Thursday: Hili dialogue

January 14, 2021 • 6:30 am

First, the good news and the numbers (and here are the ten Republican Representatives who voted for impeachment).

Good day on Thursday, January 14, 2021. And it’s Pastrami Sandwich Day: Now you’re talking! It’s also International Kite Day, National Dress Up Your Pet Day, and Caesarian Section Day, which “commemorates the first successful Caesarean (also spelled as Cesarean) delivery or C-section, in the United States, which was made by Dr. Jesse Bennett on January 14, 1794.” In the U.S., it’s Ratification Day (Treaty of Paris; see below), and worldwide it’s World Logic Day, a UNESCO holiday. 

Finally, it’s Feast of the Ass, which, though it sounds bizarre, was a medieval Christian holiday.

News of the Day:

Trump has been impeached, but it’s unlikely that the Senate will start a trial before Biden is inaugurated. The outcome could still bar Trump from holding federal office ever again (though this isn’t certain even if he’s convicted), and of course it does nothing to get him out of office. Trump is trying to make amends, but it’s too late. As the NYT reports:

Not long after the vote on Wednesday, Mr. Trump released a video condemning the violence and urging his followers to avoid a repeat in “the coming days both here in Washington and across the country” as federal authorities warned of a nationwide wave of violence surrounding Mr. Biden’s inauguration. But the president did not mention his own role in instigating the violence or apologize, nor did he concede or mention Mr. Biden’s name.

Mr. Trump recorded the video under pressure from aides, who have warned him that he faces potential legal exposure for the riot, which took place after a speech in which he urged supporters to “fight” the election results.

Religion poisons everything: Irish edition. Ireland’s Prime Minister formally apologized for the dreadful treatment of unwed mothers.

Martin spoke after the long-awaited release of a 3,000-page report from the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes, which investigated conditions for the 56,000 unmarried mothers and 57,000 children who passed through the system — at 18 homes run by the state and by Catholic charities — from 1920 until 1998, when the last facility was shuttered.

The unmarried mothers, often destitute, desperate and young, with nowhere else to turn, sought last-ditch refuge in the homes or were shoved into them, having been cast out by their families.

Infant mortality at the institutions was in many years double the national average. Some 9,000 infants died — 15 percent of all those who were born in the system — a statistic the investigators call “appalling.”

Most of the babies who survived were offered up for adoption, including in the United States, often without full consent by the mothers.

Martin said: “We treated women exceptionally badly. We treated children exceptionally badly.”

The Irish leader said his society had suffered from a “warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy,” with a “very striking absence of kindness.”

Catholicism, and its disapprobation of extramarital sex, is at the bottom of all this, of course. Of course defenders of Catholicism will say that this isn’t the “real” faith, but that’s not true.

A few days ago, an appellate court stayed the execution of Lisa Montgomery, but the Supreme Court intervened and rejected that appeal, ordering in effect her execution.  She was put to death yesterday in Terre Haute—the first woman executed in a federal prison since 1953. Now I don’t think that there’s anything different from executing a man versus a woman (many people seem to think it’s worse to execute a woman than a man), but I oppose all executions, and for Montgomery in particular there was palpable evidence that she was mentally ill. Trump could have stayed her execution, but he didn’t, and hence she died. Two more federal prisoners are scheduled to die before the Inauguration. Biden, of course, would have halted these executions and the barbarism attendant to them. You can read Sister Helen Prejean’s letter opposing Montgomery’s execution here.

Two pet cats in California have been found after going missing for over three years after fires and landslides: Mordecai Jones and Patches.  Their staff are, of course, elated. Both cats were identified from their microchips, so get your cat chipped, even if it’s an indoor cat (it could escape).

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 384,804, a big increase of about 4,000 deaths from yesterday’s figure, or about 2.8 deaths per minute. In less than a week we’ll pass 400,000 deaths: double what the most pessimistic pundits thought we’d have. The world death toll is 1,988,923, a big increase of about 16,600 deaths over yesterday’s total. That’s about 11.5 deaths a minute—roughly one every five seconds. We’ll pass 2 million deaths worldwide by tomorrow.

Stuff that happened on January 14 includes:

  • 1539 – Spain annexes Cuba.
  • 1784 – American Revolutionary War: Ratification Day, United States – Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain
  • 1911 – Roald Amundsen‘s South Pole expedition makes landfall on the eastern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf.

Amundsen’s team, of course, beat Scott’s to the South Pole by a month, and every one of Scott’s team died on the way back. Here are their routes: the pink bit at the bottom is the Ross Ice Shelf:

  • 1952 – NBC’s long-running morning news program Today debuts, with host Dave Garroway.

Although this show has been broadcast continually for 68 years, it’s only #5 on the list of long-running U.S. television shows. Can you guess the winner or the other four? (Go here for the answer.)

Ah, the good old days, when the world was going to be transformed—or so we thought. Here’s the full program of the Be-In (less than half an hour); you’ll recognize some of the participants if you’re of “a certain age”:

  • 1972 – Queen Margrethe II of Denmark ascends the throne, the first Queen of Denmark since 1412 and the first Danish monarch not named Frederick or Christian since 1513.
  • 1973 – Elvis Presley’s concert Aloha from Hawaii is broadcast live via satellite, and sets the record as the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1741 – Benedict Arnold, American-British general (d. 1801)
  • 1875 – Albert Schweitzer, French-Gabonese physician and philosopher, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1965)
  • 1896 – John Dos Passos, American novelist, poet, and playwright (d. 1970)
  • 1919 – Andy Rooney, American soldier, journalist, critic, and television personality (d. 2011)
  • 1928 – Garry Winogrand, American photographer and author (d. 1984)

Winogrand was a great street photographer, who died young with 2,500 rolls of film undeveloped. Here’s one of his photos:

  • 1940 – Julian Bond, American academic and politician (d. 2015)
  • 1941 – Faye Dunaway, American actress and producer
  • 1952 – Maureen Dowd, American journalist and author

Here’s Dowd diagnosing Trump’s narcissism. This is in fact the first time I’ve ever seen a video of her:

Those who breathed their last on January 14 include:

  • 1742 – Edmond Halley, English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist (b. 1656)
  • 1898 – Lewis Carroll, English novelist, poet, and mathematician (b. 1832)
  • 1957 – Humphrey Bogart, American actor (b. 1899)
  • 1977 – Anaïs Nin, French-American essayist and memoirist (b. 1903)
  • 1978 – Kurt Gödel, Austrian-American mathematician and philosopher (b. 1906)

Reading Gödel’s Wikipedia entry, I found this disturbing information:

Later in his life, Gödel suffered periods of mental instability and illness. Following the assassination of his close friend Moritz Schlick, Gödel had an obsessive fear of being poisoned; he would eat only food that his wife, Adele, prepared for him. Late in 1977, she was hospitalized for six months and could subsequently no longer prepare her husband’s food. In her absence, he refused to eat, eventually starving to death. He weighed 29 kilograms (65 lb) when he died. His death certificate reported that he died of “malnutrition and inanition caused by personality disturbance” in Princeton Hospital on January 14, 1978. He was buried in Princeton Cemetery. Adele’s death followed in 1981.

Couldn’t Gödel prepare his own food, or just open a can of beans?

  • 1984 – Ray Kroc, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1902)
  • 1986 – Donna Reed, American actress (b. 1921)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s worried about her social-media accounts:

Hili: I have a different opinion.
A: About what?
Hili: I can’t say because they would close my account.
In Polish:
Hili: Mam odmienne zdanie.
Ja: W jakiej sprawie?
Hili: Nie mogę powiedzieć, bo zamkną mi konto.

And Szaron is still looking sleepy, but he’s really just shy.

Two memes from the Internet:

D*gs take their cue from the Capitol rioters.  “It’s 1776!”

From Bruce:

Some new information on The Queen. Was there a real Queen on which Titania was based, or was she, like Jesus, a myth without a model? Listen to Andrew Doyle below:

Tweets from Matthew. Watch the video on this one:

This is what’s known as a “groaner”:

Why do these bees have such long legs? The answer is in the second tweet (translated): “These legs allow the collection of oils from various tubular flowers, especially the genus Diascia and some orchids. These oils are a source of lipids for the larvae, and they also allow them to coat the nests against water and humidity.”

Plus ça change. . .

It’s a spoiled Bengal! (And some bad grammar.)

. . . and a lovely and colorful pitcher plant. It needs to drain itself a bit.

I can’t vouch for this, but Hemingway, like many writers and artists, was an ailurophile:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

January 13, 2021 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Wednesday, January 13, 2021: National Peach Melba Day, a dish of peaches, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce, said to have been invented by the great French chef Escoffier to honor his friend, Australian opera singer Nellie Melba. (Melba has the honor of having two comestibles named after her: the other is Melba toast.) Although the preceding link calls the dessert “one of the most famous and beloved desserts in the world,” I’ve never had it. Has anyone?

It’s also National Rubber Ducky Day, Korean American Day, and Stephen Foster Memorial Day: Foster died on this day in 1864.

Wine of the DayA lovely Austrian Riesling (I don’t drink many Austrian wines and consider Grüner Veltliner overrated). It accompanied a simple dinner of rice and Trader Joe’s Channa Masala, a dish of curried chickpeas. It’s a simple meal for when you don’t want to cook, is authentic in its taste (and spicy), but also requires a good, fruity wine to wash it down. I was pleased to find that the Riesling, described as “bone dry”, was not: it was off dry, and that touch of sweetness went well with the dish. At 12.5%, the wine is low in alcohol.

News of the Day: I can’t seem to get away from Trump, impeachment and the Capitol riots. And somehow I don’t think Trump will go gentle into his retirement. Here’s one tweet that I find reassuring, though the need for it isn’t reassuring. The Joint Chiefs of Staff all signed a letter disavowing violence like that occurring at the Capitol (and may occur again in the next few days), and emphasizing that their brief is to defend the Constitution. The letter is in the tweet below or, if you can’t read it, at this link.

And, as CNN reports, it’s unprecedented for the Joint Chiefs to issue a statement like this,

America’s most senior military leaders condemned the violent invasion of the US Capitol last week and reminded service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism in a statement that underscored the unprecedented challenges facing the country in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection attempt by President Donald Trump’s supporters.

