snow creations from Peter:

From Merilee:

The Tweet of God:

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

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

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, we have two tweets:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

January 26, 2022 • 7:30 am

Yes, it is Hump Day: Wednesday, January 26, 2022, but not everyone likes the name (h/t Grant):

It’s also National Peanut Brittle Day, National Green Juice Day, Spouse’s Day, and International Customs Day.

There a new Google Doodle today honoring the life and work of Katarzyna Kobro, born on this day (26 January 1898 – 22 February 1951).Wikipedia identifies her as

a Polish avant-garde sculptor and a prominent representative of the Constructivist movement in Poland. A pioneer of innovative multi-dimensional abstract sculpture, she rejected Aestheticism and advocated for the integration of spatial rhythm and scientific advancements into visual art.

The Doodle:

One of her works (they’re like three-dimensional Mondrians):

News of the Day:

*I had forgotten about this but reader Ken caught it:

Yesterday, Joe Biden got caught on a hot mic (or “mike,” per your preference) calling Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy “a stupid son of a bitch.”
And here’s the video:
Within the hour, Biden called Doocy to apologize — as one does, if one hasn’t been raised by wolves.
But how can you apologize for saying something like that? Biden surely meant it, so he has to give the “notapology” of “I’m sorry if I upset you.” I’m sure he does think the guy is an s.o.b.

*Two from the NYT. First, in an op-ed called “What does it mean to be ‘done with Covid’?“, columnist Michelle Goldberg criticizes her former colleague Bari Weiss for expressing that sentiment as pushback against the government’s health policies. (We discussed this the other day.) I disagreed with Weiss, and so does Goldberg:

The desperate desire to get back to normal is understandable. What’s odd is seeing the absence of normality as a political betrayal instead of an epidemiological curveball. The reason things aren’t normal isn’t that power-mad public health officials went back on their promises. It’s because a new coronavirus variant emerged that overwhelmed hospitals and threw schools and many industries into chaos, and because not everyone has the luxury of being insouciant about infection.

. . . Critics of how liberals have responded to the pandemic sometimes argue that we’ve overestimated our ability to control this virus. But those who think we can escape this excruciating period simply by changing our mind-set are also overestimating how much control we have. America won’t seem remotely normal until it’s a lot less sick.

*In his new NYT column, “Stay Woke. The right can be illiberal, too,” John McWhorter addresses the frequent comment (also made here) about censorship form the Right probably being a greater danger than is censorship from the Left.

I’m genuinely open to the idea that censorship from the right is more of a problem than I have acknowledged. The truth may be, as it so often is, in the middle, and a legal case from the past week has made me think about it.

The case? That of a Florida judge overturning the University of Florida’s prohibition of 6 of its professors testifying against the imposition of new voter-registration laws in the state, a case of the Right muzzling academic freedom. McWhorter then gives equal time to a kerfuffle at the University of North Texas about whether or not a Jewish figure in music theory might have been racist, with the critics being on the Left this time. (These fights get so tiresome.) At any rate, McWhorter just concludes that both sides are more or less equally culpable, which may be true, but who cares? It’s harder for a Leftist to effectively push back against Right-wing than against Left-wing censorship, though in both cases they can be called out. McWhorter:

On the right, even if you’re wary of critical race theory’s effect on the way many kids are taught, it is both backward and unnecessary to institutionalize the sense that discussing race at all is merely unwelcome pot stirring (and if that’s not what you mean, then you need to make it clear). On the left, illiberalism does not become insight just because some think they are speaking truth to power. Resistance to this kind of perspective is vital, no matter where it comes from on the political spectrum.

And don’t get on me for not criticizing the Right; I went after the University of Florida case the minute I heard about it!

*The SATs (American standardized test used for college admission) are circling the drain. By 2024 the test will be completely digital, the readings will be more “diverse” (they didn’t explain what they meant), and the tests will last two hours instead of three. Already 80% of American colleges don’t require the SAT or the ACT for admission, and that figure will grow.

The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board. “We’re not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we’re taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible. With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs.”

The decision comes as the College Board has felt increasing pressure to change its stress-inducing test in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and questions around the test’s fairness and relevance.

The test has long been criticized for bias against those from poor households as well as Black and Hispanic students. The high-stakes nature of the test means that those with more resources can afford to take expensive test prep courses — or even, as the 2019 college admissions scam revealed, to cheat on the test.

Well, the above is from CNN, and the last paragraph is full of distortions. Repeated tests of whether questions are “biased” have shown that they aren’t, and any question with even a “hint” of being biased is tossed. As for SAT prep, it’s often free for poorer students, and what CNN doesn’t note is that test prep adds only very slightly (at best) to one’s score. The real reason the SATs are being dismantled is one we all know but can’t vocalize. Suffice it to say that the downgrading of these tests is part of ending the meritocracy in education. And it must follow, as the night the day, that as these students age, the meritocracy will be dismantled everywhere except (as in plane pilots or brain surgery) it cannot be dispensed with.

*Elizabeth Rata, one of the “Satanic Seven” professors at the University of Auckland who objected to giving indigenous ways of knowing equal time with modern science in the secondary-school and college classroom, has written an article in Newsroom (a NZ news site) reiterating her position. A quote:

. . . science is not euro-centric or western. It is universal. This is recognised in the International Science Council’s definition of science as “rationally explicable, tested against reality, logic, and the scrutiny of peers this is a special form of knowledge”. It includes the arts, humanities and social sciences as human endeavours which may, along with the physical and natural sciences, use such a formalised approach. The very children who need this knowledge the most, now receive less.

The science-ideology discussion matters for many reasons – the university’s future, the country’s reputation for science and education, and the quality of education in primary and secondary schools. But at its heart it is about democracy. Science can only thrive when democracy thrives.

Rata is the Director of the Knowledge in Education Research Unit in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. She’s got guts.

