Friday: Hili dialogue

July 2, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

Let’s have a poll!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on July 2 includes:

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

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

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

Here’s a photo of that first Zeppelin flight:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the shirt with the alligator on it.

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

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

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

  • 1990 – Margot Robbie, Australian actress and producer

Those who perished from this Earth on July 2 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we have Mietek and Leon together! Malgorzata explains:

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

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

In Polish: Co dwie głowy to nie jedna

From Nicole:

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

A clever ad from reader David:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat encounters Honorary Cat®:

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

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

June 17, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, June 17, 2021: National Apple Strudel Day, a cultural appropriation from Austria.  It’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, World Croc[odile] Day, National Eat Your Vegetables Day (didn’t we just have that?), and Global Garbage Man Day (surely there are Garbage Women too!).

News of the Day:

We’ve finally passed the mark of 600,000 deaths in the U.S. due to Covid-19 (see below). I remember when a mark of 200,000 seemed unimaginable, but we’re now three times higher than that. According to the CDC, though,  only 44% of Americans have been fully vaccinated.  But the range among states is wide: at the top is Vermont, with about 63% of the population fully vaccinated; at the bottom is Mississippi with only 28.5%.

As I predicted (that was a no-brainer), the Putin-Biden summit did not appear to be going well, at least in terms of agreements. Putin denied that the big hacker attacks in the U.S. came from Russia, and Biden pressed an unimpressed Putin on Russia’s human rights record and Navalny’s imprisonment. All Biden could say was, “I did what I came to do.” I was nonplussed by all the news describing the summit as “historic” when, at least for now, there’s little evidence that anything was accomplished.

Trump asserts that he’s writing a memoir, “the book of all books,” he calls it, but the Guardian reports that reputable publishers are unlikely to bite, especially because Trump was only a one-term President. Trump says he’s already had two offers from publishers but turned them both down. The Guardian adds:

On Tuesday, Politico reported that senior figures at Penguin Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster said they would not touch a Trump book.

“It would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually,” one was quoted as saying. “That would be the problem. If he can’t even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?”

(h/t Eli)

The Senate unanimously passed legislation making Juneteenth (June 19) a federal holiday, “Juneteenth National Independence Day”. As I write this on Wednesday evening, the House is expected to approve the bill as well, and of course Biden will sign it into law. Earlier on Wednesday, our own governor, J. B. Pritzker, signed a bill making Juneteenth an Illinois state holiday. By now you should know what the date commemorates, but if you don’t know, go here. It’s a celebration of emancipation from slavery, announced in Texas on this date in 1865, three years after Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Botanical News: A rare “corpse flower” has bloomed, albeit briefly, in Poland. From the Associated Press:

The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, a giant foul-smelling blossom also known as the corpse flower, went into a rare, short bloom at a botanical garden in Warsaw, drawing crowds who waited for hours to see it.

The extraordinary flower, which emits a dead-body odor to attract pollinating insects that feed on flesh, bloomed Sunday. It was already withering early Monday. Those wishing to avoid the smell and crowds could watch it on live video from the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens.

Hundreds, if not thousands, lined up long into the night Sunday and Monday morning at the conservatory just to be able to pass by the flower and take a picture.

Here’s a video of the same species blooming in Cornwall. It’s amazing!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 600,024, an increase of 332 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We’ve finally passed the 600,000 mark.  The reported world death toll is now 3,849,345, an increase of about 10,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on June 17 includes:

And the world’s most beautiful mausoleum (and building):

Photo from Wikipedia
  • 1673 – French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet reach the Mississippi River and become the first Europeans to make a detailed account of its course.
  • 1767 – Samuel Wallis, a British sea captain, sights Tahiti and is considered the first European to reach the island.
  • 1885 – The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor.

Here’s part of it before it was sent to the U.S.