“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection,” said the statement, released Tuesday and signed by America’s most senior general, Mark Milley, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is comprised of the heads of each military branch

The extraordinary statement underscores the scale of the challenge and the depth of the uncertainty and concern in Washington, where officials across the US security establishment scramble to deal with the aftermath of the chaos at the Capitol, and around the country, as all 50 states are preparing for possible violence.

Trump has also absolved himself of any responsibility for inciting the invasion of the Capitol:

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said.

Yes, some did, but not the sane ones.

On the upside, Mitch “666” McConnell may lose one of his 6s. According to the New York Times, McConnell privately backs the impeachment proceedings against Trump, but, although the Senators are starting to break ranks, we still need 17 Republican Senators to vote to convict before the Orange Man gets his punishment.  Oh, and the third most powerful Republican in the House, Liz Cheney, is also voting in favor of impeachment, which is pretty much a done deal since it requires just a majority in the House:

“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms. Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

For those who thought the Capitol rioters would at best get a slap on the wrist, relax. The New York Times reports that many more arrests are in the offing, and some protestors are going to get hit with very serious charges:

The top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., said on Tuesday that more than 70 people tied to the Capitol riot had been charged with crimes and that he expected that number to rise into the hundreds, with prosecutors looking at charging some rioters with sedition and conspiracy.

. . . In addition to pursuing possible charges of seditious conspiracy, which is defined as an effort by two or more people to overthrow the government or use force to hinder its operations, investigators are also prioritizing investigations into attacks against police officers, theft of confidential information from the Capitol and attacks against reporters.

If you go to the link above, you’ll find out what “seditious conspiracy” means:

Current federal criminal code defines “seditious conspiracy” as an effort by two or more people “to conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”

It also appears to mean long prison terms.

More arrests to come in the storming of the Capitol. The Washington Post reports that cellphone records and extensive video will be the petard on which the rioters are hoisted:

The Capitol, more than most buildings, has a vast cellular and wireless data infrastructure of its own to make communications efficient in a building made largely of stone and that extends deep underground and has pockets of shielded areas. Such infrastructure, such as individual cell towers, can turn any connected phone into its own tracking device.

Phone records make determining the owners of these devices trivially easy. Congressional investigators and federal prosecutors can also identify devices and users who may have connected wittingly or automatically to congressional guest WiFi networks — unless rioters made a point of deactivating their devices or leaving them behind during the takeover.

The countless hours of video — much of it taken by the rioters themselves and uploaded to social media — also offers an ideal data set for facial recognition. Many scenes were captured from multiple angles, with good lighting, over several minutes. Few people wore masks. While facial recognition technology often struggles to reliably identify people with dark skin, the large majority of the Trump supporters who entered the Capitol on Wednesday appeared to be White.

Lock ’em up!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 380,878, a big increase of about 4,400 deaths from yesterday’s figure, or about 3 deaths per minute. In roughly a week we’ll pass 400,000 deaths: double what the most pessimistic pundits thought we’d have. The world death toll is 1,972,380, a big increase of about 17,200 deaths over yesterday’s total. That’s about 12 deaths a minute, or one every five seconds. We’ll pass 2 million deaths worldwide in just a couple of days.

Stuff that happened on January 13 includes:

Here’s the 1822 flag with the modern flag below it:

I’ll put a space here because I don’t want the designs to run together:

Actually, he was the sole European survivor; several Indian sepoys survived as well.

  • 1879 – In Mozart Gardens Brooklyn Ada Anderson completed a great feat of pedestrianism – 2700 quarter miles in 2700 quarter hours, earning her $8000.

Anderson had to be awake except for her short rest periods, and finished the feat.  2700 quarter hours is 28 days, and induces severe sleep deprivation.

This famous essay, which got Zola convicted of libel (he fled to England), also helped free Dreyfus from his conviction for espionage, though Dreyfus was not exonerated until 1906. Here’s Zola’s famous defense of Dreyfus in L’Aurore:

  • 1910 – The first public radio broadcast takes place; a live performance of the operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are sent out over the airwaves from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
  • 1942 – World War II: First use of an aircraft ejection seat by a German test pilot in a Heinkel He 280 jet fighter.

Here’s a more recent ejection from 2003: “Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejects from his F-16 aircraft with an ACES II ejection seat on 14 September 2003 at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Stricklin was not injured.”  Caption from Wikipedia, and video is here. Note that Stricklin says that this was considered an “unsurvivable ejection” because he and his parachute landed in the plane’s fireball.

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho . . . . Stricklin, who was not injured, ejected after both guiding the jet away from the crowd of more than 60,000 people and ensuring he couldn’t save the aircraft. This was only the second crash since the Air Force began using F-16 Falcons for its demonstration team in 1982. The ACES II ejection seat performed flawlessly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
  • 1953 – An article appears in Pravda accusing some of the most prestigious and prominent doctors, mostly Jews, in the Soviet Union of taking part in a vast plot to poison members of the top Soviet political and military leadership.
  • 1966 – Robert C. Weaver becomes the first African American Cabinet member when he is appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • 1968 – Johnny Cash performs live at Folsom State Prison.
  • 1982 – Shortly after takeoff, Air Florida Flight 90, a Boeing 737 jet, crashes into Washington, D.C.‘s 14th Street Bridge and falls into the Potomac River, killing 78 including four motorists.

Harvard entomologist Bob Silberglied, a lovely guy whom many of us knew at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, was one of those killed. He’s still the only person I knew who died in a plane crash.

  • 1990 – Douglas Wilder becomes the first elected African American governor as he takes office as Governor of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia

Notables born on this day include:

It’s a little known fact that Salmon Chase was depicted on the highest-value American currency ever circulated, the $10,000 bill. Chase was one of only 3 people to appear on currency who was not a President. Can you name the others? Heeeeeere’s Salmon!:

  • 1832 – Horatio Alger, Jr., American novelist and journalist (d. 1899)
  • 1893 – Chaim Soutine, Belarusian-French painter (d. 1943)

I’m a fan of this expressionist painter. Here’s his “Cagnes Landscape with Tree,” painted in 1926-26:

Cagnes Landscape with Tree c.1925-6 Cha?m Soutine 1893-1943 Bequeathed by John Levy 1977
  • 1924 – Paul Feyerabend, Austrian-Swiss philosopher and academic (d. 1994)
  • 1927 – Sydney Brenner, South African biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)

Matthew wrote an obituary on Brenner, a titanic figure in modern biology. To interview him, Matthew traveled to sweltering Singapore, where Brenner lived during his last years.  One upshot was a half-hour BBC program featuring Matthew’s conversation with Brenner and his take on Brenner’s life and career. You can listen to that interview here.

In this photo, Brenner is on the extreme right. But there are a number of other famous molecular geneticists here. Can you name any?

  • 1938 – Cabu, French cartoonist (d. 2015)

Cabu was one of the artists killed in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices.

  • 1961 – Wayne Coyne, American singer-songwriter and musician

I don’t really know who Wayne Coyne is, but I put him up because he might be a distant relative.

Those who crossed the River Styx on this day include:

  • 858 – Æthelwulf, king of Wessex
  • 1864 – Stephen Foster, American composer and songwriter (b. 1826)
  • 1929 – Wyatt Earp, American police officer (b. 1848)
  • 1941 – James Joyce, Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet (b. 1882)
  • 1956 – Lyonel Feininger, German-American painter and illustrator (b. 1871)

Feininger is also one of my favorite artists, and underappreciated. Here’s one of his paintings:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, “Jerry Maguire” Hili says “Show me the label!”

Hili: Show me the label of this cat food.
A: Why?
Hili: I have to check “best before” date.
In Polish:
Hili: Pokaż mi opakowanie tej karmy.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Muszę sprawdzić datę ważności.

And here’s Szaron on Andrzej’s desk, looking sleepy:

From Facebook: This scam has irked me for a long time! Under this nefarious scheme, you have to buy four packages of dogs and 5 of buns to come out even:

From Barry:

From Beth:

A tweet from Barry. Assuming this is the North American Baltimore Oriole, it is not at all customary for them to overwinter where there’s snow. They do like fruit, though. I’m glad this one was happy.

Tweets from Matthew, who calls this first one “grimly impressive.” Indeed.

A beautiful flashing ctenophore:

Forgetting passwords is a bad business, but this one’s especially bad, as it may cost the hapless guy $220 million:

A lovely cover for Birding Magazine. It almost looks as if the woodpecker were a hero in a Marvel Comic:

This is very sad. I importuned Matthew to go and take his daughters, but, as he told me when he sent me this tweet, “I never got a chance to go. . . ”

University of Alabama students violate pandemic restrictions big time! It’s a football victory, of course.

Finally, can you guess what this invention is? Like the polio vaccine (never patented by Salk), it’s a lifesaver. Answer is in the thread.

Monday: Hili dialogue

January 11, 2021 • 6:00 am

It’s damn Monday again: January 11, 2021: National Hot Toddy Day. It’s also National Milk Day, National Gluten-Free Day, National Clean off your Desk Day (do it!), Girl Hug Boy Day (not this year), and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. 

News of the day:

Weather news first: There was a huge snowfall in Spain, with Madrid receiving 20 inches (51 cm) in two days!  Everything ground to a halt, of course; there hasn’t been a snowfall like that in decades. But one enterprising guy mushed his dogs through the city!

Here’s a tweet courtesy of Dr. Cobb:

The impeachment/resignation/removal movement is proceeding on all three fronts. The House is voting this morning to ask Pence and the Cabinet to proceed with enacting the provisions of the 25th Amendment, getting Trump to resign. That’s a foolish waste of time, as Pence has already indicated he has no inclination to do that. Several Republicans have now called upon Trump to resign. That’s foolish too; if you know Trump, there’s no way he’ll leave office in his last ten days.

The big hope lies in impeachment, which looks increasingly likely as Republican Senators are moving toward voting for conviction. The problem with that, of course, is that it derails Biden’s legislative agenda with a long Senate trial. Biden may have a Democratic Senate for only two years, and he needs to start enacting his agenda now. Some, like the House majority whip (a Democrat, of course), have suggested that the House can draw up articles of impeachment now, but wait several months before sending them to the Senate for trial. That sounds like a reasonable compromise.