*Over at the NYT, columnist Paul Krugmen has a new column: “Attack of the right-wing thought police“. Krugman agrees with McWhorter about the censoriousness of the Right, but says nary a word about the censoriousness of the Left. Like McWhorter, he mentions the Florida professors whom the Right tried to prevent from testifying in favor of equitable voting laws, as well as  the ludicrous state laws against the teaching of CRT. His words fall sweetly on the ear attuned to sounds from the Left:

What’s really striking, however, is the idea that schools should be prohibited from teaching anything that causes “discomfort” among students and their parents. If you imagine that the effects of applying this principle would be limited to teaching about race relations, you’re being utterly naïve.

For one thing, racism is far from being the only disturbing topic in American history. I’m sure that some students will find that the story of how we came to invade Iraq — or for that matter how we got involved in Vietnam — makes them uncomfortable. Ban those topics from the curriculum!

Then there’s the teaching of science. Most high schools do teach the theory of evolution, but leading Republican politicians are either evasive or actively deny the scientific consensus, presumably reflecting the G.O.P. base’s discomfort with the concept. Once the Florida standard takes hold, how long will teaching of evolution survive?

But every word in that first paragraph applies to both the Left and Right. Why does he write only about Right-wing censoriousness? I think it was Dr. Johnson who said that if a person’s bread and butter depends on their believing something, then believe they will.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 870,837, an increase of 2,362 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,636,137, an increase of about 11,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 26 include:

Do you know the distinction? And don’t say that one church is led by the Vatican and the other isn’t. There are doctrinal differences that you should read about at the link to the “Council of Trent.”

  • 1788 – The British First Fleet, led by Arthur Phillip, sails into Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to establish Sydney, the first permanent European settlement on Australia. Commemorated as Australia Day.
  • 1841 – James Bremer takes formal possession of Hong Kong Island at what is now Possession Point, establishing British Hong Kong.v
  • 1885 – Troops loyal to The Mahdi conquer Khartoum, killing the Governor-General Charles George Gordon.

Gordon became famous for his military leadership in China, but then went to the Sudan, where he angered the local authorities. He was hacked to death in Khartoum. Below is an imagined depiction of his death:

Here’s the rough diamon—about 3,100 carats.

It was cut into nine smaller stones, the largest of which (Cullinan 1) weighd 530 carats. It was set into the British royal crown (see below). Pity that it’s not all that visible:

Here’s Baird’s first moving t.v. image, with the caption from Wikipedia:

The first known photograph of a moving image produced by Baird’s “televisor”, as reported in The Times, 28 January 1926 (The subject is Baird’s business partner Oliver Hutchinson.)
  • 1942 – World War II: The first United States forces arrive in Europe, landing in Northern Ireland.
  • 1945 – World War II: Audie Murphy displays valor and bravery in action for which he will later be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The son of a sharecropper, Murphy won every single military medal for valor that the Army had. He later became a well known actor, but was killed in a plane crash at 46. Here he is with all his decorations; the Medal of Honor is around his neck:

  • 1949 – The Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory sees first light under the direction of Edwin Hubble, becoming the largest aperture optical telescope (until BTA-6 is built in 1976).
  • 1998 – Lewinsky scandal: On American television, U.S. President Bill Clinton denies having had “sexual relations” with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Here’s a news report in which Clinton lied. In what world is fellatio not “sexual relations”?

It was via in vitro fertilization, of course. Oy–look at this high chair! (She was known as “Octomom”.)

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1880 – Douglas MacArthur, American general, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1964)
  • 1908 – Stéphane Grappelli, French violinist (d. 1997)

Here’s the great jazz violinist playing “I Got Rhythm” at 76:

This is how I remember her. She’s now a professor at UC Santa Cruz:

Here’s du Pré playing part of the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. I believe that it’s Barenboim conducting (they were married). It’s a tragedy that she died of MS at only 43.

Her grave (you can see a late interview with her here. conducted when she was already ill). This is in Golders Green Cemetary, and I suppose she converted to Judaism given the writing (Barenboim was Jewish).

  • 1946 – Gene Siskel, American journalist and film critic (d. 1999)
  • 1955 – Eddie Van Halen, Dutch-American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (d. 2020)
  • 1958 – Ellen DeGeneres, American comedian, actress, and talk show host
  • 1961 – Wayne Gretzky, Canadian ice hockey player and coach

Those who perished on January 26 include:

He saved a gazillion lives by devising the small pox vaccine. Here’s “Jenner’s 1802 testimonial to the efficacy of vaccination, signed by 112 members of the Physical Society, London”

  • 1885 – Charles George Gordon, English general and politician (b. 1833)
  • 1893 – Abner Doubleday, American general (b. 1819)
  • 1943 – Nikolai Vavilov, Russian botanist and geneticist (b. 1887)
  • 1962 – Lucky Luciano, Italian-American mob boss (b. 1897)

He was lucky that he wasn’t murdered by fellow mobsters. Here’s an NYCPD mug shot from 1931:

  • 1973 – Edward G. Robinson, Romanian-American actor (b. 1893)
  • 2003 – Hugh Trevor-Roper, English historian and academic (b. 1917)
  • 2020 – Kobe Bryant, American basketball player (b. 1978)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili is replacing the late Henri the Existentialist cat, and is filled with ennui:

A: What are you thinking about?
Hili: I’m wondering whether the charms of this world outweigh its futility.
In Polish:
Ja: Nad czym myślisz?
Hili: Zastanawiam się, czy uroki tego świata przeważają jego marność.

A head shot of Kulka:

And a Mietek monologue:

Mietek:  From the series: read for me mom

(Malgorzata notes that there was/is a series of children’s books called “Read for me mom”.)
In Polish: Z serii: poczytaj mi, mamo

From Bruce:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From Ducks in Public: “The fellowship of the wing”:

From Masih, who points out that the newly-chosen Rina Amiri, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, has put on a hijab when meeting the Taliban delegation. In Norway, where hijab are not required! Nor can you say that Amiri wears a hijab normally, for as you can see in the photo to the left or in all the photos here, she doesn’t. Below I’ve put a photo of her in the American delegation with an arrow showing her wearing the hijab.

