Sunday: Hili dialogue

September 26, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Sunday, September 26, 2021: National Key Lime Pie Day. (If you try it, be sure that Key limes were used rather than the big, regular Persian limes. They try to fool you with the name a lot of the time.)

It’s also National Dumpling Day, National Better Breakfast Day, Daughter’s Day, Lumberjack Day, World Deaf Day, World Rivers Day, and National Good Neighbor Day. 

News of the Day:

It’s now been 248 days since Biden took office, and still there is no cat in the White House, as he and Jill promised. Could this be playing into his slipping approval ratings?

*The controversy over booster shots continues as the CDC has recommended boosters for those over 65 and the immunocompromised. The shots are now “going into arms”, as they say. The NYT editorial Board objects to the inequity of the distribution, both to countries and Americans who hold certain jobs, while, in a separate editorial, two physicians also object to the notion of giving boosters now to some Americans:

But the C.D.C. also said two additional groups “may” get boosters “based on their individual benefits and risks”: people 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions and people 18 to 64 who are at a high risk of coronavirus exposure at work.

The second set of recommendations is premature and too vague.

*And the Associated Press underlines how much money there is to be made by Pfizer and Moderna for producing boosters:

No one knows yet how many people will get the extra shots. But Morningstar analyst Karen Andersen expects boosters alone to bring in about $26 billion in global sales next year for Pfizer and BioNTech and around $14 billion for Moderna if they are endorsed for nearly all Americans.

The profit margin on boosters is estimated at around 20% because there are no R&D costs, so if both boosters are approved, the companies rake in $7-8 billion in profit alone. That’s on top of the regular vaccine profits, of course.

*Finally, if you want to know why some vaccines last a lifetime, like measles, while others wear off fairly quickly, the Wall Street Journal has an informative article. I like the part about vaccines that use replicating viruses.

*The Guardian gives a review of Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s new book, A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern LifeIt’s an extremely critical take, critical to the point of nasty about nearly everything in the book.  A quote:

Not that the authors do much better when they engage with studies. They make alarming pronouncements based on flimsy data, such as when they say that water fluoridation is “neurotoxic” to children based on one reference to a “pilot study”. They lazily repeat false information from other pop-science books, such as the “fact” that all known species sleep (some, including certain amphibians, don’t!). The final chapter, in which they embrace the bonkers “degrowth” movement, contains what might be the single stupidest paragraph on economics ever written (claiming, bizarrely, that the invention of more efficient versions of products such as fridges would bring the economy to its knees).

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 687,876, an increase of 2,034 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,758,478, an increase of about 5,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 26 includes:

Here’s Drake’s route, which took nearly three years.

What a disaster! Here’s a visualization of the original about 400 B.C., with painted figures and how it looks now. (I used to play among its ruins when I was a lad in Greece; that’s not permitted now.)

  • 1789 – George Washington appoints Thomas Jefferson the first United States Secretary of State.
  • 1905 – Albert Einstein publishes the third of his Annus Mirabilis papers, introducing the special theory of relativity.

Here’s that third one, though they singled out his paper on the photoelectric effect when he got the Nobel Prize.

  • 1918 – World War I: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began which would last until the total surrender of German forces.
  • 1933 – As gangster Machine Gun Kelly surrenders to the FBI, he shouts out, “Don’t shoot, G-Men!”, which becomes a nickname for FBI agents.

Here’s Kelly and his wife receiving life sentences for kidnapping in October of 1933. He died in prison of a heart attack on his 59th birthday:

  • 1953 – Rationing of sugar in the United Kingdom ends.

This was eight years after the end of the war! It was hard times in the UK.

  • 1960 – In Chicago, the first televised debate takes place between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy.
  • 1969 – Abbey Road, the last recorded album by the Beatles, is released.
  • 1981 – Nolan Ryan sets a Major League record by throwing his fifth no-hitter.

Here’s the last out of Ryan’s record-setting fifth no-hitter.  Ryan got up to seven before he retired. Sandy Koufax is second with four.

  • 1984 – The United Kingdom and China agree to a transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, to take place in 1997.
  • 2008 – Swiss pilot and inventor Yves Rossy becomes first person to fly a jet engine-powered wing across the English Channel.

Here’s a news video of Rossy’s remarkable flight, which took just ten minutes.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1774 – Johnny Appleseed, American gardener and environmentalist (d. 1845)
  • 1849 – Ivan Pavlov, Russian physiologist and physician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1936)

Pavlov (not salivating):

  • 1874 – Lewis Hine, American photographer and activist (d. 1940)

Among his other work, Hine documented child labor in the U.S., which led to changes in the laws. Here’s one of his photos, “Child laborers in glasswork. Indiana, 1908″ (the picture’s labeled “Midnight at the glassworks”). 

  • 1888 – T. S. Eliot, English poet, playwright, critic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1965)
  • 1898 – George Gershwin, American pianist and composer (d. 1937)
  • 1914 – Jack LaLanne, American fitness expert (d. 2011)

For some reason I used to watch this show, though I didn’t do the exercises. I still know the words and tune to his “Goodbye Song” at the show’s end (below), sung when he was both young and old:

  • 1925 – Marty Robbins, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and race car driver (d. 1982)

Here’s Robbins singing his most famous song (1965).  Robbins wrote the song in 1959.

  • 1946 – Andrea Dworkin, American activist and author (d. 2005)
  • 1948 – Olivia Newton-John, English-Australian singer-songwriter and actress
  • 1981 – Serena Williams, American tennis player

Those who died on September 26 include:

  • 1797 – James Hutton, Scottish geologist and physician (b. 1726)
  • 1827 – Ludwig van Beethoven, German pianist and composer (b. 1770)
  • 1892 – Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, and journalist (b. 1819)
  • 1923 – Sarah Bernhardt, French actress and screenwriter (b. 1844)
  • 1969 – John Kennedy Toole, American novelist (b. 1937)

Toole (photo below) wrote one book, but it’s a doozie: A Confederacy of Dunces, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981. (It’s good!) He committed suicide at age 31, and his book won the Prize eleven years after his death, published with the help of his mother and Walker Percy.