According to last night’s NBC News, every single FBI field office is working on identifying the suspects photographed in the Capitol takeover. The New York Times describes some of the notable arrests. I was particularly pleased to see the guy who put his feet on Pelosi’s desk (Richard Barnett) and the guy who stole her lectern (Adam Johnson) doing the perp walk. Jake Angeli, the fur-hatted, face-painted Viking warrior with a spear, has now been nicknamed “Q Shaman.” He’s been at many pro-Trump rallies in Arizona since the Orange man was elected, and now is charged with “one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” I say throw the book at all of them; this kind of behavior needs longer-than-usual sentences as a means of deterrence.

There’s a big kerfuffle about when prisoners should be vaccinated; many people are objecting to some states’ rules that prisoners should be given the Covid-19 vaccination before the elderly. This is a tough problem given that prisoners are five times more likely to be infected than “civilians.” My own view is that their risk alone, along with any underlying conditions like age or comorbidities, should be the sole determinants on vaccination. Being a convicted prisoner should not bump you out of the queue, as you’re already serving your punishment. Being put at an extra risk beyond that due to your overall chance of dying doesn’t seem warranted—it’s punishment on top of punishment. Do you agree?

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 374,428, an increase of about 1,800 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,944,516, an increase of about 8.200 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 11 include:

  • 630 – Conquest of Mecca: The prophet Muhammad and his followers conquer the city, Quraysh surrender.
  • 1569 – First recorded lottery in England.

This was held by Queen Elizabeth I, and every ticket holder won a prize.

  • 1879 – The Anglo-Zulu War begins.
  • 1922 – Leonard Thompson becomes the first person to be injected with insulin.

The first dose was contaminated, but Thompson, 15 years old, took more and purer doses, and lived until he was 28.  Here’s Thompson:

Hoxha ruled until 1973 as one of the last old-time Marxists. Here he is on a poster with Mao:

  • 1949 – The first “networked” television broadcasts took place as KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania goes on the air connecting the east coast and mid-west programming.
  • 1964 – Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Luther Terry, M.D., publishes the landmark report Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States saying that smoking may be hazardous to health, sparking national and worldwide anti-smoking efforts.
  • 2003 – Illinois Governor George Ryan commutes the death sentences of 167 prisoners on Illinois‘s death row based on the Jon Burge scandal.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1807 – Ezra Cornell, American businessman and philanthropist, founded Western Union and Cornell University (d. 1874)
  • 1842 – William James, American psychologist and philosopher (d. 1910)
  • 1889 – Calvin Bridges, American geneticist and academic (d. 1938)

Here’s the colorful Bridges looking at Drosophila. By now you should know who he is.

  • 1906 – Albert Hofmann, Swiss chemist and academic, discoverer of LSD (d. 2008)

As I’ve said, I once heard Hofmann speak on his discovery of LSD in a lecture in Richard Schultes’s Economic Botany course at Harvard. He lectured wearing an immaculate white lab coat, as below, and was about the straightest guy I’d ever seen. I guess I was expecting a hippie.

  • 1923 – Carroll Shelby, American race car driver, engineer, and businessman, founded Carroll Shelby International (d. 2012)
  • 1946 – Naomi Judd, American singer-songwriter and actress

Those who conked out on January 11 include:

  • 1843 – Francis Scott Key, American lawyer, author, and songwriter (b. 1779)
  • 1882 – Theodor Schwann, German physiologist and biologist (b. 1810)
  • 1928 – Thomas Hardy, English novelist and poet (b. 1840)
  • 1941 – Emanuel Lasker, German mathematician, philosopher, and chess player (b. 1868)
  • 1988 – Isidor Isaac Rabi, Polish-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1898)

Here’s Rabi (who discovered nuclear magnetic resonance, the basis of NMR imaging), with two other Laureates. Rabi is on right with E. O. Lawrence on the left and Enrico Fermi in the middle.

Mitchinson was the sister of J.B.S. Haldane and a noted poet and author. Wikipedia reports this:

When asked on her 90th birthday whether she had any regrets in life, she replied, “Yes, all the men I never slept with. Imagine!”

She had an open marriage, though, and did sleep with quite a few men. Here she is:

  • 2008 – Edmund Hillary, New Zealand mountaineer and explorer (b. 1919)
  • 2010 – Éric Rohmer, French director, screenwriter, and critic (b. 1920)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili manages to carry on a conversation while she’s asleep:

A: Are you asleep?
Hili: I’m asleep.
A: Are you dreaming?
Hili: I am.
A: What about?
Hili: I’m not telling.
In Polish:
Ja: Śpisz?
Hili: Śpię.
Ja: Śnisz?
Hili: Śnię.
Ja: A o czym?
Hili: Nie powiem.

Here is a portrait of little Kulka; she can be told apart from Hili because a. she’s much smaller and b. she has golden rather than green eyes. Photo by Paulina R.

And Szaron stalking in the snow:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Stash Krod:

From Facebook:

From Titania. Besides her sarcasm, I find it hard to believe that the Chinese Embassy in Washington really tweeted that. It’s so slimy! But there’s a blue checkmark, so it must be real.

Barry calls this “the power of confidence.” Indeed. And I have to give a shout-out to Steve Stewart-Williams for producing the many tweets we reproduce in the Hili dialogues:

Tweets from Matthew. Although his cat Ollie may be nefarious, he doesn’t do this:

Two tweets showing that the “retreating” Capitol police officer was doing a damn good job, and being courageous to boot:

I retweeted this, which was sent by Matthew. If we have to have Republicans, why can’t they be more like Arnold? Do listen to his spiel:

This “rock art” is freaking amazing:

And, as NBC News says at the end of its show when it puts up a feel-good piece, “There’s good news tonight!” But where did Isaac go? We’ll never know:



Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 10, 2021 • 6:30 am

It is Cat Sabbath: January 10, 2021: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day. It’s also National Sunday Supper Day, National Oysters Rockefeller Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day, Save the Eagles Day (they’re already saved), and No Pants Subway Ride Day, which is exactly what it sounds like (although this started in New York, people now do this in 60 cities). You’re supposed to ride in your skivvies, though some people cheat and wear shorts. This Google image search shows some photos.

In the Falkland Islands it’s Margaret Thatcher Day. Because she “won the war” with Argentina, she’s a big hero there, as I discovered last November when I visited. Here’s a statue of the Iron Lady on Thatcher Drive:

Wine of the Day: This Bordeaux-like red is a Cotes de Castillon, a “satellite appellation” of Bordeaux, and I couldn’t have told it from its better-known relative. Full bodied, plummy, and with some sediment, it requires decanting and a bit of breathing. It could age for at least another five years, but was delightful now. A good red with a baguette and aged cheddar, as well as fresh tomatoes in olive oil. I’ll have the rest tonight with my weekly steak.  A very good value for the money.

News of the Day: There is lots of news about the dumpster fire that is the Presidency and the people it inflamed to commit insurrection. Just a few highlights.

First, the Washington Post reports that a week before Trump tried pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to “find more votes,” he pressured yet another elections official in that state:

President Trump urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud” in a lengthy December phone call, saying the official would be a “national hero,” according to an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation.

Trump placed the call to the investigations chief for the Georgia secretary of state’s office shortly before Christmas — while the individual was leading an inquiry into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County, in the suburbs of Atlanta, according to people familiar with the episode.

The president’s attempts to intervene in an ongoing investigation could amount to obstruction of justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, though they cautioned a case could be difficult to prove.

These two phone calls are certainly something that should be part of any impeachment charges.

I was pleased to see on last night’s news that the feds have already tracked down a number of miscreants who stormed the capital, and have arrested them at home, making them do public “perp walks”. Those arrested include the guy who put his feet up on Pelosi’s desk, the Fur Hat Viking Man, a state lawmaker from West Virginia (now resigned), and the guy who stole and brandished Pelosi’s lectern. But so far they haven’t found those who killed the Capitol police officer. The BBC reports 82 arrests as of last evening, but I expect a lot more, and, given that this was an attempted takeover of the government, I hope that those convicted get harsh sentences—as a deterrent, though it will come too late to deter those bent on similar protests during the inauguration. (Believe me, there will be a lot more security ten days from now.)

The FBI has put up a number of photos of suspects on its Twitter account, seeking identification. Some of those already arrested were identified by people who knew them.

How did an Air Force veteran, Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot to death while storming the Capitol, become an unhinged QAnon addict? The Washington Post reprises her life and, sure enough, she carried a lot of repressed anger, even while in the service.  Here—watch one of her video tweets (note that she says she is “woke”):

A new story from the Washington Post reports that, before he was “President,” Trump repeatedly pretended, in phone calls to reporters, that he was his own publicist. You can hear a recording at the link. He often used the pseudonym John Barron, and now a satire Twitter account has sprung up under the “John Barron” nickname. Click on screenshot; it’s already got over 300K followers. (h/t Joe Routon)

Okay, enough political news. I think I should be posting more kitten videos now because the stress from ten months of pandemic combined with a fascist president and an attempted insurrection has got us all on edge.

A litter of cute kittens

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 372,651, an increase of 3,300 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,936,317, 1,924,037, a big increase of about 12,300 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 10 includes:

The Rubicon, which marked the border between Roman Italy and Gaul, wasn’t and isn’t a big river. There’s a later Roman bridge near the spot where Caesar crossed (below), an action now synonymous with doing something irrevocable:


It’s hard to find first editions of this famous 47-page pamphlet urging independence of the colonies (only three in decent condition have been auctioned since 1945), but this one sold in 2013 for $545,000:

As Wikipedia notes, “In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best-selling American title and is still in print today.”

  • 1863 – The Metropolitan Railway, the world’s oldest underground railway, opens between Paddington and Farringdon, marking the beginning of the London Underground.
  • 1870 – John D. Rockefeller incorporates Standard Oil.
  • 1901 – The first great Texas oil gusher is discovered at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas.

And here’s a photo of the Spindletop gusher:

Here’s an English trailer of this film, which I’ve seen. Note the Big Brother-like atmosphere. (You can see the whole movie, aber auf Deutsch, here).