Her hijab is reprehensible, a slap in the face of the very women she’s supposed to support, for when she has a choice in her normal life she doesn’t wear hijab. She is wearing one to cater to the religious misogyny of the Taliban. (Note that there are no women in the Taliban delegation.)

From Simon: This staff person is very privileged!

From Barry. Sound up! And I’m not at all sure that this video is supposed to be funny (read the little words on the lower right).

From Ginger K.

Tweets from Matthew. First, sexual dimorphism in blue-winged teal. Every duck species with such dimorphism does it in a different way, with different colors, patterns and behavior. A mystery for sexual selection to solve!

Translation: “Blue-winged teal the drake (male) has a white spot in the shape of a crescent between the eye and beak. The forewing is blue to. Underside is ocher yellow with closely spaced round black spots. The duckling (female) has a light blue front wing and a white belly.”

The kakapo are having a banner year in New Zealand! Keep your fingers crossed; all of these flightless parrots are confined to a single island to keep predators away. They need to reproduce!

Do you know what this bird is? I don’t, but I bet at least one reader does.

Very clever; I wonder what kind of book it’s from.

Friday: Hili dialogue

December 31, 2021 • 7:00 am

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

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

Some scientists were quick to forecast the same pattern elsewhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Sent verbatim from reader Ken:

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on December 31 includes:

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

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

Here’s a depiction of that great event:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those whose eyes closed forever on December 31 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elzbieta sent photos of Leon and Mitek with a caption:

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


From Bruce, a cat barista:

From Karl:

From Doc Bill. I love this contest!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tweets from Matthew. Is this mimicry?

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

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

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


Saturday: Hili dialogue

December 25, 2021 • 7:00 am

Merry Christmas and Happy Coynezaa! (the latter six-day féte begins today). My holiday card to readers (photo by Terrence James for the Chicago Tribune).

It’s Saturday, December 25, 2021, and National Pumpkin Pie Day. (You can buy a huge (3.5 lb.) and excellent one very cheaply at Costco.)

The James Webb Space Telescope will launch today (probably before this post goes up), but I’ll have already posted the links to the live feed.

It’s also Jesus’s Birthday, and No “L” Day (Noel get it?), when you’re supposed to remove all the “l”s from writing or speech.

Matthew sent me a virtual Christmas card, consisting of the cover of a children’s book and a greeting from Matthew and Ollie, the cat who slashed my nose open when I visited Manchester:

News of the Day:

*As you know, the James Webb telescope was launched successfully from French Guyana this morning, and at the time this is posted all has gone fantastically, with the scope heading out into orbit a million miles from Earth. I hope you watched. Note that this was due to international cooperation, with collaborators from many nations.  Here’s a tweet from NASA showing our last view of the scope as it heads out a million miles from Earth. (h/t Matthew).  The only thing that marred the luanch was the head of NASA’s religious blather at the end of his speech, mentioning the star over Bethlehem, Jesus the King, and the glory of God the creator. Oy!

*Otherwise news is a downer today, with the omicron variant raging, resulting in the cancellation of over 3800 flights around the world yesterday because of infected pilots/crew or bad weather. I hope everybody reading here got to where they were going. If you are one of the canceled, here’s how to get your refund.

*If you do get to your destination, be careful if you want to rent a car. Average daily prices have risen 31% in most places, but can top $100 per day in sought-after locations like Maui or Bozeman, Montana (a ski place).  I found this out when I paid nearly $600 for an 8-day rental in Austin, Texas. The cause? Companies sold out their fleets during the pandemic, and haven’t replenished them. Don’t expect prices to drop hugely after the pandemic wanes.

*The good news—and let’s have good news today to replace the lacuna when we realize, in about three posts, that baby Jesus really wasn’t really born on this day—is that omicron is more transmissible than existing variants, it’s not as lethal. South Africa, the first place heavily infected with omicron, has lifted some restrictions:

South Africa’s government, buoyed by encouraging data showing that infections from the Omicron variant aren’t as severe, has dropped quarantine restrictions for all but symptomatic people.

That includes allowing people who have tested positive but show no symptoms to gather with others, so long as they wear a mask and social distance. A top health official explained that since the variant spreads so quickly, there are likely many infected people socializing with others and it no longer made sense to quarantine only those who have tested themselves.

The move was yet another step toward a slow acceptance that many countries around the world will likely need to find a way to live with Covid, rather than avoid it.

*Senator Joe “Roadbump” Manchin has shown some signs that he’ll favor “taxes on billionaires”, raising hopes that the Democrats can still pass the Build Back Better Bill, albeit in a scaled down form. But Kyrsten Sinema is making grumpy noises:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), long the biggest hurdle to Democrats’ tax aspirations, has again in recent days raised concerns about some of the revenue measures the party is pursuing.

In particular, Sinema has questioned whether owners of “pass-through” entities — companies structured so the owner “passes through” income onto their personal income tax returns — should be exempted from a new “surtax” intended to fall on the very rich, two people familiar with the matter said. These people spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations

The White House was forced to dramatically revamp its tax proposals after Sinema previously ruled out increasing the corporate tax rate, which Biden initially sought to raise from 21 percent to 28 percent.

*Now this is much better. Two brothers in New Hampshire have given new meaning to the word “regifting”:

Two New Hampshire brothers have gotten their holiday regifting skills down to an art — they’ve been passing the same hard candy back and forth for over 30 years.

It started in 1987, when Ryan Wasson gave a 10-roll Frankford “Santa’s Candy Book” with assorted fruit flavors to his brother, Eric Wasson, as a joke for Christmas, knowing that Eric wouldn’t like it.