  • 1973 – Noël Coward, English playwright, actor, and composer (b. 1899)
  • 1996 – Edmund Muskie, American lieutenant, lawyer, and politician, 58th United States Secretary of State (b. 1914)
  • 2011 – Geraldine Ferraro, American lawyer and politician (b. 1935)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili needs nourishment to save the world.

Hili: We have to repair the world.
A: What should we start with?
Hili: First we need to eat something.
In Polish:
Hili: Musimy naprawić świat.
Ja: Od czego zaczniemy?
Hili: Najpierw trzeba coś zjeść.

Szaron and Kulka on the windowsill, inside and out

From Divy. How Ceiling Cat makes rain:

From Jesus of the Day. You can thank me later. (Yes, it’s a real word.)


From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From Titania. Dear Ceiling Cat, this really was the cover of The Lancet, Britain’s premier medical journal)—not Scientific American. The problem with Titania’s aside, of course, is that not all transwomen have vaginas, and some transmen do.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo (second tweet) in which women are given the short shrift (h/t Luana):

A cute tweet from Barry who says ‘it’s cheaper than pest control.”

From Simon. The Lincoln Project (comprising never-Trumper Republicans) goes after the Republican governor of Texas:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a lovely heartwarmer (Ignore the jerks who abused Rhys):

More of Rhys:

Does God have an inordinate fondness for beetle larvae?

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

September 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings from Massachusetts on Wednesday: September 22, 2021: National Ice Cream Cone Day.

It’s my penultimate day in Cambridge. This R&R has gone by too quickly!  And please note that this is the last day of Summer. Fall begins at 3:21 p.m. today. Google celebrates the beginning of fall with a nice doodle; click on it to see falling leaves:

It’s also National White Chocolate Day, World Rhino Day, National Elephant Appreciation Day, National Hobbit Day, and the season-changing holidays:

And, according to Wikipedia, it’s the earliest date for the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere:

News of the Day:

Once again I’m ignorant of the news; please use the comments, if you can, to fill us in on what’s important.

*Yesterday’s readers’ poll on the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned before the end of Biden’s present term gave roughly equal predictions of overturning versus keeping:

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 678,557, an increase of 2,046 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,724,126, an increase of about 9,100 over yesterday’s total.

It was a thin day in history. Stuff that happened on September 22 includes:

  • 38 – Drusilla, Caligula’s sister who died in June, with whom the emperor is said to have an incestuous relationship, is deified.
  • 1642 – The first commencement exercises occur at Harvard College.
  • 1806 – Lewis and Clark return to St. Louis after exploring the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
  • 1973 – Argentine general election: Juan Perón returns to power in Argentina.

Juan Peron and Evita. He was elected as President three different times.

  • 2002 – The first public version of the web browser Mozilla Firefox (“Phoenix 0.1”) is released.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1515 – Anne of Cleves, Queen consort of England (d. 1557)[5]
  • 1791 – Michael Faraday, English physicist and chemist (d. 1867)
  • 1902 – John Houseman, Romanian-American actor and producer (d. 1988)

The performance I remember of Houseman: Professor Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase” (1973):

Left to right: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst. All three, members of the “White Rose,” were guillotined in 1943 for distributing anti-Nazi materials.

  • 1956 – Debby Boone, American singer, actress, and author
  • 1958 – Andrea Bocelli, Italian singer-songwriter and producer

Yes, the video may seem schmalzy, but you have to admit that this performance of “Con te partirò (“Time to say goodbye”) with Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, a huge hit, is quite moving:

  • 1958 – Joan Jett, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actress

Those whose ticker stopped ticking on September 22 include:

  • 1539 – Guru Nanak, Sikh religious leader, founded Sikhism (b. 1469)
  • 1776 – Nathan Hale, American soldier (b. 1755)
  • 1961 – Marion Davies, American actress and comedian (b. 1897)
  • 1989 – Irving Berlin, Russian-born American composer and songwriter (b. 1888)
  • 1999 – George C. Scott, American actor, director, and producer (b. 1927)

Scott won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “Patton”, but this scene alone deserves an Academy Award:

  • 2001 – Isaac Stern, Polish-Ukrainian violinist and conductor (b. 1920)
  • 2007 – Marcel Marceau, French mime and actor (b. 1923)
  • 2010 – Eddie Fisher, American singer (b. 1928)
  • 2015 – Yogi Berra, American baseball player, coach, and manager (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is perturbed:

Hili: What a horrible mess in this wild nature.
A: Does it disturb you?
Hili: Yes, I can’t see what’s under these sticks.
In Polish:
Hili: Straszny bałagan w tej dzikiej przyrodzie.
Ja: Przeszkadza ci?
Hili: Tak, nie widzę co jest pod tymi patyczkami.

. . . and a photo of Szaron:

From Facebook:

From Facebook; Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, and died in 2016.

A tweet from Jesus of the Day with a poignant explanation:

The graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband, who were not allowed to be buried together. On the Protestant part of this cemetery J.W.C van Gorcum, colonel of the Dutch Cavalry and militia commissioner in Limburg is buried. His wife, lady J.C.P.H van Aefferden is buried in the Catholic part. They were married in 1842, he was a protestant and didn’t belong to the nobility.

This caused quite a commotion in Roermond. After being married for 38 years the colonel died in 1880 and was buried on the protestant part of the cemetery against the wall. His wife died in 1888 and had decided not to be buried in the family tomb but on the other side of the wall, the closest she could get to her husband. Two clasped hands connect the graves across the wall.

A tweet from Titania. I’d forgotten that Trudeau did this (not just once, but three times) which for nearly everyone would result in immediate cancellation. Why has he gotten a pass?

From Barry. I may have shown this before, but it’s a black-crested titmouse picking fur off a sleeping fox for the bird’s nest:

From Simon. This is clearly a seagull rather than a duck, but the poor choice of nesting site still obtains:

From Ginger K. Why doesn’t the cat just ride in the cart?

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

A lovely video tweet (sound up) Matthew.: I didn’t think dog milk could nourish kittens, but I guess they’re old enough to be eating solid food, too. As Matthew says, the world would be better if it were like Dodo:

Two more tweets from Matthew:

Patricia Churchland, who like me thinks that panpsychism is both untestable and dumb, goes after a proponent of the theory that all matter is conscious:

More interspecies love. Sound up if you want music:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

September 16, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Thursday, September 16. By the time you read this I’ll either be at the airport or in the air on my way to Boston. It’s National Peach Pie Day, and I hope you can have some. Posting will likely be lighter than usual for a week.