  • 1946 – The United States Army Signal Corps successfully conducts Project Diana, bouncing radio waves off the Moon and receiving the reflected signals.
  • 1984 – Holy See–United States relations: The United States and Holy See (Vatican City) re-establish full diplomatic relations after almost 117 years, overturning the United States Congress’s 1867 ban on public funding for such a diplomatic envoy.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1887 – Robinson Jeffers, American poet and philosopher (d. 1962)
  • 1904 – Ray Bolger, American actor and dancer (d. 1987)
  • 1936 – Robert Woodrow Wilson, American physicist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1939 – Sal Mineo, American actor (d. 1976)

Mineo, most famous for his role as “Plato” in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), died at 37 from a stab wound to the heart, probably from a homosexual encounter. Here’s the famous scene in which Jim, played by James Dean, gives Plato his jacket:

I knew Hewitt, and he was a mentor of several of my friends a colleagues. A very lovely guy, smart but not arrogant.  If you knew him you’ll recognize this picture instantly:

I can’t mention Jim Croce without showing this great live performance of my favorite of his songs, “Operator” (1972). Accompanying him is Maury Muehleisen; both men died in a plane crash, with Croce just 30 years old.

Linda Susan Boreman (her real name) died at 53 of an automobile accident. She’d had a rough life.

  • 1981 – Jared Kushner, American real estate investor and political figure

Those who “fell asleep” on January 10 include:

  • 1778 – Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist and physician (b. 1707)
  • 1862 – Samuel Colt, American engineer and businessman, founded Colt’s Manufacturing Company (b. 1814)
  • 1917 – Buffalo Bill, American soldier and hunter (b. 1846)
  • 1951 – Sinclair Lewis, American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1885)
  • 1957 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, American novelist (b. 1867)
  • 1961 – Dashiell Hammett, American detective novelist and screenwriter (b. 1894)
  • 1971 – Coco Chanel, French fashion designer, founded Chanel (b. 1883)
  • 2016 – David Bowie, English singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (b. 1947)

Today is the fifth anniversary of his death.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wants to escape the cold:

Hili: The night is coming. Let’s go home.
A: You are right; frost is supposed to come.
In Polish:
Hili: Idzie noc, wracamy do domu.
Ja: Masz rację, ma być mróz.

Andrzej says, “Three pictures taken by Paulina and one by me (guess which one).”  (In Polish: “Trzy zdjęcia zrobione przez Paulinę i jedno moje (zgadnijcie które.”) 

Kulka and Szaron gambol in the snow, and we see Paulina hugging her beloved Kulka. Look at Paulina’s expression! She loves her kitty. 

From Jeff:

Screenshot of a tweet found by Divy:

From Cats Making Funny Faces. The poster’s answer was “Jolene by Dolly Parton”; someone else said “I will always love you,” which I think is a better answer.

Titania in cognitive dissonance mode. I do want to read that book, though:

Simon sent two tweets. Is the first one a real video?

And Simon says “step back two steps”. Just kidding! He really says he’s known grad students like this (actually, I was one of them). Look at that chimp carry with its opposable toes!

From Barry, who assumes (as do I) that this is real and that a soundtrack wasn’t added afterwards:


A lovely snake fossil:

A fairly new photo with an old caption:

Even Pinker can’t figure this one out, so I’m not even going to try:

Another illusion, and I’ve saved the best for last. Read either side and listen to the sound. You will hear what you’re reading. This shows that your ears are conditioned to hear words that your eyes see. Try listening again without reading anything; the sound is ambiguous. I We are altering the sound in our minds. hadn’t seen an auditory illusion like this before, but it definitely says something about the evolution of and interactions between our senses.

What’s even odder is that the two words/phases: “Green noodle” and “Brainstorm” have different numbers of syllables!

Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 9, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the second Caturday of 2021:  Saturday, January 9, and National Apricot Day. It’s also Play God Day, National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and National Word Nerd Day, which you’re supposed to celebrate by learning new words, and, in India, Non-Resident Indian Day (does any other country have a holiday celebrating non-residents?).

Here’s our new word, which I keep relearning and keep forgetting because I never use it. I got it from Hitchens, of course: ratiocination: “the process of exact thinking, OR a reasoned train of thought.”

News of the Day:

The BBC and NYT report on the hunt to arrest rioters in Capitol; there’s a huge effort by law enforcement, involving “hundreds of prosecutors and FBI agents”, to track down the miscreants and bring them to justice.  More power to them! The NYT says “dozens have been arrested, of which 13 face federal charges.” It didn’t take them long to track down Richard Barnett of Arkansas, 60, who was photographed with his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk:

According to the NYT, “Mr. Barnett faces three criminal counts that included knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and theft of public money, property or records. He was expected to make an initial appearance in Little Rock, Ark., and then be sent to Washington to face prosecution.”

And don’t forget Fur Hat Man, “Another man pictured wearing a fur hat and horns, whose photo was shared widely online, was identified as Jake Angeli – a vocal supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory.”

But there are more serious charges, and they’re still looking for the people involved in murdering policeman Brian Sicknick (he was bashed on the head with a fire extinguisher), and carrying pipe bombs.

Here’s another loon:

One of the most serious federal cases involved Lonnie L. Coffman of Falkville, Ala. In the bed of his truck, officers found what they described as an M4 assault rifle and magazines loaded with ammunition. They also found rags, lighters and 11 glass Mason jars filled with a liquid later identified as gasoline.

Bomb technicians determined that they were meant to be turned into Molotov cocktails — small, hand-thrown fire bombs. Mr. Coffman was arrested when he tried to return to his truck around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The police found two handguns in his pants pockets, a 9-millimeter handgun in his right front pocket and a .22-caliber pistol in his left front pocket.

There are others, but this one is especially stupid:

Also among those arrested was Derrick Evans, a newly elected lawmaker from West Virginia, Mr. Kohl said. Mr. Evans posted video to his Facebook page of him filming as he stood among the crowd outside a Capitol door, shouting, “There we go! Open the door!” and chanting, “Our house! Our house!” before rushing inside. “We’re going in!” he added.

Though he deleted the video, the F.B.I. found a copy on Reddit.

Matthew gives us more news about Zip-Tie guys, whose motives must have been very dark:

A horrible thought crossed my mind: many of the crimes these people were accused of are federal crimes. That means that Trump could pardon those people (he can’t pardon people for D.C. crimes). Would he do that?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has threatened to call for a vote on impeaching Trump if he doesn’t resign “immediately.” It’s clear that Pence is not going to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor could he get a majority of cabinet members to support that action. I suspect this will all come to nothing given that a 2/3 majority of the Senate, now mostly Republican, would be required for a successful impeachment. However—and I didn’t know this until recently—the procedure can go ahead, and even if Trump is out of office, if he’s convicted in the Senate he couldn’t hold any federal political office for the rest of his life.

In a final display of petulance, the Orange Man has also declared that he won’t go to Biden’s inauguration (Biden says that this is the first time he actually agrees with Trump.) I thought that Trump been permanently banned from Twitter but this doesn’t look like it (UPDATE: Twitter announced yesterday that Trump has now been permanently banned). You can see this by trying to go to Trump’s site, but I have a screenshot of one of his last tweets:

If you go to his former site, you now see this:

He won’t be the first President to skip an inauguration, but will be the first in 150 years:

Only three presidents have skipped their successor’s swearing-in: John Adams in 1801, his son John Quincy Adams in 1829 and Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who sat out the 1869 inauguration after he was replaced in favor of Republican Ulysses S. Grant. (An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated Mr. Johnson’s political affiliation.)

No word on whether Pence will attend.

The NYT piece below tells us the obvious: we didn’t evolve to deliberately exercise, because we got enough exercise in the ancestral lifestyle. Ergo, we don’t want to do what our genes didn’t evolve to make us do. Hatred of exercise is like loving sweets—a maladaptive byproduct of our ancestry.

What can one do though, since we’re no longer stalking tubers and mastodons but still need exercise? There’s a new book by Daniel Lieberman that helps, and the article recommends what kind of exercise we need. I suppose one could call it the “Paleo Workout.”

Yesterday a Pakistani Court sentenced three people to death for blasphemy  (h/t Dom):

An Islamabad Anti-Terrorism Court sentenced three people to death for blasphemy on Friday.

Their alleged offences were committed on social media

A professor has also been sentenced to 10 years in jail and a Rs100,000 fine on the same charge. He was accused of making anti-religious remarks during a lecture.

The other three were accused of operating a social media page that was deemed insulting to religion. They allegedly committed blasphemy by posting things on social media.

And Iran is really looking for trouble. Yesterday, according to the Foreign Desk, the Iranian parliament voted officially to destroy Israel (h/t Malgorzata):

Iran’s parliament voted on a mandate to destroy the state of Israel Sunday, the anniversary of Qassem Soleimani’s assassination.

The mandate aims “to destroy the usurping Zionist regime” and “[break] the siege of Gaza by sending basic goods from official naval bases to Gaza in exchange for money or free of charge.”

Upon passage of the mandate into law, the Iranian regime will be obligated to pursue the “Right of return of Palestinian refugees” and the “Liberation of the Golan Heights” by providing “welfare-economic-security and infrastructures.”

I’ve recently criticized pro-astrology pieces in the Guardian (see here and here), and reader David Harper reports on his own attempts to deep-six this woo:

I’m a regular reader of WEIT and an astronomer by training, so I shared your dismay at the astrology piece which was published in the Guardian on December 21.  I wrote to the editor-in-chief Katharine Viner to express my disappointment, as a Guardian reader of almost 40 years, that such a piece should appear, especially at a time when the Guardian has published so many good pieces by doctors and scientists setting out the facts about Covid-19 to counter misinformation during the pandemic.  I also told her that if any pro-astrology pieces appear in the future, I will cancel my subscription.

She replied yesterday as follows:

“I agree with you, and was disappointed to see the piece, which came from our US office. I’m told it was supposed to be about the growing influence of astrology among young people and was intended to be light-hearted, but it clearly didn’t come off. It shouldn’t happen again.”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 369,390, a big increase of 3,900 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,924,037, a huge increase of about 15,400 death over yesterday’s total: a death rate of about 10.7 people per minute.

