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??


Friday: Hili dialogue

July 2, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

Let’s have a poll!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on July 2 includes:

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

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

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

Here’s a photo of that first Zeppelin flight:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the shirt with the alligator on it.

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

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

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

  • 1990 – Margot Robbie, Australian actress and producer

Those who perished from this Earth on July 2 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we have Mietek and Leon together! Malgorzata explains:

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

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

In Polish: Co dwie głowy to nie jedna

From Nicole:

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

A clever ad from reader David:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat encounters Honorary Cat®:

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

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

June 17, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

(h/t Eli)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on June 17 includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

Those who reaped their heavenly reward on June 17 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mietek: Is it far yet?

In Polish: Daleko jeszcze?

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

May 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Amrohi Family, Gurgaon

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

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

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

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

So they waited.

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

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

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

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

“I love you, Poppy,” he said.

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

Three hours.

Four hours.

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

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

Five hours.

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

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

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

The story continues later in the article.

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

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

Stuff that happened on May 24 includes:

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

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

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

Morse in 1840; the man knew his Bible:

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

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

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

Here’s Sikorsky in his first helicopter:

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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


  • 1960 – Kristin Scott Thomas, English actress

Those who lost their lives on May 24 include:

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

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

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

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Paulina have a chat.

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

And Mietek has a moment of rapture:

Mietek: The wind in my hair.

In Polish: Wiatr we włosach

From Science Humor:

From Bruce:

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

I made a tweet!

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


Tweets from Matthew:

I think this cat’s just harassed:

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

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

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

Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

May 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

An excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on May 22 include:

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

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

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


And here’s that patent:

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

Those who croaked on May 22 include:

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

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

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

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

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

And Leon and Mitek have an exchange:

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

In Polish: Owies na śniadanie? Przechodzimy na wegetarianizm?

From Woody; a most excellent meme:

From Jean:

From SMBC via Ginger K:

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

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

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

And a second and related tweet:

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

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

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


Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

May 19, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

His arch may collapse, but his theory stands strong!

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

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

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

Stuff that happened on May 19 includes:

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

This is attributed to smoke from forest fires.

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

Those who became the Dearly Departed on May 19 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Polish: Odrobina sylwoterapii nie zaszkodzi

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

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

From Stephen: Soylent green is PEOPLE!

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

A tweet from Simon showing a very clever billboard:

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

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s an OCD cat:

A lovely Scottish rainbow:

Excellent life advice!

Here’s a tweet that puts history into perspective:

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

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and all the Polish cats)

February 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

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

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

News of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notables born on this day include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those who ceased metabolizing on February 25 include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili awaits her noms:

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

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon chastises Mietek:

Leon: “Move over a bit!”

In Polish: Posuń się trochę!

Here are two pictures of Paulina’s kitties:

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

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

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

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

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

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

Spiders mating; I don’t know the species.

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

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

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