It’s also Mexican Independence Day(see below), which goes along with the fact that it’s Free Queso Day (but only at Moe’s Southwest Grill), and National Guacamole Day. Further, it’s National Cinnamon Raisin Bread Day, Mayflower Day (the day the ship left Plymouth in 1620), World Play-Doh Day (it was introduced on this day in 1955), Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer (see below).

News of the Day:

It’s been 239 days since the Bidens moved into the White House and still, as far as I know, there is no First Cat. WHERE IS THE PROMISED CAT, JOE?

*The SpaceX launch, for which I gave a live feed last night, was a big success, with the booster successfully returning to Earth and all four astronauts happily in orbit for three days. It was, as they say, “nominal”.

*North Korea’s on a really aggressive path: on Wednesday it launched two ballistic missiles, after having launched two cruise missiles last week. According to the NYT, this violates “multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from conducting such tests.” Also, on the very same day, South Korea did its first ballistic missile launch from a submarine, joining the U.S., Russia, Britain, India, China, and France as countries capable of submarine launches. The U.S., of course, has nuclear-missile-launching subs around the Korean peninsula, but no nukes on the peninsula itself.

*Here’s a U.S. tentative response to China, who, the U.S. fears, might become yet more autocratic or even emboldened to take over Taiwan. In collaboration with the UK, the U.S. is helping Australia acquire nuclear submarines.

“The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have long been faithful and capable partners and we’re even closer today,” the President said. “Today, we’re taking another historic step to deepen and formalize cooperation among all three of our nations, because we all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term.”

I guess Aussie nuclear subs are some kind of deterrent, but how much more deterrence will we need? If China attacks and takes over Taiwan, will they fire those nukes?

*Another sign of global warming. Mount Shasta in California (height 14,179 feet or 4322 m) invariably has snow on the summit in the summer. Not this year. The glaciers on the north side have lost 50% of their usual mass just since 2000, and here’s a series of photos showing the amount of snow on the mountain (green splotch) in July or August:

Here’s a tweet of the sadly denuded mountain:

*In his newest column in the NYT, John McWhorter neglects race and returns to language. His topic today is about the best way to learn another language, and he has a definite answer, involving a program. (I don’t know how many languages he speaks, but it must be a lot.)

. . . I have spent my life compulsively teaching myself to get around in languages — I have the polyglot disease — and I know of a way to get farther than people usually get. There is no reason that Glossika shouldn’t be as well known as Duolingo and Babbel. It teaches you real language, and it gets you used to just hearing the language, rather than relying as much on text as sound. After all, there are no subtitles in real life.

The method is pretty simple. You get recordings of 5,000 sentences in the language of your choice. Glossika comes in more than 60 languages at this point: If you feel your life isn’t complete without immersing yourself in some Slovenian or Uzbek, Glossika is for you. But the important part here is that the sentences are real ones. The first time I used it, the first sentence was about being good at tennis. Think: In a foreign language you know, were you ever taught how to say “good at”? To speak a language is to know how to say things like that.

. . . After that, the next move is immersion with real people. After I did one set, a speaker told me, “You know a lot of words!” That hedged but sincere compliment was dead on; I spoke roughly like a bright 4-year-old, and Glossika did that.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 666,816 an increase of 1,943 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,675,036, an increase of about 10,700 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 16 includes:

This was a small merchant ship, with 102 Pilgrims crammed together during the 66-day trip (two died). And, during the first winter, half of the rest died. Here’s a drawing showing how everyone was crammed together:

“Grito de Dolores” means “Cry of Dolores”, and Dolores is a city in Central Mexico. On this day in 1810, “Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang his church bell and gave the call to arms that triggered the Mexican War of Independence.” Here’s the church from whose portico the call to arms was issued, Our Lady of Sorrows:

  • 1880 – The Cornell Daily Sun prints its first issue in Ithaca, New York. The Sun is the United States’ oldest, continuously-independent college daily.
  • 1908 – The General Motors Corporation is founded.
  • 1955 – The military coup to unseat President Juan Perón of Argentina is launched at midnight.

This was the end of his second term as President. He went into exile but returned and was re-elected in 1973. Here he is with his famous wife Eva (“Evita”):

  • 1959 – The first successful photocopier, the Xerox 914, is introduced in a demonstration on live television from New York City.

Here’s what I think is that commercial:

  • 1966 – The Metropolitan Opera House opens at Lincoln Center in New York City with the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s opera Antony and Cleopatra.
  • 1976 – Armenian champion swimmer Shavarsh Karapetyan saves 20 people from a trolleybus that had fallen into a Yerevan reservoir.

The word “hero” is flung around carelessly these days, but if anybody is a true hero, it’s Shavarsh Karapetyan. Here’s a 7-minute summary of his life and heroic act:

  • 1987 – The Montreal Protocol is signed to protect the ozone layer from depletion.
  • 1992 – The trial of the deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega ends in the United States with a 40-year sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Noriega, still incarcerated, died of a brain hemorrhage in 2017. His mug shot:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1886 – Jean Arp, Alsatian sculptor and painter (d. 1966)
  • 1893 – Albert Szent-Györgyi, Hungarian-American physiologist and biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)

Szent-Györgyi isolated vitamin C and worked out the citric acid cycle (“Krebs cycle”), both of which contributed to his Nobel Prize in 1937. Here he is around 1948:

Remember this scene from “The Big Sleep”:

  • 1925 – Charlie Byrd, American singer and guitarist (d. 1999)
  • 1925 – B.B. King, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 2015)

Here’s what is perhaps his most famous song, “The Thrill is Gone“, performed in 1993:

  • 1950 – Henry Louis Gates Jr., American historian, scholar, and journalist
  • 1971 – Amy Poehler, American actress, comedian, and producer

Those whose lives were quenched on September 16 include:

  • 1936 – Jean-Baptiste Charcot, French physician and explorer (b. 1867)
  • 1977 – Maria Callas, Greek operatic soprano (b. 1923)

Here’s La Callas singing my favorite operatic aria in Paris:

  • 1980 – Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist and philosopher (b. 1896)
  • 2009 – Mary Travers, American singer-songwriter (b. 1936)

Here’s a rare melange of great singers: Cass Elliot, Joni Mitchell, and Mary Travers, singing the Dylan song, “I shall be released.” The performance was in 1969 on Mama Cass’s television show.