Stuff that happened on January 9 includes:

  • 1349 – The Jewish population of Basel, believed by the residents to be the cause of the ongoing Black Death, is rounded up and incinerated.
  • 1431 – The trial of Joan of Arc begins in Rouen.

A sidelight (from Wikipedia):

The trial record contains statements from Joan that the eyewitnesses later said astonished the court, since she was an illiterate peasant and yet was able to evade the theological pitfalls the tribunal had set up to entrap her. The transcript’s most famous exchange is an exercise in subtlety: “Asked if she knew she was in God’s grace, she answered, ‘If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace.’ The question is a scholarly trap. Church doctrine held that no one could be certain of being in God’s grace. If she had answered yes, then she would have been charged with heresy. If she had answered no, then she would have confessed her own guilt. The court notary Boisguillaume later testified that at the moment the court heard her reply, “Those who were interrogating her were stupefied.”

There are no contemporary drawings of Joan of Arc by anybody who actually saw her, so we have no idea what she looked like. She was only 19 when she was burned at the stake on May 30 of that year. Here’s the only contemporary depiction by Clément de Fauquembergue, described by Wikipedia as ” a doodle on the margin of the protocol of the parliament of Paris, dated 10 May 1429.” de Fauquembergue never saw Joan, though:

  • 1806 – Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson receives a state funeral and is interred in St Paul’s Cathedral.
  • 1816 – Humphry Davy tests his safety lamp for miners at Hebburn Colliery.
  • 1839 – The French Academy of Sciences announces the Daguerreotype photography process.
  • 1909 – Ernest Shackleton, leading the Nimrod Expedition to the South Pole, plants the British flag 97 nautical miles (180 km; 112 mi) from the South Pole, the farthest anyone had ever reached at that time.

Here’s the flag planting (photo from Wikipedia). It was Amundsen’s team in 1911, followed by Scott’s a few months later, that finally made it to the Pole:

Jameson Adams, Frank Wild and Eric Marshall (from left to right) plant the Union Jack at their southernmost position, 88° 23′, on 9 January 1909. The photograph was taken by expedition leader Ernest Shackleton.
  • 1916 – World War I: The Battle of Gallipoli concludes with an Ottoman Empire victory when the last Allied forces are evacuated from the peninsula.
  • 1957 – British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden resigns from office following his failure to retake the Suez Canal from Egyptian sovereignty.
  • 2007 – Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the original iPhone at a Macworld keynote in San Francisco.  

Here’s that first iPhone model under glass. My own iPhone is the 5S, which I prize for its small size (it fits in my pocket). It was discontinued in 2016, but I got one from stock at Apple, and also have an unused spare.

B. gladioli is a bacterium, and the poisoning originated because the brewers used rotten cornflour to make the beverage, flour deemed unsuitable for food but okay for beer.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1875 – Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, American sculptor and art collector, founded the Whitney Museum of American Art (d. 1942)
  • 1913 – Richard Nixon, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 37th President of the United States (d. 1994)
  • 1935 – Bob Denver, American actor (d. 2005)
  • 1941 – Joan Baez, American singer-songwriter, guitarist and activist

Baez is 80 today. Here she is with her erstwhile boyfriend:

Those who rested in peace, bereft of life, on January 9 were few, and include:

  • 1848 – Caroline Herschel, German-English astronomer (b. 1750)
  • 1923 – Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand novelist, short story writer, and essayist (b. 1888)

I spent part of the pandemic reading Mansfield’s collected short stories. She was a terrific writer, cut down at only 34 by tuberculosis:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron have a standoff!

Szaron: May I eat a bit from your bowl?
Hili: Just you try!
In Polish:
Szaron: Czy mogę zjeść trochę z twojej miseczki?
Hili: Spróbuj tylko!

And Little Kulka and Szaron have encounteered their first big snowfall. The frisking kitten is adorable.

Caption: Snow, two cats, and Paulina with her camera.

In Polish: Śnieg, dwa koty i Paulina z jej aparatem fotograficznym.

From Facebook:

From Doc Bill. Do you want to look like Jake Angeli? Here’s how!

From Jeff:

Found on Ann Althouse’s site:

Tweets from Matthew. A Russian doll-type song. I guess each tweet was added to the preceding one, and the product is lovely. Sound up, of course.

Cats will be cats—regardless of auditions:

Yes, this is a prize-winner!

This guy was prescient (tweet from Dec. 21). Read the whole thread, as he was even more prescient than it looks:

A beautiful murmuration of. . . what species?

Read the thread about this loon:

And a bit of politics:

Friday: Hili dialogue

January 8, 2021 • 6:30 am

Republicans are abandoning him like rats on a sinking ship:

It’s the end of the first full week of 2021: Friday, January 8, and what a week it’s been!  First, though, it’s National English Toffee Day (is it really English?). It’s also Bubble Bath Day, National Man Watcher’s Day (there’s only one Man Watcher?), World Typing Day, and Earth Rotation Day, in honor of Foucault, who did this:

On January 8, 1851, Foucault performed an experiment in the cellar of his home, in which he swung a five-kilogram weight attached to a two-meter-long pendulum. He put sand underneath it to mark the pendulum’s path, allowing him to see any changes in it. He observed a slight clockwise movement in the plane—the floor, and thus the earth, were slowly rotating; the pendulum kept its position. His experiment showed that the earth rotated on its axis. No longer was it just a hypothesis.

As if they didn’t know already!

News of the Day:

A U.S. Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, has died from injuries sustained in the mob assault on the Capitol two days ago.  Details are still scarce, but this brings the death toll from the riots to five.

The New York Times reports that, in recent days, Trump has discussed pardoning himself.

Mr. Trump has shown signs that his level of interest in pardoning himself goes beyond idle musings. He has long maintained he has the power to pardon himself, and his polling of aides’ views is typically a sign that he is preparing to follow through on his aims. He has also become increasingly convinced that his perceived enemies will use the levers of law enforcement to target him after he leaves office.

No president has pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of prospective self-clemency has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it. But they agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous new precedent for presidents to unilaterally declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for any crimes they committed in office.

Trump has lost his social-media bully pulpit. Twitter has suspended his account until at least Inauguration Day, and now Facebook and Twitch have followed suit. I have no objections to this because he is in a position to—and did—make statements that create imminent danger of harm, and did so knowingly.

Although Trump’s only in office for two more weeks, he could still do a lot of mischief (especially if he still has access to Twitter). To forestall that, Nancy Pelosi has asked Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from Office. Section 4 of that Amendment says this:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

However, if Trump declares he’s not disabled, he gets to be in charge again unless the VP (or other executives) makes a written declaration to Congress that the President is truly incapacitated, along with the support of more than half the Cabinet, whereupon Congress decides the issue. That will take at least two weeks, though I’m not opposed to it because a.) Trump is disabled, and b.) It would be another black mark on the man’s record were he to be the first President subject to the forced removal provision of this Amendment. But we’re not gonna get half the Cabinet to vote to remove Trump so the point is moot. Impeachment is moot too: charges can be brought, but there’s no time for a trial.

World’s unluckiest burglars (from the Guardian; h/t: Jez): One of two burglars in Staffordshire accidentally butt-dialed the police (999 in the UK) while the pair was committing a home burglary. The cops heard the whole thing, including the moment when their fellow cops showed up to make the arrest.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 365,494, a big increase of 4,112 deaths from yesterday’s figure, this is the first day since the pandemic started that the daily death toll has passed 4,000; Anthony Fauci said, “We believe things will get worse as we get into January.”  The world death toll is now 1,908,602, a huge increase of about 15,200 over yesterday’s total: a death rate of about 10.6 people per minute.

Stuff that happened on January 8 includes:

  • 871 – Alfred the Great leads a West Saxon army to repel an invasion by Danelaw Vikings.
  • 1790 – George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address in New York City.
  • 1815 – War of 1812: Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson leads American forces in victory over the British.
  • 1828 – The Democratic Party of the United States is organized.

2021 – The Democratic Party of the United States is disorganized.

Crazy Horse survived, but became a captive and was bayonetted on September 5 of that year by an American soldier. He was 36 or 37.

Rationing continued in Britain after the war, with sugar rationing ending only in 1953, and meat rationing in 1954.  Here’s a child’s ration book from World War II:

Here are the standard food rations per week. Do any Brits remember this?

  • 1959 – Charles de Gaulle is proclaimed as the first President of the French Fifth Republic.
  • 1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “War on Poverty” in the United States.
  • 1973 – Watergate scandal: The trial of seven men accused of illegal entry into Democratic Party headquarters at Watergate begins.
  • 1975 – Ella T. Grasso becomes Governor of Connecticut, the first woman to serve as a Governor in the United States other than by succeeding her husband.
  • 1981 – A local farmer reports a UFO sighting in Trans-en-Provence, France, claimed to be “perhaps the most completely and carefully documented sighting of all time”.

According to the witness, “The device had the shape of two saucers, one inverted on top of the other. It must have measured about 1.5 metres in height. It was the color of lead. This device had a ridge all the way around its circumference. Under the machine I saw two kinds of pieces as it was lifting off. They could be reactors or feet. There were also two other circles which looked like trapdoors. The two reactors, or feet, extended about 20 cm (8 in) below the body of the machine.”

Nicolaï claimed the object took off almost immediately, rising above the treeline and departing to the north east. It left burn marks on the ground where it had supposedly sat.

The local gendarmerie were notified of the event the following day by Nicolaï directly[3] on the advice of his neighbor’s wife, Mrs. Morin. The gendarmerie proceeded to interview Nicolaï, take photos of the scene, and collect soil and plant samples from the field. The case was later sent to GEIPAN—or GEPAN (Groupe d’Étude des Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés) as it was known at that time—for review.[5]

GEPAN analysis noted that the ground had been compressed by a mechanical pressure of about 4 or 5 tons, and heated to between 300 and 600 °C (572 and 1,112 °F). Trace amounts of phosphate and zinc were found in the sample material, and analysis of resident alfalfa near the landing site showed chlorophyll levels between 30% and 50% lower than expected.

There’s no explanation to date save for an experimental military device, which hasn’t been confirmed.

