Friday: Hili dialogue

February 18, 2022 • 7:30 am

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

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

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

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

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

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


News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JEWS is fine, thank you!

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

Stuff that happened on February 18 include:

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

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

An Indian stamp commemorating the first airmail:

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

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

See above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before the crash:

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

  • 1968 – Molly Ringwald, American actress

Those who became carcasses on February 18 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The caption, as characterized by Malgorzata:

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



Fostered tabby (isn’t it  beaut?):

A meme from Bruce, which rings so true!

More snow creations from Peter:

From Merilee:

The Tweet of God:

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

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

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, we have two tweets:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

January 26, 2022 • 7:30 am

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

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

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

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

The Doodle:

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on January 26 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those who perished on January 26 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A head shot of Kulka:

And a Mietek monologue:

Mietek:  From the series: read for me mom

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

From Bruce:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

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

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

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

From Simon: This staff person is very privileged!

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

From Ginger K.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday: Hili dialogue

December 31, 2021 • 7:00 am

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

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

Some scientists were quick to forecast the same pattern elsewhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Sent verbatim from reader Ken:

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on December 31 includes:

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

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

Here’s a depiction of that great event:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those whose eyes closed forever on December 31 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elzbieta sent photos of Leon and Mitek with a caption:

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


From Bruce, a cat barista:

From Karl:

From Doc Bill. I love this contest!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tweets from Matthew. Is this mimicry?

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

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

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


Saturday: Hili dialogue

December 25, 2021 • 7:00 am

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

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

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

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note the first entry on the right-hand page:

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

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

Stuff that happened on December 25 includes:

  • 336 – First documentary sign of Christmas celebration in Rome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

A scene from “The Big Sleep”:

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

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

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

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

Those who passed away on December 25 include:

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

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

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

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

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

And from nearby Wloclawek, Mietek has a wish:

Mietek: Have a wonderful Christmas!

In Polish: Wspaniałych Świąt!

From The Far Side:

A Hitchens cartoon from reader Barry:

From Divy:

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

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

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

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

A tweet from Masih and friend:

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

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

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

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

Crabs on the move!

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

Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 19, 2021 • 6:45 am

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

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

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from that joint statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on December 19 includes:

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s take one for a 4-minute spin:

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

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

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

Queen Elizabeth II presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to 1966 World Cup winning England captain Bobby Moore
  • 1986 – Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, releases Andrei Sakharov and his wife from exile in Gorky.
  • 1998 – President Bill Clinton is impeached by the United States House of Representatives, becoming the second President of the United States to be impeached.
  • 2001 – A record high barometric pressure of 1,085.6 hectopascals (32.06 inHg) is recorded at Tosontsengel, Khövsgöl, Mongolia.

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who remember this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And greetings from Mietek in nearby Wloclawek!

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

From Bruce:

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

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

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

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

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

Pig butt porn!

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

Matthew sent this from the Auschwitz Memorial:

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

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Mitek monologue)

October 19, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

And he rejected expressions of sorrow at his condition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hell, no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Dave Sanders for the New York Times

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

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

View Results

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on October 19 includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an example of the Matthew Effect.

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

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

Oy! She’s now Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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

The capture:

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

Those who found eternal peace on October 19 include:

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sleeping in:

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

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

Mietek: Well, and how are you?

In Polish: No i co tam u Was?

From Su:

From Stash Krod:

From Jesus of the Day:

Two tweets from Barry. First, Canadian road rage:

. . . and a beautiful butterfly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

September 27, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning at the start of a new week: Monday, September 27, 2021: National Chocolate Milk Day (my drink of choice at elementary school and junior high school lunch).

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

Today’s animated Google Doodle celebrates its “retroactive claim” that it’s 23 years old today (see below). Click on gif to go to the link.

News of the Day:

*All you covid-watchers should read a NYT op-ed that will surely be widely criticized (not by me, as I haven’t read the research and have nothing to lose by masking): “We did the research: Masks work, and you should choose a surgical mask if possible.” The three authors include a professor of economics at the Yale University School of Management, an assistant professor in environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, and a professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division at Stanford University. A summary of the trial:

. . . we ran one of the largest and most sophisticated studies of mask wearing, using the “gold standard” of research design, a randomized controlled trial, to evaluate whether communities where more people wear masks have fewer cases of Covid-19.