“I didn’t eat them,” Eric Wasson told WMUR-TV. “And so the next year I thought, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to give it back to him. He’ll never remember.’”

But Ryan immediately recognized it. They’ve been taking turns ever since, keeping a log of their exchanges. They’ve gotten creative about it.

Ryan Wasson told the station the candy has been frozen in a block of ice and put in Jell-O, adding, “He one time sewed it into a teddy bear.”

The tradition has also involved family members, co-workers and even a sheriff’s department. Last year, it was presented to Ryan Wasson on a silver platter at a restaurant.

Here’s the well-worn gift and the record of the regifting (all photos from Ryan Wasson family via the AP)

Note the first entry on the right-hand page:

The Lie of the Year Award goes to this guy. Click on the screenshot to read about it:

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 814,792, an increase of 1,345 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,411,321, an increase of about 8,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 25 includes:

  • 336 – First documentary sign of Christmas celebration in Rome

We’ll have a post today by Peter Nothnagle about the “history” of the Nativity.

Here’s an “arm reliquary of Charlemagne at Aachen Cathedral Treasury”:

  • 1013 – Sweyn Forkbeard takes control of the Danelaw and is proclaimed king of England.
  • 1066 – William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy is crowned king of England, at Westminster Abbey, London.
  • 1758 – Halley’s Comet is sighted by Johann Georg Palitzsch, confirming Edmund Halley’s prediction of its passage. This was the first passage of a comet predicted ahead of time.
  • 1776 – George Washington and the Continental Army cross the Delaware River at night to attack Hessian forces serving Great Britain at Trenton, New Jersey, the next day.

Here’s the famous painting: “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851:

With no anesthesia! It must have been benign, for the woman lived 32 years after the operation.

  • 1831 – The Great Jamaican Slave Revolt begins; up to 20% of Jamaica’s slaves mobilize in an ultimately unsuccessful fight for freedom.
  • 1868 – Pardons for ex-Confederates: United States President Andrew Johnson grants an unconditional pardon to all Confederate veterans.
  • 1914 – A series of unofficial truces occur across the Western Front to celebrate Christmas.
  • 1950 – The Stone of Scone, traditional coronation stone of British monarchs, is taken from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students. It later turns up in Scotland on April 11, 1951.
  • 1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 performs the first successful Trans-Earth injection (TEI) maneuver, sending the crew and spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth from Lunar orbit.
  • 1989 – Romanian Revolution: Deposed President of Romania Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, are condemned to death and executed after a summary trial.

You can see a documentary and some video of the execution here. The firing started too quickly for the cameraman (yes, they filmed it) to capture the whole thing.

  • 1991 – Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as President of the Soviet Union (the union itself is dissolved the next day). Ukraine’s referendum is finalized and Ukraine officially leaves the Soviet Union.
  • 2004 – The Cassini orbiter releases Huygens probe which successfully landed on Saturn’s moon Titan on January 14, 2005.

Notables born on this day include:

A portrait of Jesus, apparently painted from life. (He doesn’t look very Jewish.)

  • 1642 (OS) – Isaac Newton, English physicist and mathematician (d. 1726/1727)
  • 1821 – Clara Barton, American nurse and humanitarian, founder of the American Red Cross (d. 1912)

Barton worked tirelessly to help the wounded soldiers of the Union in the Civil War. Here’s a photo of her in 1866, shortly after war’s end:

  • 1876 – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Indian-Pakistani lawyer and politician, 1st Governor-General of Pakistan (d. 1948)
  • 1886 – Kid Ory, American trombonist and bandleader (d. 1973)
  • 1899 – Humphrey Bogart, American actor (d. 1957)

A scene from “The Big Sleep”:

Cab was a great bandleader and, shall we say, an “energetic” one. Here is is conducting his most famous hit, “Minnie the Moocher“:

  • 1924 – Rod Serling, American screenwriter and producer, created The Twilight Zone (d. 1975)
  • 1946 – Jimmy Buffett, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor.

Here’s the music video for my favorite Buffett song, and he begins by explaining what and who’s in the video:

  • 1971 – Justin Trudeau, Canadian educator and politician, 23rd Prime Minister of Canada

Those who passed away on December 25 include:

  • 1946 – W. C. Fields, American actor, comedian, juggler, and screenwriter (b. 1880)
  • 1983 – Joan Miró, Spanish painter and sculptor (b. 1893)

Miró painted a fair number of cats; this one is “The Farmer’s Wife, Kitchen, Cat, Rabbit”, with a detail of the moggy:

  • 2005 – Birgit Nilsson, Swedish operatic soprano (b. 1918)
  • 2008 – Eartha Kitt, American singer and actress (b. 1927)
  • 2016 – George Michael, British singer and songwriter (b. 1963)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej and Hili are speaking of determinism:

A: I know what you are thinking about!
Hili: But I don’t know yet.
In Polish:
Ja: Wiem nad czym się zastanawiasz!
Hili: Ale ja jeszcze nie wiem.

And from nearby Wloclawek, Mietek has a wish:

Mietek: Have a wonderful Christmas!

In Polish: Wspaniałych Świąt!

From The Far Side:

A Hitchens cartoon from reader Barry:

From Divy:

Below, a Christmas Meme from Andrzej. You don’t really need a translation, but here’s one from Malgorzata, “”IKA.  Christmas Tree – a set to assemble at home.”

And the meme came with a Christmas message from Andrzej and Malgorzata:

Andrzej: “We wish all our readers fascinating conversations with their four- legged friends, a nice atmosphere together with their two-legged loved ones, and frequent return to ‘Listy‘”.

In Polish: “Wszystkim naszym czytelnikom życzymy fascynujących rozmów z ich czworonogami, miłej atmosfery z dwunożnymi bliskimi i częstych powrotów do ‘Listów‘”.

A tweet from Masih and friend:

From Gethyn: Can you spot the kitty? I couldn’t! Readers, help!