  • 2004 – The RMS Queen Mary 2, then the largest ocean liner ever built, is christened by her namesake’s granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

I traveled on this ship twice, lecturing as part of an Oxford University Program. Here I am on the top deck in October, 2006; it was COLD but I was heading for the hot tubs:

  • 2011 – Sitting US Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is shot in the head along with 18 others in a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords survived the assassination attempt, but 6 others died, including John Roll, a federal judge.
  • 2016 – Joaquín Guzmán, widely regarded as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker, is recaptured following his escape from a maximum security prison in Mexico.

Since 2016, El Chapo, who excaped from prison twice, has been locked up in at ADX Florence, the most secure “supermax” prision in the U.S. He’s serving life plus thirty years. Here’s a photo after he was extradited to the U.S.:

Notables born on this day include:

It’s Wallace’s birthday! Here he is in Singapore in 1862:

  • 1902 – Carl Rogers, American psychologist and academic (d. 1987)
  • 1926 – Soupy Sales, American comedian and actor (d. 2009)
  • 1935 – Elvis Presley, American singer, guitarist, and actor (d. 1977)
  • 1941 – Graham Chapman, English actor and screenwriter (d. 1989)
  • 1946 – Robby Krieger, American guitarist and songwriter
  • 1947 – David Bowie, English singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (d. 2016)
  • 1984 – Kim Jong-un, North Korean soldier and politician, 3rd Supreme Leader of North Korea (probable)

Those who absconded from life on January 8 include:

  • 1642 – Galileo Galilei, Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher (b. 1564)
  • 1825 – Eli Whitney, American engineer and theorist, invented the cotton gin (b. 1765)
  • 1896 – Paul Verlaine, French poet and writer (b. 1844)

Here’s the symbolist poet in a cafe. Is he drinking absinthe?

Bellows was known for his paintings of everyday life in New York City, including boxing. Here’s what is likely his most famous painting, “Stag at Sharkey’s” (1909):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,

Hili: Let’s consider all the pros and cons.
A: About what?
Hili: Do I have to sit here and disturb your work or we go to the kitchen to fill my bowls?
In Polish:
Hili: Rozważmy wszystkie za i przeciw.
Ja: W jakiej sprawie?
Hili: Czy mam tu siedzieć i przeszkadzać ci w pracy, czy pójdziemy do kuchni napełnić moje miseczki.

And here’s a nice photo of Szaron by Paulina:

From Jeff:

From Mark:

Can a Mandarin speaker vouch for this? (from Jesus of the Day):

A tweet from Barry. I’m pretty sure that this psychedelic display is engineered by the parasite to attract birds. Nature kinda sucks, but it’s kinda amazing, too.

The rest of the tweets are from Matthew (you can send tweets, you know!).  Was this guy unfairly fired while exercising freedom of speech? I don’t think so–he broke the law:

After a political tweet we need a cat tweet. There’s a mistake in the caption, though; can you catch it?

Back to politics:

Is this Maru? I haven’t seen the pudgy tabby for a while.

More politics and a note that Republicans are quite often chuckleheads:

Matthew directed me to a tweet about the Museum, and I found the tapeworm. It’s not clear what species it’s from; but there are reports of an 82-foot tapeworm extracted from an Indian:


And from the Yorkshire Shepherdess. “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow/ Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 5, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the first Tuesday of 2021: January 5: National Whipped Cream Day. If you go to the Foodimentary page that describes the day, there are five facts about whipped cream. Here’s the first:

1.) Mainly the heavy cream that make whipped cream out of is in reality a milk product.

What? Who’s writing these things?

For those who think that food is medicine, it’s also National Keto Day, and for animal lovers it’s National Bird Day.  Finally, it’s the Twelfth Day of Christmas and the Twelfth Night.

News of the Day:

This is heartening, at least in principle. In a new op-ed at the NYT, four former Senators, two Republican (Jack Danforth and John Hagel) and two Democrats (Chris Dodd and Paul Kirk) endorse a stronger bipartisanship in the Senate. Of course these are ex-Senators,  pining for the Floor, and in light of the now 12 Republican Senators who want to re-examine the election results, I’m not hopeful. I’d rather have both Democrats win in Georgia.

On the news last evening, it was revealed that the impetus behind the letter to the Washington Post from all living (10) Secretaries of Defense, a letter calling for recognizing that the Presidential election was over, was—get this—Dick Cheney! That surprised me.

On that same topic, can Trump be charged with a crime for phoning the Georgia Secretary of State and asking him to change the vote?  Editorial-page editor Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post says, “perhaps,” but I say, “no”, because all the relevant statutes assume that Trump KNEW that he was trying to commit fraud—that the election results were correct and he was trying to overturn them. It would be a hard row to hoe for a prosecutor to prove what Trump “knew”. Although there are Georgia state statues involved here, for which Trump cannot pardon himself, I don’t think he’s going to get in trouble for his horrifying call. He will be in trouble for tax evasion, a New York state crime.

There’s at least one silver lining in Brexit: the UK just abolished its tax on menstrual products like tampons. Before Brexit, there was an Eu-mandated tax on these products of at least 5%, as they were considered—wait for it—”nonessential luxury items.” Luxury? If men had periods, this issue wouldn’t have existed.

Yesterday’s poll on how many of the two Senate seats the Democrats will win in Georgia today gave these results:

Like the pundits, we have not much of a consensus here. This week will tell the tale.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S 353,729, an increase of about 2,100 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,862,758, a big increase of about 10,700 over yesterday’s total, a death rate of about 7.4 people per minute.

Stuff that happened on January 5 include:

  • 1757 – Louis XV of France survives an assassination attempt by Robert-François Damiens, the last person to be executed in France by drawing and quartering, the traditional and gruesome form of capital punishment used for regicides.
  • 1875 – The Palais Garnier, one of the most famous opera houses in the world, is inaugurated in Paris.

Here’s a photo of the opera I took in February of last year, on my last trip before the pandemic hit.  Believe me, Paris is one of the first places I’ll return to when travel is safe.

Dreyfus spent five years on Devil’s Island (illustration below) before he was retried and exonerated, then serving in World War I. He died in 1935.

  • 1914 – The Ford Motor Company announces an eight-hour workday and minimum daily wage of $5 in salary plus bonuses.
  • 1919 – The German Workers’ Party, which would become the Nazi Party, is founded in Munich.
  • 1925 – Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming becomes the first female governor in the United States.

Ross succeeded her husband as governor when he died (after a special election). She wasn’t re-elected but did serve as director of the U.S. Mint. Here’s a photo:

  • 1933 – Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge begins in San Francisco Bay.
  • 1953 – The play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett receives its première in Paris.
  • 1974 – The warmest reliably measured temperature within the Antarctic Circle, of +59 °F (+15 °C), is recorded at Vanda Station.

Vanda Base was closed in 1995 but did have a unique rule:

Vanda Station was well known for The Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club. Visitors to Lake Vanda Station could dip into the high salinity waterswhen the icecap edge melted out during summer to form a “moat”, and receive a Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club shoulder patch. Vanda staff would assist the melt by hacking out a “pool”. Many dignitaries and politicians were inducted into the club, The dip had to be naked (Rule 1), complete immersion (Rule 4), witnessed by a “Vandal” (Vanda Station staffer) and with no restrictions on photography (Rule 6) to qualify.  Rule 10 allowed a natural figleaf, but it had to be natural and also naturally green without artificial aid.

Here are some poor saps trying to get into the club:

Notables born on this day were, as usual this time of year, few (I think copulations are scarce in April and May):

  • 1900 – Yves Tanguy, French-American painter (d. 1955)
  • 1931 – Alvin Ailey, American dancer and choreographer, founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (d. 1989)
  • 1946 – Diane Keaton, American actress, director, and businesswoman

Keaton is 75 today. Here she is with Warren Beatty when they were involved.

  • 1969 – Marilyn Manson, American singer-songwriter, actor, and director

Those who went West on this day include:

  • 1589 – Catherine de’ Medici, queen of Henry II of France (b. 1519)
  • 1922 – Ernest Shackleton, Anglo-Irish sailor and explorer (b. 1874)
  • 1942 –  Tina Modotti, Italian photographer, model, actress, and activist (b. 1896)

Modotti, an excellent photographer as well as the lover of both Edward Weston and—so it’s rumored—Frida Kahlo, had a colorful but short life, dying of a heart attack at 45. Here’s a fairly well known film about Kahlo and Modotti made by avant-garde filmmakers Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen. There’s some rare video footage of Kahlo and Diego Rivera being lovey-dovey in their Mexico City home.

Here’s a short video about the life and work of Carver:

  • 1970 – Max Born, German physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1882)
  • 1981 – Harold Urey, American chemist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1893)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is touting herself:

Hili: I have to give myself a bonus.
A: What for?
Hili: For lifetime achievement.
In Polish:
Hili: Muszę sobie przyznać premię.
Ja: Za co?
Hili: Za całokształt.

Shhhh! Little Kulka and Szaron and sleeping and cuddling. . .

From Stash Krod (a college classmate):

From Divy, who surmises that before lying down, the cat kneaded the guy’s back.

And another Kliban classic from Stash Krod:


Trump calls his own administration’s statistics for Covid-19 deaths “fake news.” But his tweet doesn’t make any sense:

Titania’s got a point here (sarcastically, of course). It’s one thing, and a civil thing, not to call attention to someone’s extra weight. But it’s a different thing, and dangerous, to tell them that they’re healthy when they’re way overweight. Best to say nothing (unless your a doctor) rather than lie.

From Barry. If I don’t miss my guess, this is the famous piano-playing cat Nora. Barry notes this:

I do like 0:33 to 0:36. There’s something fetching about that not-quite-atonal move there. I like it. With some more lessons under her paws, I believe this cat could be going places.

Tweets from Matthew. The first one is wokeness gone mad.

Below: Some breeds of mallards (white “Pekin ducks” are simply artificially selected mallards) that have mutations that give them pompoms. Crested ducks are carriers of a dominant mutation that produce the pompom; in homozygous form it’s lethal and kills the embryos before they hatch. Breed two crested ducks together and you get in the offspring 1/3 normal ducks and 2/3 crested ducks (actually, among eggs it’s 1/4 normal, 1/2 crested, and 1/4 crested homozygotes that don’t hatch; this gives 1/3: 2/3 among adults).

Anybody home? Anybody home?  What a chill cat!