  • 2016 – Edward Albee, American director and playwright (b. 1928)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is having her customary thoughts:

A: What are you musing about?
I wonder when the next meal will be.
In Polish:
Ja: Nad czym dumasz?
Hili: Zastanawiam się kiedy będzie następny posiłek.

And a photo of Kulka and Szaron on the windowsill, taken by Paulina:

From smipowell. This is my Teddy, Toasty!

From Facebook:

Also from Facebook:

From Simon, which shows you who is pro- and anti-vaccination:

From Barry. I think more religions should chart their beliefs like this, as it would show their craziness:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

From Luana. Polygenic scores are of course underestimates because, based on even medium-sized samples, they don’t account for low-frequency variants affecting a trait, so most correlations are probably underestimates as well.

From Dom: a nefarious parasite that makes ants bite grass before they die so the next host, sheep, eat the ants and get infected too. Then sheep poop out eggs that infect snails, who release eggs that are eaten by an ant, and the cycle starts again. One parasite and three hosts: an old but classic “zombie ant parasite” story.


Tweets from Matthew. He and I both love the Dodo videos with kittens. As Matthew noted, “Yes if the world were like the Dodo everything would be fine.”

These are wonderful sculptures; be sure to look at each photo:

Colorful mushrooms in New Zealand, including a blue one!

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

September 15, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Wednesday, September 15, my last day in Chicago for a week. It’s National Linguine Day (I prefer bucatini, but it doesn’t have its own Day.)

It’s also National Cheese Toast Day, National Double Cheeseburger Day, Butterscotch Cinnamon Pie Day, National Crème de Menthe Day, National Caregivers Day, National Felt Hat Day, World Afro Day, World Lymphoma Awareness Day, International Day of Democracy, and, in the U.S., the beginning of German American Heritage Month, celebrated until October 15, and the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated until October 15. You can celebrate the last two at once by having a michelada made with Löwenbräu.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates the life and work of Ildaura Murillo-Rohde, described by Wikipedia this way:

Ildaura Murillo-Rohde (September 6, 1920 – September 5, 2010) was a Panamanian-American nurse, academic and organizational administrator. .  . Murillo-Rohde founded the National Association of Hispanic Nurses in 1975. She was a World Health Organization consultant to the government of Guatemala and was named a Permanent UN Representative to UNICEF for the International Federation of Business and Professional Women. She was named a Living Legend of the American Academy of Nursing in 1994.

News of the Day:

*It looks as if Gavin Newsom handily won the recall election and remains Governor of California. But he’d better remember the issues that brought about the election in the first place. In an interview Monday evening with NBC News, he simply waved them away.

*Speaking of California, in an op-ed in the NYT, Jay Kang takes issue with schools abandoning standardized tests like the SAT, which the University of California did recently (and against the advice of a group of experts the U of C commissioned to study the problem). Kang argues that test elimination has little effect on increasing diversity but reduces transparency of admissions, and recommends as a substitute the community-college transfer route:

State schools that are committed to social justice should make the community college transfer program the first and final word when it comes to diversity, rather than celebrate tiny shifts in minority enrollment while driving down admission rates. Instead of adjusting scores and engaging in the careful engineering that ends with one student being declared more “holistic” than another, they should make the community-college-to-four-year-university-pathway as easy and as normalized as possible. Students would be able to take on less debt, orient themselves in their chosen fields of study and stay in their hometowns.

*Here’s an intriguing headline for an op-ed in the Washington Post: “How Amy Coney Barrett might know she’s a political hack,” written by columnist Jennifer Rubin. This is based on what Coney Barrett said in a talk in Louisville, where she happened to share the stage with Mitch “666” McConnell:

“My goal today is to convince you that this court is not composed of a bunch of partisan hacks,” Barrett said with a straight face. She continued, “Sometimes, I don’t like the results of my decisions. But it’s not my job to decide cases based on the outcome I want.”

If you’ll believe that, you’ll believe anything. Her voting to uphold Texas’s odious anti-abortion law surely was an outcome she wanted, for she’s a pious Catholic. And, after all, the Texas law violates the stare decisis of Roe v. Wade. Here’s why Rubin thinks that Coney Barrett secretly knows that she’s a lying hack:

So are Barrett and Breyer [who also claims that Justices are largely “neutral”] simply lying to us? I would suggest it is something more insidious: They have convinced themselves that their judicial “philosophy” is neutral, rather than a means to turn the court into an instrument of partisan power.

Let’s get real. Conservative justices have been tutored in Federalist Society buzzwords such as “judicial restraint” (except, for example, when rewriting the Voting Rights Act). They have latched onto a brand of jurisprudence in which the only “legitimate” method of interpretation is time-traveling to the 18th century, often neatly bypassing the post-Civil War amendments that federalized rights. That’s how the conservative justices manage to regard themselves as paragons of judicial virtue.

They cannot acknowledge that their reasoning constantly twists and turns, elevating certain rights (e.g., religious freedom, gun ownership) but diminishing others (e.g., those guaranteed by the 14th Amendment). They refuse to concede that their view of executive power expands like an accordion for Republican presidents and contracts for Democratic presidents.

It is precisely because justices lack the discipline and self-awareness to divorce their own judicial “philosophies” from the partisan ends their “side” wants that term limits become a necessity. Judges who no longer feel constrained by precedent and nearly always fulfill the policy edicts of the president who nominated them should not have lifetime tenure. When the highest court is now a forum for raw exercise of political power, a president’s picks should not be empowered to serve for decades.

But would Rubin write the same thing if those statements had been made by the liberal Justices, or if the Court weren’t so damn conservative?

*CNN tells us that Squaw Valley Alpine Meadow Ski Resort, overdue for a renaming, has finally been renamed: it’s now called Palisades Tahoe, which might confuse people with the ski resorts in Lake Tahoe, California. At any rate, I had no idea that “squaw” wasn’t a Native American word:

The word “squaw” was introduced by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and used by early fur traders and trappers, according to the University of Idaho. In today’s social context, Native Americans understand the term to be a slur.