1878 World Fair in Paris, Park of the Champ-de-Mars, (Photo by Léon et Lévy/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

Nash was being escorted by train to the penitentiary, but was killed in the assault (Pretty Boy Floyd was one of the assailants). Here’s the scene outside the station soon after the attack:

  • 1939 – Last public guillotining in France: Eugen Weidmann, a convicted murderer, is executed in Versailles outside the Saint-Pierre prison.

As Wikipedia notes, “The “hysterical behaviour” by spectators was so scandalous that French President Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions. Executions by guillotine continued out of public view until the last such execution, of Hamida Djandoubi on September 10, 1977.” You can see photos of the trial and the guillotine here.

  • 1944 – Iceland declares independence from Denmark and becomes a republic.[6]
  • 1963 – The United States Supreme Court rules 8–1 in Abington School District v. Schempp against requiring the reciting of Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer in public schools.
  • 1967 – Nuclear weapons testing: China announces a successful test of its first thermonuclear weapon.
  • 1972 – Watergate scandal: Five White House operatives are arrested for burgling the offices of the Democratic National Committee during an attempt by members of the administration of President Richard M. Nixon to illegally wiretap the political opposition as part of a broader campaign to subvert the democratic process.
  • 1987 – With the death of the last individual of the species, the dusky seaside sparrow becomes extinct.

The last aged male, between 9 and 13 years old, died at the Walt Disney World resort. Here’s a photo:

Here’s the classification (with numbers) in a South African Identity document during apartheid:

Remember watching that ride on television? Here’s a news report with video:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1882 – Igor Stravinsky, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1971)
  • 1898 – M. C. Escher, Dutch illustrator (d. 1972)

Here’s a self-portrait of Escher followed by a photograph:

  • 1920 – François Jacob, French biologist and geneticist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2013)
  • 1943 – Newt Gingrich, American historian and politician, 58th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • 1943 – Barry Manilow, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1980 – Venus Williams, American tennis player

Those who reaped their heavenly reward on June 17 include:

There is one picture of a cat and kitten by Edward Burne-Jones (below), but I can’t establish that he really painted it. I doubt it!

  • 1986 – Kate Smith, American singer (b. 1907)
  • 2008 – Cyd Charisse, American actress and dancer (b. 1922)
  • 2012 – Rodney King, American victim of police brutality (b. 1965)

This was captured on video (below, note that it’s distressing), something that is more common these days, for video is powerful evidence:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is once again supervising the gardening:

A: Are you asleep?
Hili: No, I’m waiting for you to start weeding the vegetable patch.
In Polish:
Ja: Śpisz?
Hili: Nie, czekam aż się zabierzesz za pielenie warzywnika.

And a rare Mietek monologue; he queries Elzbieta as if he was an impatient child:

Mietek: Is it far yet?

In Polish: Daleko jeszcze?

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Titania, who must have read the bird article I discussed yesterday:

From reader Ken (via the GOP Twitter feed), who describes this as “Republican self parody”:

Another urban duck-saving story from Jean. I can’t get enough of these, but only when they have a happy ending:

A 45-year-old rock photo sent by Ginger K.

Tweets from Matthew. This is not likely to be evolved mimicry, but who knows? Predators could avoid the whole concatenation of eggs since it resembles a snake, and laying in such a pattern might then be adaptive.

A double treat: science combined with a clever parody of a Dean Martin song:

In honor of Stan Laurel, even though his birthday was yesterday:

One of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions. I’m sure I’ve posted it before, but it’s well worth seeing again. Be sure to turn the sound up and watch the whole thing.

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

May 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Monday, May 24, 2021: National Escargot Day. It is a Three Bun Day, which means that I saw three cottontail rabbits on my way to work. This augurs a good day: 12 rabbits’ feet!

It’s also Asparagus Day, Brother’s Day (only one brother being celebrated?), and, in Canada, Victoria Day and its related holiday in Quebec, National Patriots’ Day (Journée nationale des patriotes). And Bob Dylan turns 80 today! (See below.)