Look at that ostrich run!

And yes, this is amazing:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 2, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the first Caturday of the year: Saturday, January 2, 2021. It’s National Buffet Day. I really love a good buffet, especially the ritzy ones, but I don’t see them happening for at least six months. It’s also Swiss Cheese Day, National Cream Puff Day, World Introvert Day, and Happy Mew Year for Cats Day, in which you’re supposed to give your cats a treat. January 2 is also a holiday in in Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, Mauritius, Montenegro, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Ukraine, and a bank holiday in Scotland.

News of the day:

Is this irresponsible? The New York Times has a long article about kambo, a toxin derived from poisonous frogs, used by the benighted as a body “cleanse”, inducing  repeated projectile vomiting, diarrhea, and all manner of distressing symptoms. It’s all the rage among the Goopy set, but a). it involves stressing and probably killing frogs, and b). there’s no good evidence that it works. Near the end of this long article, containing lots of anecdotal testimony about kambo’s putative physical and psychological benefits, you read this:

Health experts advised extreme caution, and said more rigorous studies were needed.

“Many medicines have come from natural products, particularly from places like the Amazon,” said Adam Perlman, the director of integrative medicine and health at Mayo Clinic Florida. “But at the moment, I don’t think the research into the pharmacology, not to mention the safety as well as the potential efficacy, is anywhere near where it needs to be before one would advocate using kambo in people.”

I wonder why they published the article at all. It’s just going to get a lot of people to try an untested treatment, as well as torturing a lot of hapless frogs.

The New York woman who attacked a black teenager, falsely accusing him of stealing her cellphone (she left it in an Uber) is shown here tackling the kid. She’s apparently hiding out, but  the cops know who she is. Soon, she’ll have to face the music, and I hope they throw the book at her. This is a case where I’m pretty sure racial profiling is involved. Have a look:

Emily Dickinson spent a three-week vacation trip in Washington D.C. in 1855? Sure enough, it’s all true, and the subject of a bizarre new television series. You can have the damn series; I was just amazed to find that the Belle of Amherst actually left Amherst.

And here’s what television is doing to Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld:

Young Emily as wide-eyed tourist run amok in the nation’s capital has the whiff of a Hollywood pipe dream, as outlandish as an episode from the Apple TV Plus series “Dickinson,” which depicts a twerking, cross-dressing, opium-taking badass in 19th-century period costume who says “dude,” stitches “F My Life” in her needlework samplers and flaunts her rebellion with an Instagram-ready exhibitionism. The show, like other recent treatments such as the 2018 film “Wild Nights With Emily,” subverts the facts in a 21st-century fan-fiction projection of the poet. They have garnered her a devoted new following well beyond the English-major obsessives of yore.

F my life, indeed!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. 347,956, an increase of about 1,900 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,836,451, an increase of about 8,600 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 2 includes:

  • 366 – The Alemanni cross the frozen Rhine in large numbers, invading the Roman Empire.
  • 1900 – American statesman and diplomat John Hay announces the Open Door Policy to promote trade with China.
  • 1942 – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtains the conviction of 33 members of a German spy ring headed by Fritz Joubert Duquesne in the largest espionage case in United States history—the Duquesne Spy Ring.

Here are the mug shots. Curiously, though I thought spying, especially during wartime, could be a capital crime, nobody was executed and the average prison sentence of all 33 was about nine years. H

  • 1967 – Ronald Reagan, past movie actor and future President of the United States, is sworn in as Governor of California.
  • 1974 – United States President Richard Nixon signs a bill lowering the maximum U.S. speed limit to 55 MPH in order to conserve gasoline during an OPEC embargo.
  • 1981 – One of the largest investigations by a British police force ends when serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, is arrested in SheffieldSouth Yorkshire.

Sutcliffe, who killed 13 women and tried to kill seven others, died in prison last November 13 of Covid-19 complications. Here is in in custody of police:

  • From his NYT obituary: Peter Sutcliffe leaving court in 1983. Credit: Bettman, via Getty Images

Notables born on this day are thin on the ground, and include:

  • 1909 – Barry Goldwater, American politician, businessman, and author (d. 1998)
  • 1936 – Roger Miller, American singer-songwriter, musician, and actor (d. 1992)
  • 1938 – David Bailey, English photographer and painter
  • 1940 – Jim Bakker, American televangelist
  • 1969 – Christy Turlington, American model

Those who made their Final Exit on January 2 are also few, and include:

McCarty was one of the three authors of a very important 1944 paper that’s been forgotten by many. The work described in it established pretty firmly that the genetic material, at least in bacteria, was DNA, not protein or another molecule. (At that time nobody knew.)  I wonder why they didn’t win the Nobel Prize for the work.  Click on the screenshot below to go to the paper (free pdf on the site):

Here’s McCarty with Watson and Crick:

Dragon was of course the Captain in “The Captain and Tennille”. Together they put out one of the worst songs in the history of rock and roll.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has a strange definition of “Providence”:

Hili: I trust Providence.
A: That it will do what?
Hili: That it will provide for me with your help.
In Polish
Hili: Ufam opatrzności.
Ja: Że co?
Hili: Że mnie zaopatrzy z twoją pomocą.

Here’s a lovely formal portrait of Szaron and Kulka by Paulina:

From Jesus of the Day. If Amazon had been around two millennia ago.

From Nicole:

A Pearls Before Swine comic sent by Smith Powell, showing how balled up people can get about free will. Pig’s gonna do what he’s gonna do.

Two tweets from Barry. Ricky Gervais tweets about his cat, and gets a response:

And a fearsome lightning strike!

Tweets from Matthew. First, a proficiency with UK accents:

Your Fun Animal Fact of the Day:

Brezhnev, probably while he was still in charge (and custodian of The Bomb):

It is a palindrome, and in fact seems to be true:

And Woody Guthrie’s “New Years Rulin’s”:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

December 23, 2020 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Wednesday, December 23, 2020—only two days till Christmas and the beginning of Coynezaa. It’s National Pfeffernüße Day, which refers to a glazed German gingerbread cookie. (I don’t think I’ve ever had one, but they sound good.) And, for you atheists and curmudgeons, it’s Festivus, made famous by Seinfeld. 

In Mousehole (pronounced “Muzzle”), one of my favorite small villages in England, it’s Tom Bawcock’s Eve, the day to eat starrey-gazey pie (with fish heads protruding from the crust). In Oaxaca, Mexico it’s The Night of the Radishes, in which oversized radishes are decoratively carved.

Here’s starrey-gazey pie (yuck!):

. . . and carved radishes from Oaxaca:

Wine of the Day (below): This 19-year-old Rioja threw a sediment and also had a crumbly cork, requiring decanting through cloth. But it was a good thing, as it needed at least an hour of air to tame the tannins and allow the fruit to shine through.  It is this kind of Rioja that I love: gutsy and flavorful, with an aroma of licorice and pepper instead of the Rioja specimens that are light and oaky, with notes of vanilla. I’ve seen it described as having the nose of “meat,” and although I can understand that due to its power, I can’t detect it.

As one website reported:

The Viña Ardanza Reserva has been elaborated by La Rioja Alta since 1942! it is named after one of the founding families. It is only produced in the best years, and  the 2001 vintage was rated “Excellent” by Rioja Control Board.  La Rioja Alta thought so highly of this wine that it called it Reserva Especial, only the third time one of its wines has earned that designation, along with 1964 and 1973.

It was aged 7 years in barrel (3) and bottle (4) before it was even released.  Looks as if it could improve for another few years. I’m looking forward to the other half bottle tonight, wondering if it will have improved over a day:

News of the Day:

The President-Eject has begun pardoning his buddies, his cronies, and other undeserving federal criminals as the end of his term approaches. He’ll save the most odious pardons for the end. As CNN reports:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced a wave of lame duck pardons, including two for men who pleaded guilty in Robert Mueller’s investigation, as well as ones for Republican allies who once served in Congress and military contractors involved in a deadly shooting of Iraqi civilians.

The pardons of former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, former US congressmen Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, and the four Blackwater guards involved in the Iraq massacre kick off what is expected to be a flurry of pardons and commutations in the coming weeks as Trump concludes his term.
After the New York Times podcast “The Caliphate” was found to have relied on unreliable sources, and after it gave back its Peabody Award and had its Lowell Thomas Award revoked, it now suffers more humiliation: the Pulitzer Prize Board took away the podcast’s “finalist” status in the “international” category. The NYT‘s own story is a bit weird, for it first says that ” the board stripped The Times of its finalist status” but then says that the Times offered to return the citation and the Pulitzer board accepted it. Bad reporting about bad reporting!

Well, according to the Guardian, the coronavirus has finally invaded the last virus-free continent: Antarctica. Thirty-six Chileans at their research base on the Antarctic Peninsula have tested positive for the virus and have been evacuated to Punta Arenas, Chile for quarantine. It’s not clear how this happened, though ships provision the base regularly (h/t: Jez)

The big vaccine debate: if you get the coronavirus vaccine, can you still spread the virus? After all, even flu vaccine is only about 40% effective, but it also reduces the symptoms if ou still get it, so you might not know you have it while still passing it on to others. FiveThirtyEight reports, as we have here, that this aspect of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines hasn’t been tested.  (h/t: Jean)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 323,002, a substantial increase of about 3,300 from yesterday’s figure—roughly 2.3 deaths a minute. The world death toll is 1,726,169, a HUGE increase of about 15,200 from yesterday’s total and the equivalent of about 10.6 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 23 includes:

  • 1783 – George Washington resigns as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland.
  • 1815 – The novel Emma by Jane Austen is first published.

A first edition (in three volumes, below) will run you about $32,500:

What is this Act? Wikipedia explains:

The act enabled women to join the professions and professional bodies, to sit on juries and be awarded degrees. It was a government compromise, a replacement for a more radical private members’ bill, the Women’s Emancipation Bill.

This isn’t actually the first successful kidney transplant, but the first successful one between living patients. This procedure was done between identical twins, reducing the chances of an immunity-based rejection. The recipient lived another eight years and Murray (along with E. D. Thomas) won the Nobel Prize for the work.

  • 1968 – The 82 sailors from the USS Pueblo are released after eleven months of internment in North Korea.