In light of that, it certainly needed a new name. (h/t Simon)

*The trial of Elizabeth Holmes for wire fraud involving her billion-dollar startup company Theranos continues in California. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the case open, has a live feed of the trial, and yesterday two witnesses testified, separately, that the blood-testing device didn’t work, and Theranos knew it, and also that Holmes lied to investors with falsely optimistic estimates of the company’s profits.

*Science Alert reports unusual tool use in a parrot.  A kea (Nestor notabilis, a parrot I encountered in New Zealand) has been found using tools in an unusual way. Named Bruce, the kea was found badly injured in 2013 missing the top half of his beak. He’s been taken care of at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch. Now, like all birds, keas must groom themselves, but that’s nearly impossible if you’re missing your top mandible. Resourceful Bruce, however, found that he could pick up properly-shaped pebbles, hold them in his half-bill, and use them to preen his feathers. He does this by holding the pebble underneath his tongue and then running his feathers between his lower mandible and the stone. How clever! (h/t Ginger K)

You’ll want to see a video of this, of course, and I found one:

*Woke fashion at the Met Gala, one of the glitziest affairs in NYC.  Here’s AOC with her dress, which is really gonna change some minds at the Met, where a ticket to the Gala costs $30,000.

(From CNN): Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends the 2021 Met Gala accompanied by Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, who designed her dress. Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

And Teen Vogue editor Versha Sharma with her pro-choice clutch (her article is here):

I agree with both of their messages, but there’s a time and place. . .

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 664,231 an increase of 1,888 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,664,368, an increase of about 10,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 15 includes:

de Rais, a French knight, specialized in sexual abuse and subsequent murder of children; his victims possibly numbered in the hundreds. He was hanged in 1440. Here’s an early rendition of his execution:

Sadly, the Beagle was eventually broken up, but some of its timber possibly remains as part of a dock and a farmhouse. Here’s what she looked like during her first three voyages:

Here’s one of those early tanks with the caption, “This Mark I ‘Male’ Tank broke down crossing a British trench on its way to attack Thiepval on 25 September 1916.” They didn’t do a very good job; several were destroyed by artillery fire while others broke down:

Below is the law depriving Jews of citizenship, followed by an earlier 1933 photo of members of the SA (the Nazi’s paramilitary wing) picketing in front of a Jewish store.

The signs read, “Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!”

Nationalsozialistische Boykott-Posten vor dem Warenhaus Israel in Berlin.

Here are the four girls killed by a conspiracy of four Klansmen. One of the murderers was convicted in 1977, one died before trial, and the last two were finally convicted in 2001 and 2002. All were given life sentences.

(From Wikipedia): The four girls killed in the bombing (clockwise from top left): Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair
  • 1981 – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approves Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first female justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • 1981 – The John Bull becomes the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world when the Smithsonian Institution operates it under its own power outside Washington, D.C.

The John Bull was first run on September 15, 1831 and was restored sufficiently to be operated on its 150th birthday (see video below). I want to know where the tracks were, and how they made the train fit modern track.

  • 2008 – Lehman Brothers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s an actual photo of Cooper, taken by Matthew Brady the year before Cooper died:

  • 1857 – William Howard Taft, American lawyer, jurist, and politician, 27th President of the United States (d. 1930)
  • 1890 – Agatha Christie, English crime novelist, short story writer, and playwright (d. 1976)
  • 1894 – Jean Renoir, French actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 1979)

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen a film by Renoir, but I promise to fill that gap.

  • 1903 – Roy Acuff, American singer-songwriter and fiddler (d. 1992)

Here’s Acuff singing the classic, “The Wabash Cannonball” (you can hear an earlier live version by Acuff here).

  • 1907 – Fay Wray, Canadian-American actress (d. 2004)

The Bride of Kong! (1933):

  • 1928 – Cannonball Adderley, American saxophonist and bandleader (d. 1975)
  • 1929 – Murray Gell-Mann, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)
  • 1945 – Jessye Norman, American soprano (d. 2019)
  • 1946 – Oliver Stone, American director, screenwriter, and producer
  • 1984 – Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

Those who went belly up on September 15 include:

  • 1750 – Charles Theodore Pachelbel, German organist and composer (b. 1690)
  • 1938 – Thomas Wolfe, American novelist (b. 1900)

Wolfe, one of my favorite writers (a penchant my literary friends despise) died at ony 37 of tuberculosis that had spread to his brain. Here he is with his huge stacks of manuscripts:

  • 1945 – Anton Webern, Austrian composer and conductor (b. 1883)
  • 1980 – Bill Evans, American pianist and composer (b. 1929)
  • 1985 – Cootie Williams, American trumpet player (b. 1910)

Williams played for many years with Duke Ellington’s band. In fact, Ellington wrote the song below, “Concerto for Cootie” in his honor. It’s performed here by the “Blanton-Webster” version of the Ellington band (the best), with Williams on trumpet:

  • 2003 – Garner Ted Armstrong, American evangelist and author (b. 1930)
  • 2017 – Harry Dean Stanton, American actor (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is up in the trees again:

A: What do you see?
Hili: Distance.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Dal.

And here’s a lovely photo of Kulka and Szaron sleeping together (as they do) taken by Paulina. Notice that Kulka is licking Szaron:

From Doc Bill:

From Not Another Science Cat page. A cat tank!

And from the same site. Look at that cat’s face!

Titania on AOC’s Met Gala dress (this was sent by Simon and Luana):

More from Simon:

From Barry, who says, “Such a lovely sound. And I do wonder what all the ‘stomping’ is all about. It’s almost surely a “dance” to attract potential mates.”  I suppose, though, that it could be for territorial defense.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who lived but five weeks in the camp:

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up on this one, too.

The decisive moment, and a graceful one:


I hope I’m around to see this:

Monday: Hili dialogue

September 13, 2021 • 6:30 am

It’s Monday, September 13, and on Thursday I’m heading to Boston for a week to hang out with friends and get some well deserved R&R. Posting may be light after the 17th for a week. Bear with me as I unwind!