From Simon. Yes, sound on, and remember that an elephant never forgets. This is a heartwarmer.

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. The first from Jennifer Ouellette, and I put the relevant video below it. It’s great: a human choreography of a starling murmuration:

Crabs on the move!

I was worried about the frog, but it’s apparently okay:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 19, 2021 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the Sabbath for humans and d*gs: Sunday, December 19, 2021, with 6 shopping days until Coynezaa.  It’s National Oatmeal Muffin Day. But if you want oatmeal, eat it as cereal—there’s no need to pollute a good muffin with grains. As Julia Child might have said: “Muffins are not medicine.”

It’s also National Hard Candy Day Holly Day, (not “holiday”), and National Emo Day. What are Emos? This sarcastic site says:

Emo (from Latin words “to buy, purchase, pronounced eeee-moe) is a type of subculture (rather distinctly from the 21st Century) loosely rooted around punk rock with its own distinct style of music, fashion, argot and other trappings in a desperate, though ultimately hopeless attempt to pronounce their uniqueness. As a rule of thumb, a person described as “emo” (falling under certain behavior mannerisms and attire correlating with the subculture) will often be from a comfortable, middle-class background with liberal parents. All of this is irrelevant to an emo who will consider themselves misunderstood and repressed regardless of reality. Any urologist would say that these very emotional people need to be encouraged by the rest of society to help them jump off a bridge and stop taking up our public benches.

You can see more images of Emos here; I’ll show two. (Was anybody here an Emo?)

News of the Day:

*The New York Times’s big headline story is a two-part exposé derived from examination of confidential Pentagon documents. And the bottom line is that, since 2014, bungled American bombings, missile attacks, and drone strikes in the Middle East created thousands of civilian casualties, including small children:

The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity. In only a handful of cases were the assessments made public. Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action. Fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made, even though many survivors were left with disabilities requiring expensive medical care. Documented efforts to identify root causes or lessons learned are rare.

. . . To understand how this happened, The Times did what military officials admit they have not done: analyzed the casualty assessments in aggregate to discern patterns of failed intelligence, decision-making and execution. It also visited more than 100 casualty sites and interviewed scores of surviving residents and current and former American officials. In the coming days, the second part of this series will trace those journeys through the war zones of Iraq and Syria.

Part 2 will presumably be published soon, and the investigation doesn’t make the vaunted American military look good.

*Is this good news? A report at the National Institutes of Health site gives an unexpected result: taking Viagra appears to ward off Alzheimer’s disease, and in a big way. They used a clever gene-mapping approach, looking for loci associated with the development of amyloid plaques and other Alzheimer’s symptoms, and then looked at drugs affecting those genes. One turned out to be Viagra (now it’s a generic: sildenafil). This was followed by a survey of the relationship between Viagra-taking and Alzheimer’s onset (my emphasis):

The team identified 66 drugs with the closest relationships to AD-associated genes. Many are already being tested in ongoing AD clinical trials, proving the soundness of the approach. After considering other factors, the top candidate was sildenafil, also known by the brand names Viagra and Revatio. Sildenafil is FDA-approved to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension.

Next, the team analyzed insurance claims data from more than 7 million Americans. They found that the people (mostly men) who took sildenafil were 69% less likely to develop AD over 6 years than those who did not take the drug. This association between sildenafil and AD held after adjusting for sex, age, and other diseases and conditions.

To understand how sildenafil might affect AD, the researchers grew neurons from stem cells derived from AD patients. Exposing the cells to sildenafil led to increased growth of neurites, which connect neurons to each other, and decreased tau phosphorylation, an early biomarker of AD.

Taken together, these results show an association between sildenafil use and reduced AD risk. But the researchers emphasize that they haven’t shown that sildenafil prevents or reverses AD. There may be other factors responsible for the association.

If this effect is real (remember, they looked at only 6 years—still a significant period of dementia-free life), then you might think that they should prescribing prophylactic Viagra for women and men. But while there are drugs to restore sexual dysfunction in women, they don’t include Viagra, which has some deleterious side effects in both sexes. Will we see such prescriptions in the future?

*Friday’s column by Andrew Sullivan, “Biden’s Annus Horribilis“, is free for the reading (though I subscribe), and is especially thoughtful—but depressing. He highlights what he sees as Biden’s failures, which has driven his approval ratings to the ground, and bemoans the lack of a viable Democratic replacement in 2024 (Harris is obviously not a good choice). An excerpt:

And all along, Biden has shown himself unable to sell what he was proposing even to his own party, let alone the country. He even stepped on his sole bipartisan triumph. At the very moment he could have declared he’d done what Trump couldn’t on infrastructure — Trump’s core issue — Biden bungled it. I’ve never witnessed a president announce a breakthrough in a major bill and then, in the presser for it, swear he wouldn’t sign it any time soon.

The source of this drift, in my view, is that the administration made a huge miscalculation at the very beginning. They somehow interpreted a modest victory in the Electoral College, shocking losses in the House, and a fluke tie in the Senate as a remit for a big government revolution. And in their media cocoon, no one was going to tell them otherwise. Over-promising and under-delivering is bad politics. That may be one reason support for Biden among the young has plummeted 13 percent since the spring to below 50, and his support among Independents has cratered as well. He has the lowest ratings of any new president since polling began — apart from Trump.

*From NPR we learn that because of J.K. Rowling’s reputation for “transphobia” (not at all deserved), the official Quidditch leagues (the game played at Hogwarts) are going to change their names.

The sport started growing beyond the Harry Potter books years ago, when college students first translated it into a real-world game. But now two large leagues plan to drop the famous name, citing author J.K. Rowling’s “anti-trans positions.”

A new name hasn’t been chosen yet. Both U.S. Quidditch and Major League Quidditch say they’ll use a series of surveys in the next few months to reach a decision.

The two leagues put out a joint statement this week announcing the looming name change.