The crew was starved and tortured, which I believe is a violation of the Geneva Convention. The Pueblo remains in Pyongyang as an anti-America museum. Here’s a short North Korean tour of the ship:

  • 1970 – The North Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, New York is topped out at 1,368 feet (417 m), making it the tallest building in the world.
  • 1972 – The 16 survivors of the Andes flight disaster are rescued after 73 days, surviving by cannibalism.

Two of the survivors hiked out seeking help. One of them, Nando Parrado, encountered two men on horseback and wrote this note, which soon summoned a helicopter and rescue:

  • 1986 – Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California becoming the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world without aerial or ground refueling.

The trip took 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds, and is still a record for a single flight. The emptyaircraft weighed less than 1,000 pounds, but carried 7,000 pounds of fuel.  Here’s the plane:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1745 – John Jay, American jurist and politician, 1st Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1829)
  • 1805 – Joseph Smith, American religious leader, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement (d. 1844)
  • 1908 – Yousuf Karsh, Armenian-Canadian photographer (d. 2002)

Karsh was a great portrait photographer. Winston Churchill, as much of a curmudgeon as Matthew, gave Karsh just two minutes to take his picture. Winnie then lit a cigar. Karsh plucked it from Churchill’s mouth, whereupon the great man scowled—and at that moment Karsh snapped what became his most famous picture:

  • 1929 – Chet Baker, American jazz trumpet player, flugelhorn player, and singer (d. 1988)
  • 1967 – Carla Bruni, Italian-French singer-songwriter and model

Those who “fell asleep” on December 23 include:

  • 1834 – Thomas Robert Malthus, English economist and demographer (b. 1766)
  • 1953 – Lavrentiy Beria, Georgian-Russian general and politician, Russian Minister of Internal Affairs (b. 1899)
  • 2007 – Oscar Peterson, Canadian pianist and composer (b. 1925)
  • 2013 – Mikhail Kalashnikov, Russian general and weapons designer, designed the AK-47 rifle (b. 1919)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili sees Szaron on the windowsill, where she used to sleep and watch the birds:

Hili: Does Szaron know that this used to be my favorite place?
A: Ask him.
Hili: I can’t because I’m ignoring him.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy Szaron wie, że to było moje ulubione miejsce?
Ja: Zapytaj go.
Hili: Nie mogę, bo go ignoruję.

And here’s a lovely picture of Szaron.

Caption: Szaron helps as much as he can.

In Polish: Szaron pomaga jak może.

From Jesus of the Day. I sent this to several of my cat-loving friends:

From Facebook:

From Bruce: Guess the city with this skyline? I won’t provide the answer; I’ll just affirm the first reader who gets it right:

Uh oh. . . . somebody forgot and labeled the genders as “binary”.

Luana noticed this word change, and I retweeted it:

From Simon, who wondered what kind of mimicry this was. I told him it was “Clausian mimicry.”

Tweets from Matthew. These first ones are about the WSJ’s wonky op-ed section, though I hear they’re good on the news itself.

Look at the size of this monster!

I lectured for years on this caterpillar as an example of aposematic (“warning’) coloration, but it never crossed my mind that it could be a tarantula mimic. It even has eight obvious spider “legs”!

I tell you, Lizy Bean is going places. Look at that journal!


Wednesday: Hili dialogue

December 16, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a cold Wednesday, December 16, 2020: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, which could include worms and cardboard. It’s also Boston Tea Party Day, celebrating the British tea that slept with the fishes in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773 [see below]. In South Africa it’s the Day of Reconciliation, chosen to be December 16 because that date was already significant to both African and Afrikaner culture. It’s also ten shopping days until the beginning of Coynezaa.

News of the day:

There are two new cabinet appointees, and good ones, I think. Mayor Pete, whom I like a lot, has been named as Biden’s Secretary of Transportation, while Jennifer Granholm, the previous governor of Michigan and an advocate of renewable energy is expected to be tapped as Energy Secretary.

Mitch “666” McConnell has finally accepted the result of the Presidential election—after five weeks. Are we supposed to given him a medal for accepting an old truth? Besides, he’s still going to obstruct Biden for four years unless the Dems win the Senate:

Many of us are biting our nails about the two Senate elections in Georgia on January 5, for the results will determine if Democrats could take control of the Senate. I’ve been pessimistic about this, but a new poll by Fox News (of all organizations) suggests that Republicans may be less likely to vote than Democrats. Granted, the question below is about the next Presidential election, but may apply to Senate elections, too. Fingers crossed. The data:

If you’re in Massachusetts and want a pet sugar glider, you may be in luck. A man surrendered 44 of the adorable marsupials after his own pets started breeding uncontrollably. They’re cute as hell, but you have to know what you’re doing to own one, and of course they really shouldn’t be pets. (These, though, have to be raised in people’s homes, not let go in Australia.) Over a thousand people have applied to be owners. The story is here at the AP, and below is a video about what you need to know if you want one of these (note: they don’t smell very good):

The New York Times asked Anthony Fauci and other epidemiologists questions like “When can we start making plans?” Answers, of course, are tentative; here are two:

Will we shake hands again?

“I’m not. I don’t know about you. I said that many, many months ago and the newspapers went wild with it. I’m sure people will get back to shaking hands. I think people will probably become more aware of personal hygiene and protecting yourself. That doesn’t mean nobody will shake hands again, nor does it mean everybody will go back to the way we did it again. Probably somewhere in between. Some people will be reluctant to shake hands. Some people will be washing hands a whole lot more than they ever did, even when Covid-19 is no longer around.” — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci

What will the new normal look like?

“The new normal will be continued masking for the next 12 to 18 months and possibly the next few years. This is a paradigm shift.” — Roberta Bruhn, epidemiology core co-director, Vitalant Research Institute

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 303,963, an increase of about 2,900 from yesterday’s figure, with deaths occurred at about 2 per minute. The world death toll is 1,643,975, a huge increase of about 14,000 over yesterday’s report—about 9.7 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 16 includes:

  • 1653 – English Interregnum: The Protectorate: Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
  • 1773 – American Revolution: Boston Tea Party: Members of the Sons of Liberty disguised as Mohawk Indians dump hundreds of crates of tea into Boston harbor as a protest against the Tea Act.
  • 1838 – Great Trek: Battle of Blood River: Voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius and Sarel Cilliers defeat Zulu impis, led by Dambuza (Nzobo) and Ndlela kaSompisi in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [see above]
  • 1930 – Bank robber Herman Lamm and members of his crew are killed by a 200-strong posse, following a botched bank robbery, in Clinton, Indiana.

Regarded as “the father of modern bank robbery” for his efficient methods, there are few pictures of Lamm, who committed suicide when the cops caught up with him. Here’s a mugshot from San Francisco, 1914:

The two men, probably using flotation devices, almost surely died when they were swept out to sea by the ebb tide at the time of their escape.

  • 1942 – The Holocaust: Schutzstaffel chief Heinrich Himmler orders that Roma candidates for extermination be deported to Auschwitz.
  • 1944 – World War II: The Battle of the Bulge begins with the surprise offensive of three German armies through the Ardennes forest.
  • 1968 – Second Vatican Council: Official revocation of the Edict of Expulsion of Jews from Spain.
  • 1985 – Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti are shot dead on the orders of John Gotti, who assumes leadership of New York’s Gambino crime family.

Arrested in 1990, Gotti was charged with five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. In 1992 he was sentenced to life without parole, and died in prison of throat cancer in 2002. Here’s his smirking mugshot at the time of his 1990 arrest:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1485 – Catherine of Aragon, Spanish princess, later queen consort of England (d. 1536)
  • 1770 – Ludwig van Beethoven, composer (d. 1827)
  • 1775 – Jane Austen, English novelist (d. 1817)
  • 1866 – Wassily Kandinsky, Russian-French painter and theorist (d. 1944)

As I’ve said, Kandisnsky was one of my favorite painters, and perhaps the first person to paint a truly abstract (non-representational) painting. Here’s one before he went abstract, “Landscape with Factory Chimney (1910).

  • 1901 – Margaret Mead, American anthropologist and author (d. 1978)
  • 1946 – Trevor Pinnock, English harpsichord player and conductor
  • 1969 – Adam Riess, American astrophysicist, astronomer, and academic Nobel Prize laureate

Those who croaked on December 16 include:

  • 1921 – Camille Saint-Saëns, French pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1835)
  • 1940 – Eugène Dubois, Dutch paleoanthropologist (b. 1858)
  • 1965 – W. Somerset Maugham, British playwright, novelist, and short story writer (b. 1874)
  • 1980 – Colonel Sanders, American businessman, founded KFC (b. 1890)

The Colonel (who had been baptized in the Jordan River, sold his franchise in 1964 and later faulted the quality of the food sold under his name. Wikipedia says this:

Sanders remained critical of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s food. In the late 1970s he told the Louisville Courier-Journal:

“My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy tap water for 15 to 20 cents a thousand gallons and then they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste. And I know wallpaper paste, by God, because I’ve seen my mother make it. … There’s no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allowed to sell it. … crispy recipe is nothing in the world but a damn fried doughball stuck on some chicken.”

The Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky, run by the Colonel and his wife after he sold KFC, purports to still serve the original recipe chicken. Try it if you’re in the area!

Here’s his gravesite in Louisville, Kentucky (there should have been a chicken on it):

  • 2007 – Dan Fogelberg, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1951)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a funny:

Hili: I know what journalists are going to ask artificial intelligence.
A: What?
Hili: “What more would you like to tell us?”
In Polish:
Hili: Już wiem o co dziennikarze będą pytali sztuczną inteligencję.
Ja: O co?
Hili: Co jeszcze chciałaby nam powiedzieć.

And right upstairs lives have the estimable Szaron, here resting sweetly on a sheepskin:

From Michael:

From Facebook. That’s right—you!

From Jesus of the Day:

From Titania, who finds wokeness everywhere:

From Barry, a Jesus moose. Not really: that water is shallow, for chrissake!

Tweets from Matthew. What’s up with this croc?

A wonderful human/cat duet:

This is a good one:

I DO!!! I DO!!!:

There are more videos in this thread, but this one’s the best (the possum is a total jerk). Be sure to watch it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: