It’s Monday, March 12, 2023, Chicken Noodle Soup Day (much better with matzo balls). If you’re in America and haven’t moved your clock forward an hour, please do so now:
It’s also the Start of Daylight Savings Time, so be sure you set your clocks forward an hour. If you didn’t do it last night, do it NOW.
It’s also National Baked Scallops Day, Girl Scout Day, Check Your Batteries Day, National Working Moms Day, and National Elephant Day in Thailand.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 12 Wikipedia page.
*I feel a bit removed from news involving the U.S., but I do my best. Here’s a NYT op-ed, by the entire editorial board, that calls for the U.S. to avoid a confrontational strategy with China and get involved in economic rather than military competition. After mentioning Chinese provocations like military displays around Taiwan and the famous “spy balloon” (whatever happened to that?), it urges a more conciliatory posture:
Yet the relationship between the United States and China, for all its problems, continues to deliver substantial economic benefits to the residents of both countries and to the rest of the world. Moreover, because the two nations are tied together by millions of normal and peaceful interactions every day, there is a substantial incentive to maintain those ties and a basis for working together on shared problems like climate change.
Americans’ interests are best served by emphasizing competition with China while minimizing confrontation. Glib invocations of the Cold War are misguided. It doesn’t take more than a glance to appreciate that this relationship is very different. Rather than try to trip the competition, America should focus on figuring out how to run faster, for example through increased investments in education and basic scientific research.
Chinese actions and rhetoric also need to be kept in perspective. By the standards of superpowers, China remains a homebody. Its foreign engagements, especially outside its immediate surroundings, remain primarily economic. China has been playing a much more active role in international affairs in recent years — a new agreement facilitated by China to re-establish relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is the latest example — but China continues to show strikingly little interest in persuading other nations to adopt its social and political values.
There are also signs that China’s leaders are not united in supporting a more confrontational posture. It behooves the United States to reassure those who may be open to reassurance. America and China are struggling with many of the same challenges: how to ensure what President Xi Jinping has termed “common prosperity” in an age of income inequality; how to rein in the worst excesses of capitalism without losing its vital creative forces; how to care for an aging population and young people who want more out of life than work; how to slow the pace of climate change and to manage its disruptive impacts, including mass migration. . .
They’re right: Russia is surely far more worthy of disapprobation than China, though if China tries to take over Taiwan with its military, all bets are off.
*The Washington Post describes how a new technology, specifically a phone app that allows would-be immigrants at the southern U.S. border to make appointments with Customs and Border Protection, is glitching, squelching the hopes of those hoping to enter:
As the Biden administration struggles to bring order to the border, some of the most vulnerable migrants are finding themselves stuck in squalid camps in Mexico. A significant number are seeking asylum in the United States and were expecting the sanctuary of the nation’s immigration law, which allows migrants fleeing persecution to request protection no matter how they reach the country. Advocates estimate close to 7,000 people were spread out in encampments in Matamoros and Reynosa in January.
All are trying to use a new CBP app that is supposed to make entering the country more efficient. Each day, migrants awake before sunrise to search for a WiFi signal and try to get one of the 700 to 800 appointments available at eight entry points. Advocates estimate there are more than 100,000 people seeking entry. The appointments fill up within five minutes.
Previously, attorneys could intervene to make a case for asylum seekers to get emergency admission into the United States. Now those fleeing gang violence are fighting for appointments on their own, alongside those facing less dire conditions.
More than 9,900 individuals have used the app to enter the country by getting an exemption from the Title 42 pandemic-era public health restriction since it went live in January, CBP data shows. Over 10,000 more have used the app to obtain humanitarian parole under a new program for those from Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua — offering a lifeline for many who can avoid embarking on a treacherous journey.
Yet at migrant camps, shelters and safe houses along the U.S.-Mexico border, asylum seekers who arrived before the app was launched or faced such imminent danger that they could not wait to get an appointment struggle to get a WiFi signal. Families scramble to register all their relatives only to find out all of the day’s appointments have been taken. Desperation mounts as they look toward a country within eyeshot but perpetually out of reach.
It’s ridiculous to make people in migrant camps fight to get a Wi-Fi signal within a five-minute window and then fight for others who have better access—all to get an appointment. Surely there’s a better solution. Even online forms put into a hopper, with someone selecting the appointed number randomly, is fairer than this.
*Speaking of asylum, many who have entered America seeking a new life have been disappointed with their prospects, or by long processing times for applications, and have crossed the border into Canada. NYC helps by giving immigrants bus tickets to a town near the Canadian border, where the immigrants then seek asylum in Canada. This has caused Canada to reassess its immigration policies:
A sharp increase in asylum seekers entering Canada through unofficial crossings — including many whose bus fares were paid by New York City and aid agencies — is intensifying the pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reach an agreement with President Joe Biden to close off the entire land border to most asylum seekers.
Many of the arrivals abandoned plans to seek asylum in the United States, deterred by long processing times and restrictive definitions for asylum, according to aid officials and interviews with asylum seekers.
On a snowy day in late February, about three dozen asylum seekers, some wheeling suitcases, others carrying backpacks, trudged along a snow path from New York State to Quebec.
. . . Almost 40,000 asylum seekers entered Canada through irregular border crossings from the United States last year — nine times higher than in 2021, when pandemic restrictions were still in place, and more than double the nearly 17,000 who crossed in 2019. Almost 5,000 entered in January alone, according to the most recent figures from the Canadian government.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau will take up this issue when he meets with President Biden at the end of March.
*Want to limit your screen time—or that of your kids—on your phone? SCIENCE (and the WSJ) tells us that the best solution is to switch the display to black and white instead of the more stimulating colored screen.
In the first group, participants weren’t asked to do anything specific with the Screen Time app other than to monitor their phone usage. They also were instructed to put their smartphones in grayscale mode, a feature that changes the phone display to black and white from color. The researchers believed that a less-stimulating screen would make for a less-rewarding user experience.
Members of the second group were asked to set time limits for themselves by using both the “downtime” and “app limits” features of the Screen Time app. With “downtime,” users set aside time where only calls and certain apps can be used; “app limits” puts time limits on certain apps or categories, such as social media.
Lastly, those in the control group were asked only to monitor their phone usage.
All participants completed a subjective well-being survey measuring life satisfaction, stress, sleep and happiness before and after the experiment.
The activation of grayscale mode immediately reduced users’ screen time (by 50 minutes a day—the average screen time being 261.50 minutes per day) compared with the control. Those who were asked to set time limits showed a more gradual reduction in screen time, perhaps indicating participants became better over time at reaching their time limit. This group’s average reduction in screen time was not significantly lower than that of the control group.
So that’s about a 20% reduction in screen time, but I’m still appalled that people with iPhones who used the reduction tool still spent over four hours per day on their phone. No wonder that when you ride on public transportation, about 80% of your fellow passengers will be glued to their phones. These devices have changed our lives permanently—many times for the better, but the mindless scrolling through Twitter can’t be seen as a good.
*The Academy Awards (America’s biggests Wokeathon) are tonight, and of course I won’t be watching. (There’s no t.v. set in our house, but I wouldn’t watch anyway.) The list of nominees is here, but I’ve seen only of the nominated films (the ones below in bold). Nine nominations are too many!
“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (stopped watching after half an hour)
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“Triangle of Sadness”
There are quite a few people (e.g., here or here) who think that Tom Cruise should win a Best Actor Oscar for “Top Gun: Maverick”, and even more (like the Guardian) who think that the movie, which Cruise produced, should win for Best Movie. Steven Spielberg lauded Cruise for “saving Hollywood’s ass“, but I never equated box-office draw with movie quality, and the latter is supposed to be the criterion for winning. In action movies, the main actor is The Action. Granted, Cruise is a creditable actor (he was better in “The Minority Report” and “Jerry Maguire”), but he ain’t no male Meryl Streep. I still go with “Tár” for both Best Picture and Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), though my cinemaphilic nephew doesn’t agree.
Any reader who predicts the winner in the five categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress will win a free book (one of mine) with a cat drawn in it. Put your predictions below.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I’m in today’s Hili, in which her highness gives me napping lessons. In truth, though, no cat ever had insomnia. (The photo is mine, too!)
Hili: Jerry, popatrz, tak się śpi.Jerry: Ja wiem, ale czasem to jest tylko teoria.(Zdjęcie: J.A.C.)
A B. Kliban cartoon from Stash Krod:
From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington via Merilee. There’s a caption:
What would YOU do if you came home to find sooty paw prints all over your bathroom? Well, this Arlington resident did the right thing by calling Arlington County Animal Control for advice! Officer Knight was dispatched to the resident’s home after they reported an unidentified animal in the house. When she arrived on scene, she was able to identify the sooty footprints in the bathroom as raccoon prints. Officer Knight determined that the raccoon had climbed down the chimney, and being a very tidy animal, decided to take a bath in the toilet bowl, before climbing back up the chimney! Officer Knight closed the chimney flue and referred the resident to Humane Wildlife Services and Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution to service and re-cap her chimney.
From Mark. This is what keeps me up at night!
Bonus video: Philomena on acting (h/t Merilee). Diane Morgan found her niche in the role of Philomena Cunk, but was also good as Kath in Ricky Gervais’s series “After Life.” That, by the way, is an excellent series and you should watch it. Morgan hates stand-up comedy, which is how she started, and in truth wasn’t very good at it.
From Masih. You can’t get more defiant of the Iranian regime than burning your hijab (I remember American protestors burning their draft cards during the Vietnam war.) And you can’t get more oppressive and misogynistic than killing a woman who burns her hijab.
The rest of the tweet is
. . . and she was protesting the murder of #MahsaAmini. We the women of Iran do not deserve Islamic republic.
No, the Islamic Republic does not deserve the support of the women of Iran.
This 16 year old girl got killed by Iranian Regime for the crime of burning her forced hijab.
I call on all girls and women to say her name and continue her path to help us to get rid of gender apartheid regime. Her nam was Nika Shahkarami and she was pic.twitter.com/EQIyNkgpKJ… https://t.co/t0FL0lWlwB
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 12, 2023
From Malcolm, which shows a d*g can accomplish what the owner can’t:
Owner tries to get puppy to sit. 😀 pic.twitter.com/B5ixMbEOA4
— Jaz🛡️🌐🔗 (@Jazzie654) March 6, 2023
From Ricky Gervais. This is the very last scene of the last season of his show “After Life”, and is one of the most brilliant set pieces I’ve seen on t.v. The woman who appears is his late wife, who died of cancer: the starting point of the show. It’s all about the ephemerality of life:
#AfterLife launched #OTD 2019 – and what a journey it's been.
“I thought…can people be laughing one minute, then crying the next? The answer is yes, because that's real life.”@rickygervais #HopeIsEverything #LifeGoesOn pic.twitter.com/5GjyXMpHoO
— Kerry Fowlerどﾉ (@kerryfowler_) March 8, 2023
From Luana. Don’t try to tell me that ChatGPT isn’t nudged by woke programmers! Read the answers:
Sure, @sama, blame it on the data. pic.twitter.com/TKdxQHowd1
— Pedro Domingos (@pmddomingos) February 5, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial. It’s no surprise that this gaunt old man of 75 lasted but three days in the camp:
12 March 1866 | A Slovak Jew, Franz Weisz, was born.
In #Auschwitz from 24 October 1941.
He perished in the camp three days later. pic.twitter.com/lS2Ye9bt7d
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) March 12, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. This first one is a brilliant demonstration that individuals will do whatever best helps them produce offspring. It’s dangerous to crawl to the water’s edge, where there are predators or the change of being landlocked, but you can squirt your larvae a lot farther in the air than in water. Presumably there’s an advantage to dispersal! (The original paper is here.)
Brilliant to be involved in this amazing study just out in @ESAEcology – parasitic freshwater mussels climb up the bank and spurt their babies back into the water to attract fish hosts! See paper for the lowdown: https://t.co/8704fBudlR pic.twitter.com/Lm2N3nBiB8
— Dr Josh Brian (@DrJoshBrian) March 11, 2023
Matthew doesn’t really understand baseball (just as I don’t understand cricket), but sent a pair of tweets about a college player called out on strikes. Here, on the second strike, the player has a mini-fit (it looked like a ball to me). The next pitch was clearly a ball but the ump, who must be blind, called a strike. The catcher jumps in to prevent mayhem. (That last called strike may be the ump’s “acting out tax.”
What is going on…this umpire should be suspended! No way a game should end like this just because an umpire is holding a grudge!! pic.twitter.com/0OBfocuhlh
— Ben McDonald (@realbenmcdonald) March 11, 2023
Jonathan Eisen, who does understand baseball, weighs in. The ump was suspended, and I agree about the last call
The last call is really really really bad:
College ump suspended after egregious strike call – via @ESPN App https://t.co/44u0q0yjk6
— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) March 12, 2023
I am duck #6, drinking coffee (it’s 9 a.m. in Dobrzyn):
What duck do you feel like today? pic.twitter.com/bQtltYRA39
— why you should have a duck 🦆 (@shouldhaveaduck) March 11, 2023