And from that joint statement:

. . . the leagues are hoping a name change can help them continue to distance themselves from the works of  J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter book series, who has increasingly come under scrutiny for her anti-trans positions in recent years. Our sport has developed a reputation as one of the most progressive sports in the world on gender equality and inclusivity, in part thanks to its gender maximum rule, which stipulates that a team may not have more than four players of the same gender on the field at a time. Both organizations feel it is imperative to live up to this reputation in all aspects of their operations, and believe this move is a step in that direction.

Reader Divy, who sent me the above, link,  says “How ridiculous and infantile. This is when you can say the wokies have won.”

*Speaking of wokeness, I found a Guardian article from last month in which seven writers discuss the meaning of the word “woke”, which of course was once laudatory but is now pejorative. I found the best definition in the latter (the usual) category to be that of Zaid Jilani:

The word woke loosely refers to a social media-fueled, leftwing political ideology that emerged in the English-speaking world in the early 2010s. The term is derived from the state of being awake to or conscious of structural inequalities in society and being hyper-aware of one’s own role in those inequalities. Someone who is woke is constantly inspecting every institution in society, looking for the presence of racism, sexism, and other forms of pervasive prejudice.

What separates someone who is woke from someone who is merely progressive is not only this vigilance and awareness but a fervent belief that everyone must be enlisted into their social causes at all times and that the end justifies the means when battling injustice.

Unlike traditional liberals, woke Americans place very little stake in value-neutral norms like freedom of speech and non-discrimination. As the antiracist activist Ibram Kendi says, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.” Kendi also informs us that you can only be racist or anti-racist, there is no middle ground, echoing former president George W Bush’s instruction that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”.

**Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 804,1798, an increase of 1,296 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,368,410, an increase of about 4,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 19 includes:

Here’s a replica of the Godspeed (clearly a modern one!):

A first edition in French, bound in hardcover, will run you about $2000:

It was hard times then: 11,000 soldiers in small huts along with 500 men and women, with food running short. Lafayette was there to help, but due to disease and starvation, 2,000 soldiers died. Here’s a painting of Washington and Lafayette inspecting the troops, and below that a replica of one of the soldiers’ huts:

  • 1900 – French parliament votes amnesty for all involved in scandalous army treason trial known as Dreyfus affair. 
  • 1924 – The last Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost is sold in London, England.

And here’s a 1920 Silver Ghost 40FW tourer by Labourdette.  It’s worth millions.

Let’s take one for a 4-minute spin:

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

Haarmann was a nasty character, who usually killed his victims by biting their necks and Adam’s apple, often going through the trachea, and often while strangling them at the same time (one of his nicknames was “the Wolf Man”). He then dismembered them and disposed of the bodies.  He was guillotined. A photo:

the original (named the Jules Rimet Trophy) has never been recovered, but here’s what it looked like (caption from Wikipedia):

Queen Elizabeth II presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to 1966 World Cup winning England captain Bobby Moore
  • 1986 – Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, releases Andrei Sakharov and his wife from exile in Gorky.
  • 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 1,085.6 hectopascals (32.06 inHg) is recorded at Tosontsengel, Khövsgöl, Mongolia.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1888 – Fritz Reiner, Hungarian-American conductor (d. 1963)
  • 1906 – Leonid Brezhnev, Ukrainian-Russian marshal, engineer, and politician, 4th Head of State of the Soviet Union (d. 1982)
  • 1910 – Jean Genet, French novelist, playwright, and poet (d. 1986)

Genet was a petty criminal early in life, and after ten convictions was threatened with a life sentence, but through the intercession of luminaries like Sartre and Picasso was left alone, and never committed a crime again. His photo:

  • 1915 – Édith Piaf, French singer-songwriter and actress (d. 1963)

Here’s La Môme (her nickname, meaning “the little sparrow”), singing one of her most famous songs, “Milord” in 1959 (she was born Édith Giovanna Gassion, and took “Piaf”—slang for “sparrow”—as her last name).  I love the way she rolls her “r”s. About the song (from Wikipedia):

It is a chanson that recounts the feelings of a lower-class “girl of the port” (fille du port, perhaps a prostitute) who develops a crush on an elegantly attired apparent upper-class British traveller (or “milord”), whom she has seen walking the streets of the town several times (with a beautiful young woman on his arm), but who has not even noticed her. The singer feels that she is nothing more than a “shadow of the street” (ombre de la rue). Nonetheless, when she talks to him of love, she breaks through his shell; he begins to cry, and she has the job of cheering him up again. She succeeds, and the song ends with her shouting “Bravo! Milord” and “Encore, Milord”.

  • 1940 – Phil Ochs, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1976)

Ochs’s song “I ain’t marching anymore” (1966) was one of the anthems of the anti-Vietnam movement. Here’s a live version:

  • 1944 – Richard Leakey, Kenyan paleontologist and politician
  • 1963 – Jennifer Beals, American model and actress

Who remember this?

  • 1980 – Jake Gyllenhaal, American actor and producer
  • 1987 – Ronan Farrow, American activist, journalist, and lawyer

Those who gave Charon his coin on December 19 were few, and include:

A first edition of her classic Wuthering Heights, written under the pseudonym “Ellis Bell”, will set you back about $160,000:

  • 1953 – Robert Andrews Millikan, American physicist and eugenicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868)
  • 2012 – Robert Bork, American lawyer, judge, and scholar, United States Attorney General (b. 1927)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej have a high-level conversation:

Hili: There are so many questions we don’t know the answers to.
A: It’s true and that’s why I’m irritated by this know-it-all crowd of journalists.
In Polish:
Hili: Jest tak wiele pytań, na które nie znamy odpowiedzi.
Ja: To prawda, dlatego tak irytuje mnie to całe wszystkowiedzące towarzystwo dziennikarskie.

And greetings from Mietek in nearby Wloclawek!

From reader Simon, who sent this, calls it a “McVariant”:

From Bruce:

And holiday greetings to us all from reader Jacques Hausser, who lives in Switzerland and works on shrews:

From reader Barry, who says “I love it when the cat turns to the camera.”

From Ginger K., who sent the first tweet with a note: “The hypocrite!” It was actually $43,500 paid out to the anti-capitalist, which works out to be $207 per minute or about $3.30 per second

I found the second tweet myself; it give a relevant quote from Ibram $45Kendi, whose anti-racism book is full of rants about capitalism, which he equates with racism:

Tweets from Matthew. This one shows an embryonic trait suggesting (as we already know) that parrots evolved from toothed reptiles. Embryonic (but not adult) parrots have “pseudoteeth” whose development resembles that of reptilian teeth and whose proteins are largely similar to tooth proteins of mammals. Now why would God give embryonic parrots teeth that they can’t use, but are similar in many ways to the teeth of their relatives? Could it be. . . EVOLUTION? Yes, these are a remnant of genes that were expressed in ancestors.

Pig butt porn!

Look how politely Ms./Mr. Bear closes the door:

Matthew sent this from the Auschwitz Memorial:

A wolf in the Netherlands—not part of the natural range of Canis lupus! But Matthew says that wolves are expanding through northern Europe.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Mitek monologue)

October 19, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the cruelest day of the week: Tuesday, October 19, 2021: National Seafood Bisque Day. It’s also International Gin and Tonic Day, Rainforest Day, Dress Like a Dork Day, Evaluate Your Life Day (I wouldn’t recommend it), World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day, and, in England, Oxfordshire Day.

Here’s a list of the 15 best places to visit in Oxfordshire, which includes Blenheim Palace (below), built between 1705 and 1722, ancestral home of the Churchills and the birthplace of Winston. It is a World Heritage Site:

News of the Day:

As death approached, Colin L. Powell was still in fighting form.

“I’ve got multiple myeloma cancer, and I’ve got Parkinson’s disease. But otherwise I’m fine,” he said in a July interview.

And he rejected expressions of sorrow at his condition.

“Don’t feel sorry for me, for God’s sakes! I’m [84] years old,” said Powell who died Monday. “I haven’t lost a day of life fighting these two diseases. I’m in good shape.”

From  Bob Woodward’s interview/article on Colin Powell in the WaPo. (The whole piece is fascinating)

Powell also apparently has prostate cancer, so he surely had conditions contributing to his death from Covid, despite being vaccinated.

*Just a reminder: it’s been 272 days since the Bidens moved into the White House, promising to get a First Cat. No First Cat has appeared.

*The big news in Chicago is the vaccine mandate for city employees, which includes the police department. Police had until midnight Friday to report their vaccine status, and as of Monday night only 64% had done so. This could mean that very shortly we’ll lose more than a third of our police, who will either be fired or put on unpaid leave. In other places, possible unemployment has proved a remarkable prod to rolling up your sleeve.  Let’s hope that’s true in Chicago, or we’ll have not a crime wave, but a crime tsunami.  The Mayor and the police unions have all filed lawsuits.

*The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to stay Texas’s enforced-again and draconian anti-abortion law until its constitutionality is resolved by the courts. The Supreme Court could put the case on its docket immediately, but is unlikely to do so until it’s wended its way through lower courts.  They’ve given Texas until Thursday to respond. I think the Dept. of Justice has a very good argument:

“The question now is whether Texas’ nullification of this Court’s precedents should be allowed to continue while the courts consider the United States’ suit. As the district court recognized, it should not,” the Justice Department wrote.

Hell, no!

*If you’re due for a Covid booster, be aware that the FDA may soon approve a “mix and match” approach for vaccines, i.e., you can get any of the Johnson & Johnson, Prizer, or Moderna vaccines as a booster, no matter what jab or jabs you had initially. Approval could come this week, but note that the data are scanty and incomplete, but still better than nothing:

Experts emphasized last week that the new data was based on small groups of volunteers and short-term findings. Only antibody levels — one measure of the immune response — were calculated as part of the preliminary data, not the levels of immune cells primed to attack the coronavirus, which scientists say are also an important measure of a vaccine’s success.

*The NYT reports that the 7-foot plaster statue of Thomas Jefferson that has stood in the Council Chamber inside New York’s City Hall for over 100 years (it’s a replica of a bronze statue standing in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C)., is likely to be removed this week. The reason is, of course, that Jefferson had slaves: reason enough, these days, to not honor him.

The Public Design Commission is expected on Monday to vote on and likely approve a long-term loan of the statue to the New-York Historical Society, after the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus requested that the statue be removed.

The vote is part of a broad, nationwide reckoning over racial inequality highlighted by the murder of George Floyd, the racial disparities further revealed by the coronavirus pandemic, and the sometimes violent debate over whether Confederate monuments should be toppled and discarded.

Though Jefferson, one of the nation’s founding fathers, wrote about equality in the Declaration of Independence, he enslaved more than 600 people and fathered six children with one of them, Sally Hemings.

“How the hell can people see as a hero someone who had hundreds of enslaved Africans, someone who was a racist and who said we were inferior and someone who was a slaveholding pedophile?” said Assemblyman Charles Barron, the former councilman who tried to get the statue removed in 2001. “For him to be canonized in a statue is incredible — incredibly racist.”

Here’s the statue. I’m wondering how long it will be until the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is torn down.

Photo: Dave Sanders for the New York Times

I would like to hear readers’ opinions on this, so here’s a poll:

Should the statue of Thomas Jefferson in New York's City Hall be removed?

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*The Washington Post published some longevity tips in a new article called, “Want to add healthy years to your life? Here’s what new longevity research says.” I have to confess that I didn’t read the tips as I’d just get anxious because I’ll find that I’m doing everything wrong. But if you want to see what to eat, how to exercise, and other non-obvious tips for living longer, go have a look.

*Here’s a NYT story about the discovery of a stone sculpture by William Edmonson (1874-1951), largely ignored in his lifetime but now one of the most famous “outsider” artists of the century, and the first black person to get a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art.  Art enthusiast John Foster was driving through St. Louis and spotted a ten-inch sculpture sitting on someone’s front porch. He later returned and told the owners that they should get it investigated. Sure enough, it was an Edmonson that had gone missing for 80 years. It’s been acquired by the American Museum of Folk Art in New York, and is worth about a million dollars.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 726,389, an increase of 1,631 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,922,705, an increase of about 8,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 19 includes:

Here’s an adaptation of Charles Minard’s famous multi-information map of Napoleon’s retreat from Russa with dates, temperatures, and the size of the army as it went to Moscow (blue figure) and on the way back (brownish figure), along with the temperature.  Click to enlarge. And look at that attrition! It was a total disaster for the French.

(From Brittanica) Statistical map of Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812 The size of Napoleon’s army during the Russian campaign of 1812 is shown by the dwindling width of the lines of advance (green) and retreat (gold). The retreat information is correlated with a temperature scale shown along the lower portion of the statistical map. Published by Charles Minard in 1869. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

I believe this is the translation of Planck’s first paper on the subject, which of course led to quantum mechanics:

  • 1943 – Streptomycin, the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis, is isolated by researchers at Rutgers University.

Selman Waksman got a Nobel Prize for this discovery, which was actually made by a graduate student in his lab, Albert Schatz during his Ph.D work. Shatz got overlooked, sued Waksman, and there was a “settlement”. But of course  no settlement can substitute for a Nobel. Wikipedia notes this:

In his accounts on streptomycin discovery, Waksman never mentioned Schatz. When the first clinical trial was performed by Feldman, he did not know that the new drug was discovered by Schatz, and it was much later in Chile (the 1960’s) where he met Schatz that the story was brought up in their conversation. The Lancet commented: “The Nobel committee made a considerable mistake by failing to recognise Schatz’s contribution.”

This is an example of the Matthew Effect.

The invasion of Leyte in the Philippines in 1944 marks the fulfillment of a promise by General Douglas MacArthur, who, when he was driven out by the Japanese in 1942, made the famous vow, “I shall return.” And he did: here he is wading ashore during the first landings on Leyte (he’s the guy in front with the sunglasses):

  • 1950 – Korean War: The Battle of Pyongyang ends in a United Nations victory. Hours later, the Chinese Army begins crossing the border into Korea.
  • 1960 – The United States imposes a near-total trade embargo against Cuba.
  • 1973 – President Nixon rejects an Appeals Court decision that he turn over the Watergate tapes.
  • 1987 – Black Monday: The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls by 22%, 508 points.
  • 2003 – Mother Teresa is beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Oy! She’s now Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Here’s a short segment of a 60 Minutes video from the soldiers who found Hussein’s hidey-hole:

The capture:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1850 – Annie Smith Peck, American mountaineer and academic (d. 1935)
  • 1929 – Lewis Wolpert, South African-English biologist, author, and academic (d. 2021)

What a nice guy and what a good writer Wolpert was. He gets approbation from Richard Dawkins in Dawkins’s latest volume, Books Do Furnish a Life, which I’ll review within a day or so. (Short take: read it!) I set next to him at the 30th anniversary dinner celebrating The Selfish Gene, and he told me all about his severe depression, which he chronicled in the book Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression.

Hard to believe that little Amy is now 53. I could find only one thing she illustrated: her father’s book The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejerbased on a story he told Amy as a child:

At the 2009 meeting of Atheist Alliance International, where I was a speaker, I got to sit at the Big People’s Table with Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Santa Maria, who was dating Maher at the time. I of course noticed her famous Archaeopteryx tattoo:

Those who found eternal peace on October 19 include:

  • 1745 – Jonathan Swift, Irish satirist and essayist (b. 1667)
  • 1937 – Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand-English physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1871)

One of New Zealand’s overproduction of artists and intellects, Rutherford won the Prize for work on radioactive elements, including the discover of half-lives. That work was done at McGill University, where the picture below was taken in 1905. He died of a small hernia that became strangulated, which is one reason I decided to get mine operated on.

Critic Edmund Wilson proposed to her several times (Wikipedia says she took his virginity), but she turned him down

  • 1987 – Jacqueline du Pré, English cellist and educator (b. 1945)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sleeping in:

A: Are you getting up?
Hili: No, it’s still night time.
In Polish:
Ja: Wstajesz?
Hili: Nie, jeszcze jest noc.

And nearby in Wloclawek, Mietek says “hi” (I’m told that the “you” is the plural form in Polish):

Mietek: Well, and how are you?

In Polish: No i co tam u Was?

From Su:

From Stash Krod:

From Jesus of the Day:

Two tweets from Barry. First, Canadian road rage:

. . . and a beautiful butterfly:

From Simon: I know ducks have trouble distinguishing decoys from afar, but this hawk can’t even do it right next to the faux mallard.

A tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial. Many don’t realize that the Nazis engaged in mass murder of Soviet prisoners of war, often in concentration camps.

Tweets from Matthew. I just listened to Sophie Scott’s defense of the beleaguered professor Kathleen Stock, unfairly labeled a transphobe. Professor Scott is passionate, eloquent and, most important, correct.

Maxim also invented the first automatic machine gun, arguably NOT for the good of mankind, but I suppose the list below deliberately ignores that.

I joined this Facebook group, which has the admirable purpose of letting people (and restaurants) in the UK know that diners deserve a decent portion of chips (they are cheap to make). I’m not in the UK, but I like their ceaseless scrutiny of chip portions.

Granny Smiths are by far my favorite apple, as they’re crisp, tart, and actually have FLAVOR. They’re the only apples I buy unless they’re not around. But I never knew there was an actual Granny Smith!