News of the Day:

“Defund the police” was always a dubious slogan, unless qualified with strict specifications on where the money would go to compensate for reduced policing or to add extra social value. And, sure enough, this headline has appeared in The New Woke Times (click on screenshot):

The cause, of course, is a rise in violent crime. A quote:

. . . more cops is what Los Angeles is getting.

A year after streets echoed with calls to “defund” law enforcement and city leaders embraced the message by agreeing to take $150 million away from the Los Angeles Police Department, or about 8 percent of the department’s budget, the city last week agreed to increase the police budget to allow the department to hire about 250 officers. The increase essentially restores the cuts that followed the protests.

The BBC reports that John Kelly, an ultamarathoner, just set a record in the grueling Pennine Way race, a 260-mile route that “runs down the spine of Britain from the Scottish Borders’ Kirk Yetholm to Edale in Derbyshire’s Peak District.”They add that a fit hiker would take over two weeks to hike the route, but Kelly did it in just 58 hours and four minutes. And he had only two 10-minute naps along the way!

Speaking of ultramarathons, the NYT reports a mass death: 21 runners in a Chinese ultramarathon, including one of their best athletes, died when cold weather and freezing rain inundated a 62-mile mountain race. Many of the runners were clad only in short and tee-shirts.

The Associated Press has collected some depressing and hair-raising stories about how the pandemic has affected the lives of Indians, while the medical system breaks down. Here’s just one of several stories:

The Amrohi Family, Gurgaon

At the Amrohi apartment, the former ambassador’s family was calling his medical school classmates for help. One eventually arranged a bed at a nearby hospital.

It was April 26. The brutal north Indian summer was coming on. Temperatures that day reached nearly 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius).

His wife, Yamini, and their adult son Anupam put him into the family’s compact SUV.

They arrived about 7:30 p.m. and parked in front of the main doors, thinking Ashok would be rushed inside. They were wrong. Admission paperwork had to be completed first, and the staff was swamped.

So they waited.

Anupam stood in line while Yamini stayed in the car with Ashok, who was breathing bottled oxygen. She blasted the air-conditioning, trying to keep him cool.

An hour passed. Two hours. Someone came to swab Ashok for a coronavirus test. It came back positive. His breathing had grown difficult.

“I went thrice to the hospital reception for help. I begged, pleaded and shouted at the officials,” she said. “But nobody budged.”

At one point, their daughter called from London, where she lives with her family. With everyone on a video call, their four-year-old grandson asked to talk to Ashok.

“I love you, Poppy,” he said.

Ashok pulled off his oxygen mask: “Hello. Poppy loves you too.”

Three hours.

Four hours.

Anupam returned regularly to the car to check on his father.

“It’s almost done,” he would tell him each time. “Everything is going to be alright. Please stay with us!”

Five hours.

A little after midnight, Ashok grew agitated, pulling off the oxygen mask and gasping. His chest heaved. Then he went still.

“In a second he was no more,” Yamini said. “He was dead in my arms.”

Yamini went to the reception desk: “You are murderers,” she told them.

The story continues later in the article.

And a BBC report describes a deadly “black fungus” disease that strikes some people in India who have recovered from Covid, mostly males with underlying conditions like diabetes. It is a fulminating infection caused by a common soil fungus and must be treated with long-term doses of antifungal agents.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 589,517, an increase of 563 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,478,596, an increase of about 9,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on May 24 includes:

  • 1487 – The ten-year-old Lambert Simnel is crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland, with the name of Edward VI in a bid to threaten King Henry VII’s reign.
  • 1607 – One hundred English settlers disembark in Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America.
  • 1626 – Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.

Yes, the island was a bargain: it went for 60 guilders, a trifling amount now worth about $1,143. The sellers were Lenape Native Americans.

  • 1683 – The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, opens as the world’s first university museum.
  • 1813 – South American independence leader Simón Bolívar enters Mérida, leading the invasion of Venezuela, and is proclaimed El Libertador (“The Liberator”).
  • 1844 – Samuel Morse sends the message “What hath God wrought” (a biblical quotation, Numbers 23:23) from a committee room in the United States Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in BaltimoreMaryland, to inaugurate a commercial telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Morse in 1840; the man knew his Bible:

  • 1883 – The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is opened to traffic after 14 years of construction.
  • 1930 – Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia (she left on May 5 for the 11,000 mile flight).

Here’s Johnson  in her Gypsy Moth plane in 1930. The flight took her six days. Sadly, she died after running out of fuel over the Thames Estuary in 1941 and, parachuting safely into the water, died of extreme cold.

  • 1935 – The first night game in Major League Baseball history is played in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the Cincinnati Reds beating the Philadelphia Phillies 2–1 at Crosley Field.
  • 1940 – Igor Sikorsky performs the first successful single-rotor helicopter flight.

Here’s Sikorsky in his first helicopter:

A second attempt succeeded in August of that same year. If you’re in Mexico City, do visit Trotsky’s house, or rather fortress, which he built to stave off attacks. He knew Stalin was going to go after him. In 2012 I visited it (Frida Kahlo’s house is just a few blocks away); here’s the desk where Trotsky was sitting when an assassin put an ice axe into his head. It’s said to be just as he left it.

  • 1956 – The first Eurovision Song Contest is held in Lugano, Switzerland.
  • 1976 – The Judgment of Paris takes place in France, launching California as a worldwide force in the production of quality wine.
  • 1991 – Israel conducts Operation Solomon, evacuating Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
  • 1999 – The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands indicts Slobodan Milošević and four others for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.
  • 2019 – Under pressure over her handling of Brexit, British Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation as Leader of the Conservative Party, effective as of June 7.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1819 – Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (d. 1901)
  • 1938 – Tommy Chong, Canadian-American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1941 – Bob Dylan, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, artist, writer, and producer; Nobel Prize laureate

Dylan is 80 today! How could time have passed so quickly? Here’s a photo I have in my office of Dylan with a certain young lady (his significant other at the time) who went on to achieve her own renown:


  • 1960 – Kristin Scott Thomas, English actress

Those who lost their lives on May 24 include:

  • 1543 – Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish mathematician and astronomer (b. 1473)
  • 1879 – William Lloyd Garrison, American journalist and activist (b. 1805)
  • 1974 – Duke Ellington, American pianist and composer (b. 1899)

I’ve almost finished reading my biography of Duke. Here’s one of my favorites from the Blanton-Webster version of his band (1939-1940): “Cotton Tail.” I put it up in honor of the three bunnies I saw this morning. And yes, this one swings! The sax solo made Ben Webster famous. (And this will wake you up, so keep the sound down if folks are sleeping!).

  • 1996 – Joseph Mitchell, American journalist and author (b. 1908)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Paulina have a chat.

Hili: How does the writing of your masters theses go?
Paulina: It’s going well but sometimes I need a break.
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Hili: Jak ci idzie pisanie pracy magisterskiej?
Paulina: Dobrze, ale czasem muszę odpocząć.

And Mietek has a moment of rapture:

Mietek: The wind in my hair.

In Polish: Wiatr we włosach

From Science Humor:

From Bruce:

From Meriliee. I do this, too, sticking one foot out from under the covers at night:

I made a tweet!

From reader Ken, who comments, “This man was at one time the National Security Advisor of the United States of America.”


Tweets from Matthew:

I think this cat’s just harassed:

This is a gynandromorph (half male, half female) ant of the ant species Pheidole noda, with sexual traits split straight down the middle. I suspect that the side with the wing is male, because only males or females who are destined to be queens have wings. Look at the difference between the male and female morphology!

Fun history and art fact (lovely paintings, too):

Everybody says this photo is wrong, but they can’t quite say why. Are the measurements wrong? Are they using different scales? You tell me! The guy certainly looks more than a foot and eight inches taller than the woman.

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

May 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

An excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on May 22 include:

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

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

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


And here’s that patent:

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

Those who croaked on May 22 include:

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

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

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

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

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

And Leon and Mitek have an exchange:

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

In Polish: Owies na śniadanie? Przechodzimy na wegetarianizm?

From Woody; a most excellent meme:

From Jean:

From SMBC via Ginger K:

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

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

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

And a second and related tweet:

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

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

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


Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

May 19, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a humpish day: Wednesday, May 19, 2021: National Devils Food Cake Day. It’s also World Inflammatory Bowel Disease Day, Malcolm X Day (his birthday in 1925), and Hepatitis Testing Day.

News of the Day:

The Democratic Party is slowly turning, as I thought it might, from support of Israel to support of Palestine. Although I may be wrong, I don’t think so. We’ll discuss this later today.

If this headline from the South Bend Tribune doesn’t prompt you to read the article, you are incurious! Do read it; it’s a fascinating piece of biology. (Click on screenshot to get to article; h/t Jean):

A defendant in North Dakota, convicted of trying to run over seven Native American children in his S.U.V., was convicted of one crime in court, and, before being taken into custody, cut his own throat with a plastic instrument and died in the courtroom. Fortunately, the jury had left the courtroom, but the judge and bailiffs were there.

Darwin’s Arch, a formation in the Galapagos, has collapsed. It was, of course, entropy (erosion). Here’s what it used to look like:

His arch may collapse, but his theory stands strong!

There will be no real news today, i.e. stuff about international affairs, which I find depressing. We have Alternative (but not fake) news.

Finally, what happened to Sinead O’Connor after she tore up a photo of the pope on Saturday Night Live in 1992? Already a renegade, this gesture made her career go down the toilet (it’s just the Pope, for crying out loud!). Her life has since been unsettled, as a fascinating New York Times profile reveals. She was physically abused as a child, spent six years in and out of mental-health facilities, and has now converted to Islam (her new name is Shuhada Sadaqat. And she’s written a new memoir (out June 1) called Rememberings—the excuse for the profile.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 586,824, an increase of about 1,000 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,419,984, an increase of about 15,300 over yesterday’s total.:

Stuff that happened on May 19 includes:

  • 1535 – French explorer Jacques Cartier sets sail on his second voyage to North America with three ships, 110 men, and Chief Donnacona’s two sons (whom Cartier had kidnapped during his first voyage).
  • 1536 – Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, is beheaded for adultery, treason, and incest.
  • 1743 – Jean-Pierre Christin developed the centigrade temperature scale.
  • 1780 – New England’s Dark Day, an unusual darkening of the day sky, was observed over the New England states and parts of Canada.

This is attributed to smoke from forest fires.

Atatürk is sort of a hero of mine for secularizing Turkey and instituting many reforms, but I suppose they’ll one day find that he was irreparably immoral. At any rate, here he is in 1925:

Here’s that salacious rendition, with Monroe introduced by Peter Lawford:

I’d highly recommend you reading this letter by Dr. King;you can find it here.

  • 2018 – The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s Melba, one of the most renowned singers of her day, also gave the name to the dessert Peach Melba, as well as to Melba Toast. Here she is in 1907:

Notice that the Turkish War of Independence began on Atatürk’s birthday.

  • 1914 – Max Perutz, Austrian-English biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2002)
  • 1925 – Pol Pot, Cambodian general and politician, 29th Prime Minister of Cambodia (d. 1998)
  • 1925 – Malcolm X, American minister and activist (d. 1965)

Here’s Malcolm X on television in 1965, the year he was assassinated (he was only 39).

Those who became the Dearly Departed on May 19 include:

  • 1536 – Anne Boleyn, Queen of England (1533–1536); second wife of Henry VIII of England (b. c. 1501)
  • 1795 – James Boswell, Scottish biographer (b. 1740)
  • 1935 – T. E. Lawrence, British colonel and archaeologist (b. 1888)

Another one of my heroes: a man of both thought and action, tortured though he was:

Here’s “Cloud’s Hill”, the cottage he inhabited while working for the RAF under a pseudonym. He was on the way home when he died in a motorcycle crash. I visited the place and took this photo in 2006.

  • 1971 – Ogden Nash, American poet (b. 1902)
  • 1994 – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, American journalist, 37th First Lady of the United States (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Szaron and Hili have their portraits taken:

Hili: They are taking our photos.
Szaron: I see it.
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Hili: Fotografują nas.
Szaron: Widzę.

And we have a Mietek monologue!  Malgorzata says that Mitek is referring to a special brand of Polish woo: Sylwoterapia – therapy by trees and forest, a branch of pseudomedicine.

Mietek: A bit of tree therapy will not do any harm.

In Polish: Odrobina sylwoterapii nie zaszkodzi

Several readers sent me this very clever xkcd cartoon, which is a pretty good explanation of Muller’s ratchet, an explanation for the inevitable mutational/drift degeneration of chromosomes that can’t recombine out their bad alleles, and thus perhaps a stimulus for the evolution of recombination (sex and crossing-over of chromosomes).  Reader Rick notes that if you hover your mouse over the original cartoon, a secret message appears.

This is true; see the article by George Will here.

From Stephen: Soylent green is PEOPLE!

Titania’s comment about Shania Twain is very clever, if I get what she’s trying to say here:

A tweet from Simon showing a very clever billboard:

A tweet from Orli. The explicit politicization of scientific research is beginning.

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s an OCD cat:

A lovely Scottish rainbow:

Excellent life advice!

Here’s a tweet that puts history into perspective:

Yes, everything is terrible—except for this rodent having a feast.

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and all the Polish cats)

February 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those who ceased metabolizing on February 25 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili awaits her noms:

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

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon chastises Mietek:

Leon: “Move over a bit!”

In Polish: Posuń się trochę!

Here are two pictures of Paulina’s kitties:

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

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

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

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

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

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

Spiders mating; I don’t know the species.

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

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

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

Thursday: Hili dialogue

February 11, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, February 11, 2021: National Peppermint Patty Day (no, not the Peanuts character but the confection). It’s also Fat Thursday, White Shirt Day (commemorating an auto strike settled in 1937; see below), Inventor’s Day, and International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates the life of Maria Grever, described as “The first female Mexican composer to achieve international fame.” Her best known song in the U.S., “What a difference a day makes” (in Spanish: “Cuando vuelva a tu lado”) was a big hit for Dinah Washington.

News of the Day:

The entire 8-hour video of yesterday’s impeachment proceedings has been posted on Youtube. I wrote a few superficial thoughts on the impeachment trial last evening, and you can see them here. Having not watched much of it, I wanted readers to discussion their take so far. I believe this is the video put into evidence by the impeachment managers; click on “watch on YouTube” to see the 13-minute production. The NYT has a good summary and takeaway of Day 1+ by Eileen Sullivan.

I remind readers to be polite in their discussion of the impeachment trial, and not diss other readers or the host. Emotions are high these days, and you don’t even see the comments that I have to trash because they’re either vicious or obscene.

The Saudis have released women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul after nearly three years in jail. Famous for agitating for Saudi women’s right to drive, she was sentenced to six years in prison in 2018. But after Biden pressured the country to improve its human rights record, they released al-Hathloul on three years’ probation and a five-year travel ban.  Here’s a brave woman:


The Guardian reported yesterday that Bruce Springsteen was arrested for drunk driving in November.

A spokesperson for the national parks service confirmed that Springsteen was arrested on 14 November in a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area on the New Jersey coastline.

The park is on a narrow, beach-ringed peninsula, with views across a bay to New York City. It is about 15 miles north of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Springsteen received citations for driving while under the influence, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area. The spokesperson said Springsteen was cooperative throughout the process.

As Jez, who sent me this link, noted, “Oh dear, I guess Bruce was on another “highway jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 471,343, an increase of about 3,200 deaths over yesterday’s figure (the rise over the last few days may represent Superbowl party congregating). The number of new cases is now falling, but we still may exceed half a million deaths within the month. The reported world death toll stands 2,366,880, a big increase of about 14,000 deaths over yesterday’s total, or about 9.7 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on February 11 includes:

  • 660 BC – Traditional date for the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu

This isn’t just traditional, but “legendary,” i.e., complete fiction.

  • AD 55 – The death under mysterious circumstances of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus, heir to the Roman empire, on the eve of his coming of age clears the way for Nero to become Emperor.
  • 1794 – First session of United States Senate opens to the public.
  • 1812 – Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry is accused of “gerrymandering” for the first time.

Thats not quite correct, for Wikipedia also reports that the term “gerry-mander” was first used in a cartoon from March of that same year. Here it is, showing the odd way of drawing state senate districts that got Gerry into trouble.

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

Soubirous,  had 18 visions of the a young woman, though they were never identified by her as the Virgin Mary (the apparition said she was the “Immaculate Conception”. Nevertheless, they were all officially confirmed by the Catholic Church (?)died at 33 from tuberculosis. Here’s a photo of her in her nun’s garb:

Here are the strikers; their action gave rise to the powerful United Auto Workers Union:

(From Wikipedia): Sit-down strikers guarding window entrance to Fisher body plant number three. Photo by Sheldon Dick, 1937.
  • 1938 – BBC Television produces the world’s first ever science fiction television programme, an adaptation of a section of the Karel Čapek play R.U.R., that coined the term “robot”.
  • 1953 – Cold War: U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower denies all appeals for clemency for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

They were both electrocuted on June 19.

  • 1971 – Cold War: the Seabed Arms Control Treaty opened for signature outlawing nuclear weapons on the ocean floor in international waters.
  • 1979 – The Iranian Revolution establishes an Islamic theocracy under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • 1990 – Nelson Mandela is released from Victor Verster Prison outside Cape Town, South Africa after 27 years as a political prisoner.

Here’s Mandela and his then wife, Winnie, on the day of his release:

  • 2001 – A Dutch programmer launched the Anna Kournikova virus infecting millions of emails via a trick photo of the tennis star.

As Wikipedia notes, “The worm was created by 20-year-old Dutch student Jan de Wit, who used the pseudonym “OnTheFly”, on 11 February 2001. It was designed to trick email users into clicking to open an email attachment ostensibly appearing to be an image of the professional tennis player Anna Kournikova, but instead hiding a malicious program. The worm arrived in an email with the subject line “Here you have, ;0)” and an attached file entitled AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs. When opened in Microsoft Outlook, the file did not display a picture of Kournikova, but launched a viral VBScript program that forwarded itself to all contacts in the victim’s address book.[2]

  • 2011 – Arab Spring: The first wave of the Egyptian revolution culminates in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and the transfer of power to the Supreme Military Council after 17 days of protests.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1839 – Josiah Willard Gibbs, American physicist (d. 1903)
  • 1847 – Thomas Edison, American engineer and businessman, developed the light bulb and phonograph (d. 1931)
  • 1898 – Leo Szilard, Hungarian-American physicist and academic (d. 1964)
  • 1915 – Patrick Leigh Fermor, English soldier, author, and scholar (d. 2011)

You could do worse than read Leigh Fermor’s great travel books; my favorite is Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese , as I myself traveled in the Mani (a wonderful place).  What a life the man had!

Leigh Fermor
  • 1926 – Paul Bocuse, French chef (d. 2018)
  • 1936 – Burt Reynolds, American actor and director (d. 2018)
  • 1962 – Sheryl Crow, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1964 – Sarah Palin, American journalist, politician and Governor of Alaska
  • 1969 – Jennifer Aniston, American actress and producer

Those who hied themselves underground on February 11 include:

  • 1650 – René Descartes, French mathematician and philosopher (b. 1596)
  • 1868 – Léon Foucault, French physicist and academic (b. 1819)
  • 1948 – Sergei Eisenstein, Russian director and screenwriter (b. 1898)
  • 1963 – Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist, and short story writer (b. 1932)

Plath, of course, committed suicide at age 30; it was a great loss:

Powell was a great dancer and could almost hold her own with Fred Astaire (nobody could, really). Here they are doing a tap routine to “Begin the Beguine” from the movie Broadway Melody 1940. What a number: to my mind, the greatest routine Astaire and a partner ever had.

  • 1994 – Paul Feyerabend, Austrian-Swiss philosopher and academic (b. 1924)


  • 2012 – Whitney Houston, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress (b. 1963)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili doesn’t want to share a lap with Szaron:

Małgorzata: There is a place for both of you here.
Hili: This is not the right solution.
In Polish:
Małgorzata: Zmieścicie się oboje.
Hili: To nie jest właściwe rozwiązanie.

Elzbieta sends a photo of Mietek, enacting what how the cat sees what kids really do during online instruction:

Caption: Distance learning.

In Polish: Zdalne nauczanie

And here’s Szaron out in the snow:

From Stash Krod:

From Diana. I’ve checked on most of these, and the deplatforming were correct, though groups like “cobras” aren’t monophyletic but folk groupings:

From Bruce. It recalls the Shakespeare line, “With what I most enjoy contented least.”

Titania calls out the world’s insanity. Have a look at the Twitter exchange she shows here:

A tweet from Luana by a disaffected African-American woman:

Reader Pyers says this: “This is, without doubt, the best twitter thread that I have seen for a very long time.  Whether it is suitable for your not-a-blog I don’t know but is is brilliant – with even GCHQ pitching in!”

I have sent it to my British friend Andrew, who taught me to eat and to love Weetabix (though also to never eat them in odd numbers). I expected an explosive reaction. But what he said was this:

Combined: the two very best features of the British breakfast.  What could go wrong?

Of course that’s a negative reaction, but a subtle one. Do read the followup tweets.

From Matthew, we have a video that I’ve gotten from at least two dozen readers. If anything is viral, this one is.

First, a very bad Zoom mishap during a legal case. The Washington Post explains more.

Expect to see a gazillion cat/lawyer memes in the next few days. Here’s one from reader David:

It’s sort of sad that Pete Best is still touting his brief membership in the Beatles:

A lovely multicolored mountain:

I can’t believe this guy doesn’t close the door. Of course, the cat would only scratch and pound on it.

Skunk chases off mountain lion!

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 29, 2020 • 6:30 am

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

Here’s a short video report:


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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on December 29 includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

Those who took the Big Nap on December 29 include:

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

Rossetti in her late twenties:

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

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

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

Little Kulka, hated by Hili, licks her paw:

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

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


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

From Irena:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a good person. (Sound up.)

A brilliant new Canadian sport:

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

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

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

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 28, 2020 • 6:30 am

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

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

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

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

News of the Day:

First (h/t Matthew), this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on December 28 includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

  • 1979 – Noomi Rapace, Swedish actress

Those who became forever quiescent on December 28 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mietek: Is the holiday over yet?

In Polish: Już po świętach?

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

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

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

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

Shoot me now. From Bryn Mawr:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 24, 2020 • 6:30 am

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on December 24 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

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


Patton père:

Fauci turns 80 today!

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

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

Those who expired on December 24 include:

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili questions scripture:

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

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

Mietek: Oy, and all this is for me?

In Polish: Ojej, to wszystko dla mnie?!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

We saw a video of this the other day:

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

And an early Merry Christmas to you!