Many people live in countries where vaccines are not yet widely available. Even in the United States, vaccines are available but used unevenly, and the weekly death rate from Covid-19 remains high. In both of these environments, masks are a critical and inexpensive tool in the fight against the coronavirus.

Our research, which is currently undergoing peer review, was conducted with 340,000 adults in 600 villages in Bangladesh and tested many different strategies to get people to wear masks.

The results of this test of voluntary mask-wearing?

Let us put this in concrete terms. Our best estimate is that every 600 people who wear surgical masks in public areas prevent an average of one death per year given recent death rates in the United States. Think of a church with 600 members. If a congregation learned that it could save the life of a member, would everyone agree to wear surgical masks in indoor, public areas for the next year?

Well, do you think they would? Probably, since it’s a church and everybody is part of the “family”, but perhaps not if you ask a random stranger in a city. Read for yourself.

*More on the pandemic: big trouble in New York City and New York State. On Friday, a federal appeals-court judge overruled a vaccine mandate for teachers, staff, and employees of NYC schools, where 82% of the subjects have been vaccinated.  The order was to go into effect today, with employees required to show at least one vaccination. I don’t know why the judge suspended the mandate, except that this could lead to a severe shortage of teachers. On the other hand, a three-judge court could rule on the issue by the end of the week.

*As for New York State, the same mandate goes into effect today for hospital and nursing home employees. Between 77% and 84% of workers in these categories have had at least one vaccination. Here again we could have a massive worker shortage, which could lead to a declaration of a state of emergency in New York, including the use of medically trained National Guard workers.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 688,157, an increase of 2,031 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,763,052, an increase of about 4,068 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 27 includes:

  • 1066 – William the Conqueror and his army set sail from the mouth of the Somme river, beginning the Norman conquest of England.
  • 1540 – The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) receives its charter from Pope Paul III.
  • 1590 – The death of Pope Urban VII, 13 days after being chosen as the Pope, ends the shortest papal reign in history.
  • 1822 – Jean-François Champollion announces that he has deciphered the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone, now behind glass at the British Museum. What Champollion deciphered was the hieroglyphics on this stone, which has the same message in demotic (ancient but non-hieroglyphic Egyptian) and Greek.

The plant (below) is now a Museum, described by Wikipedia as “The oldest, purpose-built car factory building in the world open to the public.”  It could make over 100 Model Ts per day.

  • 1956 – USAF Captain Milburn G. Apt becomes the first person to exceed Mach 3. Shortly thereafter, the Bell X-2 goes out of control and Captain Apt is killed.

Here’s Apt about to embark on his first (and last) flight in the plane. He ejected the nose capsule when the plane was out of control, but the large parachute failed to open and he was killed. He had gone 3.196 times the speed of sound.  This terminated the X-2 program.

The X-2 in flight showing “shock diamonds” in the exhaust, proving that it had gone supersonic:

  • 1962 – Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is published, inspiring an environmental movement and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • 1998 – The Google internet search engine retroactively claims this date as its birthday.

Note that at least six days have been claimed as Google’s birthday, though it was founded on September 4, 1998. Here’s where Google stands in Kantar’s list of most valuable brands:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1924 – Bud Powell, American pianist and composer (d. 1966)

Bud Powell was one of the best jazz pianists ever. I usually put up “Night in Tunisia” to commemorate him, but here’s 4.5 minutes of his live playing. He died at only 41 of three classic maladies of jazz musicians: tuberculosis, malnutrition, and alcoholism.

  • 1927 – Red Rodney, American trumpet player (d. 1994)
  • 1934 – Wilford Brimley, American actor (d. 2020)
  • 1947 – Meat Loaf, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor
  • 1957 – Peter Sellars, American actor, director, and screenwriter
  • 1972 – Gwyneth Paltrow, American actress, blogger, and businesswoman

She’s still selling her jade egg, a bargain at $66. You know what you’re supposed to do with it.

  • 1984 – Avril Lavigne, Canadian singer-songwriter, actress, and fashion designer

Those who shot their bolt on September 27 include:

  • 1590 – Pope Urban VII (b. 1521)
  • 1917 – Edgar Degas, French painter and sculptor (b. 1834)

Degas didn’t draw cats, so here’s Manet’s “Woman With a Cat” (1880):

Woman with a Cat c.1880 Edouard Manet 1832-1883 Purchased 1918

Wagner-Jauregg won his Prize for one of those advances that was a bit dubious: giving those afflicted with neurosyphilis malaria, with the fever designed to eliminate the bacterium. Surprisingly, it worked a bit, but also killed 15% of the patients. It’s no longer used, as we have antibiotics now. (These won’t reverse damage already done.)

The main work pursued by Wagner-Jauregg throughout his life was related to the treatment of mental disease by inducing a fever, an approach known as pyrotherapy. In 1887 he investigated the effects of febrile diseases on psychoses, making use of erisipela and tuberculin (discovered in 1890 by Robert Koch). Since these methods of treatment did not work very well, he tried in 1917 the inoculation of malaria parasites, which proved to be very successful in the case of dementia paralytica (also called general paresis of the insane), caused by neurosyphilis, at that time a terminal disease.

Sister Aimee. If you don’t know about her, find out:

Here she is in full swing, surrounded by choirs (1929):

  • 1956 – Babe Didrikson Zaharias, American basketball player and golfer (b. 1911)
  • 1960 – Sylvia Pankhurst, English activist (b. 1882)

Pankurst was an activist for many causes, the most famous being women’s suffrage. Here she is in 1932, giving a speech in Trafalgar Square about British policies in India.

  • 1965 – Clara Bow, American actress (b. 1905)

The “It Girl”:

  • 1993 – Jimmy Doolittle, American general, Medal of Honor recipient (b. 1896)
  • 2003 – Donald O’Connor, American actor, singer, and dancer (b. 1925)
  • 2017 – Hugh Hefner, American publisher, founder of Playboy Enterprises (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s irritated by Andrzej’s foolish question:

Hili: I’m going to check out what’s under this walnut tree.
A: What can be under it?
Hili: But I’m saying that I’m going to check it out.
In Polish:
Hili: Idę sprawdzić co tam jest pod tym orzechem.
Ja: A co tam może być?
Hili: No przecież mówię, że idę to sprawdzić.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek is lazy:

Mietek: To get up or not to get up, that is the question.

In Polish: Wstać czy nie wstać, oto jest pytanie.

From In Otter News. It’s true, too: Mary Somerville is on one side, and two otters on the other.

I’ve always thought that candy corn, a noxious mixture of paraffin and sugar, was the worst candy ever invented, but this version, from Facebook, is even more dire:

From Jesus of the Day: Either this is anatomically correct or someone’s tumescent:

From Titania, who’s always ahead of the wave:

Ricky Gervais’s cat (I think his name is Pickle):

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. The goalie didn’t look behind himself, a rookie move, and this was the outcome:

Two little cuties!

These look like bat wings:

Check out the expression on that cat’s face!

Call me superstitious (as well as the U.S. gub’mint), but I retweeted this because I have at least ten days’ worth of sleep deficit.

Friday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

September 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings from Chicago (I’m back!) on Friday, September 24, 2021: National Cherries Jubilee Day! (Their exclamation mark.) Here’s Wikipedia’s definition and photo:

Cherries jubilee is a dessert dish made with cherries and liqueur (typically kirschwasser), which is subsequently flambéed, and commonly served as a sauce over vanilla ice cream.

It doesn’t say anything about cake

Sounds good to me, but I’ve never had it. It’s also German Butterbrot Day, Hug a Vegetarian Day, Kiss Day (again verboten this year), National Horchata Day (I love the stuff), Native American Day, Save the Koaka Day, and National Bluebird of Happiness Day, which always reminds me of this Gary Larson cartoon:

News of the Day:

Once again there’s a paucity of news that I know about. There’s a big blow-up about the treatment of Haitian refugees trying to get into the U.S., with the result that Daniel Foote, the senior American diplomat overseeing Haiti policy, has resigned in anger:

A senior American diplomat who oversees Haiti policy has resigned, two U.S. officials said, submitting a letter to the State Department that excoriated the Biden administration’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision” to send Haitian migrants back to a country that has been wracked this summer by a deadly earthquake and political turmoil.

*The Washington Post reports a sex abuse case at the University of Michigan that may be the largest one in U.S. history. Robert E. Anderson, a deceased doctor at the University has already been accused by more than 950 people (mostly men and boys) of molesting them, and not just at the University. He never faced any sanctions while he was alive.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 684,488, an increase of 2,036 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,743,487, an increase of about 9,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 24 includes:

  • 787 – Second Council of Nicaea: The council assembles at the church of Hagia Sophia.
  • 1789 – The United States Congress passes the Judiciary Act, creating the office of the Attorney General and federal judiciary system and ordering the composition of the Supreme Court.
  • 1890 – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially renounces polygamy.

Yes, but of course many sects of Mormonism remain polygamous. Here’s a photo from

  • 1906 – U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims Devils Tower in Wyoming as the nation’s first National Monument.
  • 1929 – Jimmy Doolittle performs the first flight without a window, proving that full instrument flying from take off to landing is possible.

Here’s Doolittle in his “blind flight” plane. The site Pioneers of Flight says this:

Doolittle made the first “blind flight” on September 24, 1929. He took off in the Guggenheim Fund’s Consolidated NY-2, flew a set course, and landed while under a fabric hood and unable to see outside the airplane. He relied entirely on a directional gyro, artificial horizon, sensitive altimeter, and radio navigation.

  • 1950 – The eastern United States is covered by a thick haze from the Chinchaga fire in western Canada.
  • 1975 – Southwest Face expedition members become the first persons to reach the summit of Mount Everest by any of its faces, instead of using a ridge route.

Here’s the daunting Southwest Face and the route they took up it. Three UK climbers and a Sherpa made the summit:

  • 2015 – At least 1,100 people are killed and another 934 wounded after a stampede during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1717 – Horace Walpole, English historian, author, and politician (d. 1797)
  • 1880 – Sarah Knauss, American super-centenarian, oldest verified American person ever (d. 1999)

She lived to be 119 years old, second only to the world’s oldest verified person, Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to be 122½ years (that age, however, is controversial! Here is Knauss at 98 or 99 years old:

Here’s the only photograph of Blind Lemon. He died of a heart attack at just 39:

And his version of “Black Snake Moan”:

Scott, Zelda, and their daughter Scottie in a Christmas photo from Paris. Scott couldn’t spell worth a damn (that’s what his editor was for), but he sure could write.

  • 1905 – Severo Ochoa, Spanish–American physician and biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1993)
  • 1923 – Fats Navarro, American trumpet player and composer (d. 1950)

Those who Went West on September 24 include:

  • 768 – Pepin the Short, Frankish king (b. 714)
  • 1541 – Paracelsus, German-Swiss physician, botanist, and chemist (b. 1493)
  • 1945 – Hans Geiger, German physicist and academic, co-invented the Geiger counter (b. 1882)

Geiger was a scary-looking dude:

  • 1991 – Dr. Seuss, American children’s book writer, poet, and illustrator (b. 1904)


  • 1994 – Barry Bishop, American mountaineer, photographer, and scholar (b. 1932)

Bishop, who made the summit as one of five successful climbers on the 1963 American expedition to Everest, had to overnight without shelter at high altitude and lost all his toes and the tip of one finger. He continued to climb, though, but was killed in an auto accident in 1994. Here he is with his frostbitten and soon-to-be-amputated toes after descending the mountain:

  • 2004 – Françoise Sagan, French author and screenwriter (b. 1935)
  • 2016 – Buckwheat Zydeco, American accordionist and bandleader (b. 1947)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has given up pondering the world and is now thinking about math:

A: Are you still in a Manichean mood?
Hili: No, I’m now plagued by Zeno’s paradoxes.
In Polish:
Ja: Nadal jesteś w nastrojach manichejskich?
Hili: Nie, teraz dręczą mnie paradoksy Zenona z Elei.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek is overwhelmed, as school has started:

Mietek: And again I have plenty of subjects to grasp.

In Polish: I znów mam dużo tematów do ogarnięcia.

From Merilee. I, too, am a fan of the Oxford comma.

A heartwarmer from Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Simon: Titania knocked it out of the park with this tweet:

From Barry. I don’t know the species of bird, but the staff is teaching it to perch:

From Ginger K., showing that it takes only one anonymous complaint:

Tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial. This poor soul looks like he had a very rough ride in the cattle car. He lasted a week after arrival.

Tweets from Matthew, who told me, when I asked whether that outfit was painted on the bird, “No the bird is real. You can see it is safe – it is wearing a harness that is connected by a wire to the inside of the car so it can’t fly off. It has very strong talons!”

Matthew tweeted this photo of one of his cats, Ollie, adding a note, “Now he doesn’t look psychotic there, does he?” Ollie is indeed psychotic: he laid open my nose with a deft swipe of his claws and I bled like a stuck pig. Ollie just “presents well,” as the therapists say.

Matthew says about this one: “Nothing to wait for; just watch.” But do watch the whole thing. It’s funny when the goats jump down.

The eruption in the Canaries is relentless, and nothing can stop the lava. Google translation: “The lava tongue of the eruptive process of La Palma devastates everything in its path on its way to the sea.”

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

August 30, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Monday, August 30, 2021: National Toasted Marshmallow Day. I must admit that I like mine burnt to a crisp—ignited over a fire until the outside is black. It’s also National Holistic Pet Day, International Whale Shark Day, Frankenstein Day (Mary Shelly’s birthday), and the International Day of the Disappeared.

News of the Day:

Biden continues on his desire to get revenge for the suicide bombing that killed 13 American military personnel and 140 Afghans. Another U.S. drone strike yesterday took out a vehicle near the airport reported to be carrying explosives. Afghans of unknown provenance say that civilians were killed, including children, but one must assess the morality of this strike against the toll that would have occurred had the vehicle exploded. Five rockets were fired at the airport today, but all were shot down by U.S. anti-missile systems. And the U.S. said it was unlikely to keep diplomats in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of troops.

Who’s to blame for the horrible mess at the Kabul Airport? I am not a pundit and don’t want to lay blame on this one, but the New York Times has dueling editorials blaming Biden on one hand and Trump on the other.

Speaking of the NYT, it was a mistake for them to have enlisted Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, as a regular contributor along the lines of John McWhorter. Her last column was lame—a firm osculation on the rump of faith—but her latest, “Why poetry is so crucial right now,” is even worse. What she should have done was inserted “to me” after “crucial”, and then it would be particular rather than general. But nothing can save her tired and anodyne sentiments:

This past year in particular was marked by vitriol and divisiveness. I am exhausted by the rancor.

In this weary and vulnerable place, poetry whispers of truths that cannot be confined to mere rationality or experience. In a seemingly wrecked world, I’m drawn to Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Autumn” and recall that “there is One who holds this falling/Infinitely softly in His hands.” When the scriptures feel stale, James Weldon Johnson preaches through “The Prodigal Son” and I hear the old parable anew. On tired Sundays, I collapse into Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems and find rest.

. . . Indeed, in our age of social media, words are often used as weapons. Poetry instead treats words with care. They are slowly fashioned into lanterns — things that can illuminate and guide. Debate certainly matters. Arguments matter. But when the urgent controversies of the day seem like all there is to say about life and death or love or God, poetry reminds me of those mysterious truths that can’t be reduced solely to linear thought.

There’s that “other way of knowing” she was hired to purvey! What are those “mysterious truths” that can be conveyed only in verse? In fact, it’s not true that poetry is more important right now than, say, a year ago, just as novels or music aren’t more important right now than a year ago, save as balm for the soul needed during the pandemic. But that’s not what the Lachrymose Osculator means; she means that poetry gives us truths that mere cogitation can’t. When will the paper turn off her fountain of meaningless verbiage? (I needn’t add that I love good poetry, but not because it conveys “truth” unreachable by other means. It is music in words.)

The Washington Post emphasizes that now that Covid vaccinations are fully approved by the FDA, and can be mandated, the costs of being unvaccinated will rise. If you get fired for refusing vaccination when your employer requires it, you won’t qualify for unemployment benefits. Or the cost of your health insurance could rise substantially. I have no issues with these penalties.

Surprise! North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. If you think the DPRK can be negotiated out of making deliverable bombs, you probably think the same about Iran, too. Yes, we can denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but Koreans aren’t stupid, and know about U.S. nuclear submarines lying in wait nearby.

Ed Asner, the man who will forever be remembered for playing the curmudgeonly editor Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore show, has died at 91.

Stuff that happened on August 30 includes:

Here’s one of the weirder species. Do you recognize it? If not, go here.

Here’s Point Wild on Elephant Island, where Shackleton’s 22 men camped for four and a half months, subsisting on penguin meat. I photographed this in December, 2019. The bust, on the spot where the men camped, is of Pilot Luis Pardo Villalón, commander of the Chilean Navy cutter Yelcho that rescued the men. It’s a grim place!

Kaplan (photo below), a Russian Jewish revolutionary, was executed by the Cheka on September 3. Lenin never fully recovered from the attack, and died in 1924 of a stroke.

I sailed on two of its successors; the S. S. United States, which set a later record, and the Queen Mary II. Here’s the original, moored at Long Beach, California:

Here’s the bridge of the newer Queen Mary II, photographed by moi in 2006 (I was lecturing aboard):

  • 1967 – Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • 1984 – STS-41-D: The Space Shuttle Discovery takes off on its maiden voyage.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1720 – Samuel Whitbread, English brewer and politician, founded Whitbread (d. 1796)
  • 1871 – Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand-English physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1937)

Here’s Rutherford at McGill in 1905. Though he won the Prize for the discovery of radioactive decay and half lives of elements, his most famous work, which came later, was the demonstration that atoms had a nucleus. This was based on rare scattering of alpha particles used to bombard gold foil, showing that while most of an atom is empty space, there are small islands of high-density particles that can deflect helium nuclei.

  • 1884 – Theodor Svedberg, Swedish chemist and physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1971)
  • 1893 – Huey Long, American lawyer and politician, 40th Governor of Louisiana (d. 1935)

Long could be considered as the Donald Trump of Louisiana, though he was smarter. Here he is giving one of his populist speeches. Every man a king! He was assassinated by the son-in-law of a judge whom he, Long, removed.

  • 1901 – Roy Wilkins, American journalist and activist (d. 1981)
  • 1930 – Warren Buffett, American businessman and philanthropist

Still with us at 91!

I love Crumb, and have a stack of his original comics. I see that they’ve risen in price. Here’s one of my favorite covers:

  • 1944 – Molly Ivins, American journalist and author (d. 2007)
  • 1982 – Andy Roddick, American tennis player

Those who took leave of existence on August 30 were few, and include:

Here’s the part of the famous Zapruder film showing JFK getting hit by two bullets. Warning: grisly!

  • 2013 – Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1939)
  • 2015 – Oliver Sacks, English-American neurologist, author, and academic (b. 1933)

Though Sacks was deeply eccentric, he was a great storyteller; and many of us, including me, used to read his books religiously. Here he is, and, if you want to see his NYT piece that he wrote after learning he had terminal cancer, go here.

  • 2019 – Valerie Harper, American actress and writer (b. 1939)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili pulls the old “in or out” stunt.

Hili: Could you let me in?
A: But you went out a moment ago.
Hili: Yes, but I forgot what for.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy możesz mnie wpuścić do domu?
Ja: Przecież przed chwilą wyszłaś.
Hili: Tak, ale zapomniałam po co.

Mietek mourns the passing of summer:

Mietek: How come it’s the end of summer holidays?

In Polish: Jak to koniec wakacji?

From Facebook:

From Science Humor:

And a nice cartoon:

From Masih. Do you still think that the Taliban 2.0 is going to be “nicer”? I doubt it, but they sure suck at public relations!

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

From Dom. Henry Gee, an editor of Nature, is correct in his assertion, but he has a way of being arrogantly, annoyingly and unpleasantly right. As for the “missing link”, that isn’t even mentioned by the Natural History Museum.

From Barry, who adds “This has to be the craziest thing you’ll ever see or hear from any believer. I don’t know how this can be topped.”  I’m with him!

From Ginger K.: Man, that was one fraught relationship! Didn’t work out, but it sure produced some great music.

Tweets from Matthew.  A Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) from eastern Asia raids a nest. I presume the feathers protect it from stings, but what about its eyes?

Cats will be cats!

This looks like a ctenophore ingesting another ctenophore:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

August 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Tuesday, August 24, 2021: National Peach Pie Day, and now’s the season to eat one. It’s also National Waffle Day, Shooting Star Day, Can Opener Day, National Knife Day, International Strange Music Day, and International Day Against Intolerance, Discrimination, and Violence Based on Musical Preferences, Lifestyle, and Dress Code. The latter deserves some explanation:

On August 24, 2007, Sophie Lancaster died after previously being beaten in Rossendale, Lancashire, in England. Along with her boyfriend Rob, she had been beaten simply because of the way she looked, having been part of the “goth” subculture. Her mother Sylvia did not want her death to be in vain, and wanted to help young people understand that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity, no matter what they look like or what type of music they listen to. She created the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. The foundation has worked with young people in schools, and has also enlightened adults with training about hate crime awareness, victim impact, equality, diversity, and inclusion.

See more about Sophie Lancaster here. A photo:

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot to play) is a repeaat of the animated interactive game series, “The Champion Island Games,” originally celebrating the Olympics but now the Paralympics, which begin today in Tokyo and extend through September 5:

Wine of the day: I don’t often drink Chianti, but when i do it’s a Chianti Classico (look for the black rooster on the label) from Monsanto. This one is oldish—12 years, to be precise, but a good Chianti can age well, and the experts say this one’s not over the hill. Let us see: we shall essay it with chicken breast, rice (with a bit of hoisin sauce for flavor) and green beans.

. . . the “opulent fruit” has faded a bit, but the richness and elegance, as well as a dark garnet color, remain in this wine It is nowhere near over the hill, and it on the gutsy rather than “delicate” side of Chianti Classico. I probably paid about $20 for it, and at that price it’s a bargain. I’d say that now is about the apogee for this wine, but I’d like to try it in three or four more years. (Sadly, this is my only bottle.)

Look for the black rooster to be sure it’s Chianti Classico:

News of the Day:

There’s more trouble in the offing in Afghanistan. Biden’s pull-out date of August 31, which looks increasingly untenable (Uncle Joe is waffling, too), is being taken by the Taliban as a hard date—a “red line”. A spokesthug for the Muslimofascists have said that attempts to take people out after that date will “provoke a reaction.” Well, we’ll see in seven days, because there’s no way we’re getting this thing done by the end of August. I read in the news this morning that Biden asked for an extended deadline, but the Taliban rejected it.

In the meantime, the U.S. is going to great lengths to retrieve its citizens. The AP reports that the U.S. military rounded up 16 Americans at a location two hours away from Kabul.

The officials, who commented only on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations, said the rescue missions that go beyond the walls of the Kabul airport require the approval of a four-star officer and are handled on a case-by-case basis.

The Taliban aren’t going to like this. I smell trouble.

And this NYT headline reports more dispiriting news (click on screenshot):

The Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 (technically, the “Pfizer-BioNTech” vaccine”) has finally been given full approval by the FDA. This means two things. First, it’s now legal to require people to get the vaccine, and they can’t beef about it. As the NYT reports:

The decision will set off a cascade of vaccine requirements by hospitals, colleges, corporations and other organizations. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will be sending guidelines to the country’s 1.4 million active duty service members mandating that they be vaccinated, the Pentagon announced on Monday.

United Airlines recently announced that its employees will be required to show proof of vaccination within five weeks of regulatory approval.

Oregon has adopted a similar requirement for all state workers, as have a host of universities in states from Louisiana to Minnesota. In New York, the F.D.A.’s approval also brought into force a requirement announced in May that all students attending in-person classes at State University of New York and City University of New York schools be vaccinated.

House Democrats are tied up in knots about which of the two big spending bills to pass first: the $1 trillion infrastructure bill or Biden’s $3.5 trillion “budget blueprint” bill. Pelosi and the “progressives” want the budget bill to go first, while 9 centrist Democrats aren’t having it, and want infrastructure first. This could mean trouble. . .   Fortunately, I’m too dumb to understand this fracas, which means I don’t have to investigate it.

Second, those who continue to beef can’t say they are guinea pigs in an experimental drug trial. The experiment is over. Those who beefed were the controls, and the results were clear—as they are with the new data.

But there’s good news tonight! After brushfires devastated Kangaroo Island off Australia in 2019 and 2020, conservationists managed to locate a Tasmanian pygmy possum, a rare mammal in normal times and thought to have become extinct after the fires. But they’re still there! Look at these things!  (h/t Malcolm)

The Catholic News Agency reports a huge screw-up: At the funeral of the young Chicago police officer Ella French, killed during a traffic stop (she also had a young child), a police chaplain mistakenly gave communion to our mayor Lori Lightfoot. But Lightfoot isn’t a Catholic: she belongs to a Methodist church. No biggie, right? Well, apparently it is:

Fr. Brandt added that he is deeply apologetic toward those who were offended by the mayor receiving Communion.

“I apologize for any scandal that my absentmindedness may have caused. It was certainly not intentional and wish I had my wits about me. Or better yet I wish the Cardinal had just given out Communion because I was planning on going back and sitting for the next portion of the Mass and procession,” he said.

“I can’t apologize enough for anyone who’s upset by the fact that she received the Eucharist. That is totally on me and I own it,” he said. “And it was an honest mistake and I pray that your readers have the same mercy that I hope the Lord gives me.”

Catholic canon law permits non-Catholic Christians to receive Communion only in limited circumstances and in the case of a “grave necessity.” Neither the archdiocese nor the mayor’s office responded to multiple inquiries from CNA seeking comment Friday.

I suspect the Lord will not look kindly on this transgression. (h/t GInger K)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 629,644, an increase of 1,057 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,455,250, an increase of about 9,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 24 includes:

Remarkable body casts showing the positions in which people died (more here):

  • 1215 – Pope Innocent III issues a bull declaring Magna Carta invalid.
  • 1349 – Six thousand Jews are killed in Mainz after being blamed for the bubonic plague.

A drawing of some of the murders of Jews (caption from Wikipedia):

Representation of a massacre of the Jews in 1349 Antiquitates Flandriae (Royal Library of Belgium manuscript 1376/77)
  • 1690 – Job Charnock of the East India Company establishes a factory in Calcutta, an event formerly considered the founding of the city (in 2003 the Calcutta High Court ruled that the city’s foundation date is unknown).
  • 1814 – British troops invade Washington, D.C. and during the Burning of Washington the White House, the Capitol and many other buildings are set ablaze.
  • 1932 – Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly across the United States non-stop (from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey).

Here’s a very short video of Earhart’s accomplishments (I can’t find a video of her coast-to-coast flight):

Here’s Hitler’s letter that began the euthanasia program two years earlier. The English translation is from Wikipedia: “Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are entrusted with the responsibility of extending the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, so that patients who, after a most critical diagnosis, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death [Gnadentod]. — A. Hitler”

The mentally ill were also considered “incurables.”

  • 1967 – Led by Abbie Hoffman, the Youth International Party temporarily disrupts trading at the New York Stock Exchange by throwing dollar bills from the viewing gallery, causing trading to cease as brokers scramble to grab them.

A video about Hoffman’s stunt, which I remember well.

  • 1981 – Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for murdering John Lennon.
  • 1991 – Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
  • 2006 – The International Astronomical Union (IAU) redefines the term “planet” such that Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet.

This decision is planetary ableism. Pluto is a planet, and if you must describe it you can call it a “differently abled planet” or a “size challenged planet.”

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1872 – Max Beerbohm, English essayist, parodist, and caricaturist (d. 1956)
  • 1947 – Anne Archer, American actress and producer
  • 1960 – Cal Ripken, Jr., American baseball player and coach

I had the honor of watching this great shortstop play (we lived in the D.C. area and my dad took me to Baltimore to see a game. His most famous feat: “Ripken holds the record for consecutive games played, 2,632, surpassing Lou Gehrig‘s streak of 2,130 that had stood for 56 years and that many deemed unbreakable.”

Here’s Ripken breaking the record. Remember, a baseball season was 154 games, so he played the equivalent of 17 full seasons without missing a game.

Matlin is not only the sole deaf person to win a Best Actress Oscar, but also the youngest, being 21.5 years old. The movie? Children of a Lesser God. Here’s a scene from the movie, in which she pursues a difficult romance with William Hurt:

Those who became a fatality on August 24 include:

The King not only pardoned Col. Blood for his crime (he and his accomplices were caught in the act), but gave him a piece of land in Ireland.

  • 2014 – Richard Attenborough, English actor, director, producer, and politician (b. 1923)
  • 2020 – Gail Sheehy, American author, journalist, and lecturer (b.1936) 

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is getting increasingly peevish. And no wonder!

Hili: I see absurdity.
A: Where?
Hili: Everywhere I look.
In Polish:
Hili: Widzę absurdy.
Ja: Gdzie?
Hili: Gdzie nie spojrzę.

Mietek, on holiday in the mountains, has a soliloquy. (How he’s grown!)

Mietek: To run or to lie down; that is the question.

In Polish: iegać czy leżeć? Oto jest pytanie.

From Scott Metzger Cartoons:

From Facebook via Richard, who says “Best paper title ever.” Well, it’s a contender. . .

From Facebook, the consequences of an unclear antecedent:

Masih interviews another Afghan woman, who breaks down two minutes in and says she’s having suicidal ideation.

From Titania. The Brits are good at trying to end hate with cute but useless gestures like this:

From the Auschwitz Memorial. One thing I noted when I visited the camp was how short people stayed their after arrival before they died. It wasn’t on the day of arrival, but often a few weeks later:

This is an interesting (and disturbing!) citation pattern sent by Luana. Her theory, which is hers,

I suspect this is because the ones that do not replicate are far fetched and interesting.

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. This incredibly cute agouti is burying a banana and then covering the cached fruit with a leaf to hide it even better:

Awww. . . the poor babies don’t want to cross the water:

Silly pelican! This is the Tweet of the Week:

And speaking of capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), why is this invasion considered a bad thing??