It’s National Peanut Day! (the exclamation mark shows they’re particularly excited).  And it’s also Snack a Pickle Day there should be “on” after “Snack”), Fortune Cookie Day, International Chocolate Day, Bald is Beautiful Day, National Defy Superstition Day, Positive Thinking Day (except for us Jews), Day of the Programmer, Roald Dahl Day (see below), Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary (see below), and Fortune Cookie Day. Fortune cookies are not Chinese, but probably originated in the U.S. Here’s one fortune, probably written by a philosopher:

Wine of the Day: My fondness for good Riojas is well known. Can this six-year-old specimen, bought for only $15, be that good? Is it too young? Others seem to think it’s quite good and eminently drinkable, with perhaps years to improve.  Let’s try it with some aged Gouda cheese, a baguette, and Mediterranean olives splashed with good olive oil. Now THAT is a good dinner!

Although I didn’t decant the wine to let it aerate, as one reviewer recommended, I did use an aerator pourer, which should have some effect. Sadly, the two glasses I drank were somewhat disappointing. The wine wasn’t over the hill, and the smell, of berries and earth, was lovely, but the taste didn’t follow through: it lacked stuffing and was dominated by the acidity. I’ll see tonight whether it’s improved.

News of the Day:

Remember the U.S. drone strike that was supposed to have taken out ISIS terrorists and explosive near the Kabul airport? Well, according to the New York Times, that’s pure fake news.

Military officials said they did not know the identity of the car’s driver when the drone fired, but deemed him suspicious because of how they interpreted his activities that day, saying that he possibly visited an ISIS safe house and, at one point, loaded what they thought could be explosives into the car.

Times reporting has identified the driver as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group. The evidence suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work. And an analysis of video feeds showed that what the military may have seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family.

While the U.S. military said the drone strike might have killed three civilians, Times reporting shows that it killed 10, including seven children, in a dense residential block.

Somebody is in serious trouble, and seven kids (and a worker for a U.S. aid group) are dead because of their mistake.

Speaking of Afghanistan, the Taliban isn’t as hard-line as I thought, at least according to a report by the Associated Press on their views about women’s education. Women will now be allowed to go to university, with the proviso that a. all classes will be segregated by sex, and b. women must wear “Islamic dress”, whatever that means. My question involves the implication that if women get to the stage of attending university, they must be allowed to get an education all the way up to that stage. Will the Taliban let them, with their opposition to women going to school? (Last night the NBC News implied that younger girls would indeed be allowed to go to school.)

Internecine war among the Democrats: Biden’s $3.5 billion spending package is in trouble now that Senator Joe Manchin III isn’t having it. He (a renegade Democrat) is suggesting huge cuts in the package—up to 50%— to make it acceptable to himself and presumably to Republicans. Bernie Sanders, enraged, won’t stand for any cuts. But without Manchin’s vote in the Senate, which is split 50/50 between Dems and Republicans, the bill will not pass. (There won’t be any trouble in the House.)

Last week six Palestinian prisoners, all terrorists, killers, and people who set up suicide bombings, tunneled out of an Israeli jail and escaped. Four were caught in Israel after tipoffs from Israeli Arabs, while two are still free. The escape was naturally celebrated by Palestinians, but the return of the apprehended four to jail caused Hamas to fire more rockets into Israel last weekend. Israel retaliated by striking three Hamas targets in Gaza with helicopters and planes. Question: who is responsible for reigniting the conflict and trashing the fragile peace?

The NYT has a review (by John McWhorter) of Randall Kennedy’s new book on race, SAY IT LOUD! On Race, Law, History, and Culture (Kennedy is a black professor at Harvard Law School.) Kennedy is a semi-contrarian: he doesn’t go Full Thomas Sowell but also hews to some mainstream black thought. As McWhorter asks,

Why, then, is Kennedy, a Black professor at Harvard Law School, not typically included on the list of Black conservatives or even “heterodox Black thinkers,” to use the currently fashionable term of art? The anthology “Say It Loud!” teaches us why. This collection of 29 of his essays lends us the fullest portrait yet between two covers of Kennedy’s thought, and just as much of it fits the mold of Black thought traditionally treated as “authentic” as does not.

The review is generally positive. McWhorter does fault Kennedy for some overly scholarly writing in a popular book, but in the end concludes that “as in almost everything about his views on race in America, Kennedy is both resolutely temperate and probably right.”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 659,806 an increase of 1,648 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,645,319, an increase of about 6,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 13 includes:

  • 1501 – Italian Renaissance: Michelangelo begins work on his statue of David.
  • 1541 – After three years of exile, John Calvin returns to Geneva to reform the church under a body of doctrine known as Calvinism.
  • 1609 – Henry Hudson reaches the river that would later be named after him – the Hudson River.

Hudson’s mighty river: 315 miles long from the Adirondack mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Here it is by Bear Mountain, spanned by the Bear Mountain Bridge:

  • 1788 – The Philadelphia Convention sets the date for the first presidential election in the United States, and New York City becomes the country’s temporary capital.

This was actually the “Constitutional Convention” that drew up the United States Constitution.

You can see the poem here, which is identical to the lyrics of the National Anthem, but our National Anthem is dire. “America the Beautiful” would be much better.

George Eastman filed a patent about the same time, and there was a twenty-year battle over who had the rights. Eventually the dispute was settled in favor of Goodwin, who got five million dollars.

  • 1899 – Henry Bliss is the first person in the United States to be killed in an automobile accident.

Bliss (below) was stepping off a trolley in New York City when he was hit by a taxi, striking his head on the pavement, which killed him.  He was 69, and there’s still a plaque on the spot.

  • 1899 – Mackinder, Ollier and Brocherel make the first ascent of Batian (5,199 m – 17,058 ft), the highest peak of Mount Kenya.

Here’s a 5½-minute video of a climb of Batian:

  • 1948 – Margaret Chase Smith is elected United States senator, and becomes the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
  • 1953 – Nikita Khrushchev is appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
  • 1956 – The IBM 305 RAMAC is introduced, the first commercial computer to use disk storage.

Here’s the computer, with the caption, “IBM 305 at U.S. Army Red River Arsenal. Foreground: two 350 disk drives. Background: 380 console and 305 processing unit.” I’m sure a Mac laptop would have more computing power.

  • 1962 – An appeals court orders the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, the first African-American student admitted to the segregated university. Here’s Meredith going to class, with the Wikipedia caption, “Chief U.S. Marshal James McShane (left) and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, John Doar (right) of the Justice Department, escorting James Meredith to class at Ole Miss.”

Here’s an 8-minute PBS film explaining the riot and the role of lawyer William Kunstler  (who also defended the Chicago Seven) in the prison negotiations. His kids are interviewed, too.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1851 – Walter Reed, American physician and biologist (d. 1902)

Reed, whose team proved that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes rather than by direct contact between humans (the earlier theory):

  • 1860 – John J. Pershing, American general and lawyer (d. 1948)
  • 1874 – Arnold Schoenberg, Austrian composer and painter (d. 1951)
  • 1876 – Sherwood Anderson, American novelist and short story writer (d. 1941)

Here’s Anderson in 1933. His masterpiece, the short-story collection Winesburg, Ohio, was published in 1919. He never again came close to what he did in that book.

  • 1886 – Robert Robinson, English chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1975)
  • 1887 – Leopold Ružička, Croatian-Swiss biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1976)
  • 1908 – Chu Berry, American saxophonist (d. 1941)
  • 1911 – Bill Monroe, American singer-songwriter and mandolin player (d. 1996)

Here’s Monroe with his Blue Grass Boys:

  • 1916 – Roald Dahl, British novelist, poet, and screenwriter (d. 1990)

I have to admit that I’ve never read anything by Dahl, though some of my friends are great admirers of him:

  • 1944 – Jacqueline Bisset, English actress and producer
  • 1956 – Alain Ducasse, French-Monégasque chef

Those who “passed” on September 13 include:

  • 81 – Titus, Roman emperor (b. AD 39)
  • 1944 – W. Heath Robinson, English cartoonist (b. 1872)

Robinson was the British equivalent of the American Rube Goldberg, famous for designing clever but impossibly complicated machines to do simple tasks. Here’s Robinson’s “Pakcake Making Machine”:

  • 1946 – Amon Göth, Austrian captain (b. 1908)

Göth ran the Płaszów concentration camp during WWII and was played by Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List”. And yes, Göth did take target practice on prisoners from his home balcony. He was executed after the war, but the hanging was successful only on the third try. (You can see the video here.)

  • 1971 – Lin Biao, Chinese general and politician, 2nd Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China (b. 1907)
  • 1996 – Tupac Shakur, American rapper, producer, and actor (b. 1971)
  • 1998 – George Wallace, American sergeant, lawyer, and politician, 45th Governor of Alabama (b. 1919)

Here’s the old racist calling for “segregation forever”. His name stands alongside that of other segregationists like Lester Maddox and Bull Connor as those who became infamous during the Civil Rights era.

  • 2006 – Ann Richards, American educator and politician, 45th Governor of Texas (b. 1933)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is contemplating going out on the tiles:

Hili: Night hunt or a warm bed?
A: You better stay at home.
Hili: I will think about it some more.
In Polish:
Hili: Nocne łowy, czy ciepłe łóżko?
Ja: Lepiej zostań w domu?
Hili: Jeszcze się zastanowię.

And here’s Szaron playing:

A cool optical illusion sent by Peter N. Just watch; the video does the whole thing for you.

From Facebook:

From The Vintage News via Rick:

Titania’s back tweeting again:

From Masih:

From Ken, who explains, “The infamous business card scene from American Psycho reimagined for cat lovers.” I’d never seen that scene before this.

From Barry, who enjoyed the suspense. That’s an amazing way of hunting!

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew:

A tiny kitchen hidden behind a faux outlet! See more hidden miniature nooks by following this thread.

Thursday: Hili dialogue

September 9, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Thursday, September 9, 2021: National “I Love Food” Day. Once again, the scare quotes imply that we don’t really love food, but are just pretending to.

It’s also National Wiener Schnitzel Day (cultural appropriation), National Steak au Poivre Day (more cultural appropriation), California Admission Day, celebrating the day in 1850 when California was admitted as the 31st state, International Buy a Priest a Beer Day (?), International Sudoku Day, and National Teddy Bear Day.  If you have a teddy, the first person to send me a photo of it will have it posted here. Here’s my own teddy, named Toasty, who is exactly as old as I am (I was told I got him the day I was born). Toasty resides in my office; he’s almost totally depilated from years of cuddling and, as you can see, has been repaired many times.

. . . and Matthew himself is the winner. His bear, which he also got when he was born, is also beaten up: “Teddy, with a patch on his head where he got singed by the fire.”

News of the Day:

When I saw the title of Bret Stephens’s new op-ed at the NYT, “Another failed Presidency at hand,” I asked myself, “President of what country?” But there’s a picture of Joe Biden at the top, so I didn’t have to guess. And yes, Biden isn’t perfect, but in my view he’s done a pretty damn good job. Stephens, however, indicts Biden for issues he bears little responsibility for:

Joe Biden was supposed to be the man of the hour: a calming presence exuding decency, moderation and trust. As a candidate, he sold himself as a transitional president, a fatherly figure in the mold of George H.W. Bush who would restore dignity and prudence to the Oval Office after the mendacity and chaos that came before. It’s why I voted for him, as did so many others who once tipped red.

. . . Instead, Biden has become the emblem of the hour: headstrong but shaky, ambitious but inept. He seems to be the last person in America to realize that, whatever the theoretical merits of the decision to withdraw our remaining troops from Afghanistan, the military and intelligence assumptions on which it was built were deeply flawed, the manner in which it was executed was a national humiliation and a moral betrayal, and the timing was catastrophic.

and this:

We are a country that could not keep a demagogue from the White House; could not stop an insurrectionist mob from storming the Capitol; could not win (or at least avoid losing) a war against a morally and technologically retrograde enemy; cannot conquer a disease for which there are safe and effective vaccines; and cannot bring itself to trust the government, the news media, the scientific establishment, the police or any other institution meant to operate for the common good.

How much of that is due to Biden’s incompetence? Not much, in my view: the man is dealing with attitudes that long predated his presidency, and the pandemic was a mess, even for people like the vaunted Dr. Fauci. Stephens also criticizes Biden for his $3.5 trillion budget bill, for which, says Stephens, is like LBJ’s war on poverty, with big ambitions yet lacking LBJ’s means.  Can Biden help it if the Senate is evenly split and with little mood to reconcile? (Johnson, after all, had been a Senator for many years, and knew how the system worked.)  Stephens has a solution, but I don’t think it will help either Biden or the Democratic Party:

There’s a way back from this cliff’s edge. It begins with Biden finding a way to acknowledge publicly the gravity of his administration’s blunders. The most shameful aspect of the Afghanistan withdrawal was the incompetence of the State Department when it came to expediting visas for thousands of people eligible to come to the United States. Accountability could start with Antony Blinken’s resignation.

The president might also seize the “strategic pause” Manchin has proposed and push House Democrats to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill without holding it hostage to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Infrastructure is far more popular with middle-of-the-road voters than the Great Society reprise that was never supposed to be a part of the Biden brand.

My sense is that Biden will do neither.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, began yesterday; she faces 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; she has pleaded not guilty. Holmesfaces up to 20 years in prison. As the WSJ notes:

Weeks of witness testimony are expected to follow opening statements. Prosecutors have identified more than 180 potential witnesses. Ms. Holmes is among 55 potential witnesses that her lawyers said they may call if she chooses to present evidence in her own defense. Both sides have flagged thousands of exhibits they could enter as evidence, including emails, text messages, media articles and internal Theranos documents.

I’m writing this on Wednesday morning; we’ll see if Holmes claims that she was abused by her co-defendant and partner, Sunny Balwani, and that abuse is a mitigating factor that will exculpate her. From reading John Carreyrou’s  superb book, I saw no sign of such abuse or of Holmes making prior claims about it.

. . . Now, on Wednesday evening, I see that that both sides have made their opening statements (the prosecution gets to go first). As the Associated Press reports, the prosecution is trying to make a strong case for Holmes’s malfeasance:

After the jury was seated and U.S. District Judge Edward Davila gave his preliminary instructions, federal prosecutor Robert Leach wasted little time vilifying Holmes.

He cast Holmes in a dark light, depicting her as a conniving entrepreneur who duped investors, customers and patients for years, even though she knew her startup, Theranos, was nearly bankrupt and its much-hyped blood-testing technology was a flop. . .

He said the evidence would show that Theranos was already in deep trouble as far back as 2009, about six years after Holmes founded the Palo Alto, California, company. At that point, Leach said, Holmes resorted to a pattern of lying and hyperbole in an effort to fool major media outlets, wealthy investors such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, well-connected Theranos board members such as former U.S. Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and customers such as Walgreens.

Some of the most damning evidence may be presented by a former top finance officer at Theranos who will testify that the company only had $650,000 in revenue from 2011 through 2014, according to Leach. Yet Holmes was telling investors and other people that Theranos would generate $140 million in revenue in 2014, Leach said.

The defense also made an opening statement, mentioning an abuse excuse:

Holmes’ defense team countered with a more heroic narrative describing her as a tireless worker who poured more than 15 years of her life in pursuit of a faster, cheaper and less invasive way to test blood samples and screen for disease.

Defense attorney Lance Wade, argued that Holmes was simply trying to wrest control of the blood-testing technology market from two dominant laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Labcorp. “She did her best day in and day out to make Theranos successful,” Wade said of Holmes as he began a roughly 90-minute presentation.

. . . In court documents unsealed just before the trial started, Holmes’ lawyers also disclosed that she may take the witness stand to assert some of her statements and actions while running Theranos were the result of “intimate partner abuse” inflicted by the company’s chief operating officer and her secret lover, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

I wouldn’t take the witness stand if I were her, as she would then open herself up to questions about EVERYTHING.

I thought about taking a poll about whether she’d be found guilty or not, but that’s premature, as we need to hear what comes out in court.

A photo from the WSJ with its caption:

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes arriving at federal court in San Jose, Calif., last week. PHOTO: DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The Guardian has a story about the effect of climate change on animal morphology. (h/t Charles) The classic features of animals to reduce overheating (like the large ears of desert rabbits and foxes) are changing over time in some species:

Animals are increasingly “shapeshifting” because of the climate crisis, researchers have said.

Warm-blooded animals are changing their physiology to adapt to a hotter climate, the scientists found. This includes getting larger beaks, legs and ears to better regulate their body temperature.

When animals overheat, birds use their beaks and mammals use their ears to disperse the warmth. Some creatures in warmer climates have historically evolved to have larger beaks or ears to get rid of heat more easily. These differences are becoming more pronounced as the climate warms.

I haven’t read the paper yet, but I hope the researchers are distinguishing between this being a genetic change—a response to natural selection—or a developmental “plastic” change not reflecting changes in genes. (Cats, for example, grow longer fur in cold weather, and if the climate got colder we’d see cats having longer fur, but that’s not evolutionary). The only way to distinguish these two causes (which can interact) is to breed the animals in the lab, observing whether under constant temperature conditions their offspring have acquired more pronounced heat-reducing features over time. If that were observed, it would show that evolutionary change is happening. This is a flaw of many field studies that simply observe a change in animals in the field over time, and then assume it’s an evolutionary change rather than simply a developmental response to the environment.

And here’s the biggest and most pointless kvetch I’ve seen in ages. It’s in PuffHo, of course, and written by its parenting editor (click on screenshot). Read it! The person got paid to write it! 

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 653,216, an increase of 1537 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,611,320, an increase of about 11,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 9 includes:

  • 1499 – The citizens of Lisabon are celebrating the triumphal return of the explorer Vasco de Gama, completing his two-year journey around the Cape of Good Hope to India.[2]
  • 1543 – Mary Stuart, at nine months old, is crowned “Queen of Scots” in the central Scottish town of Stirling.
  • 1776 – The Continental Congress officially names its union of states the United States.
  • 1791 – Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is named after President George Washington.
  • 1839 – John Herschel takes the first glass plate photograph.

Here’s the photo, with the plate still existing. The Wikipedia caption: “Herschel’s first glass-plate photograph, dated 9 September 1839, showing the 40-foot telescope.”

  • 1850 – California is admitted as the thirty-first U.S. state.
  • 1940 – George Stibitz pioneers the first remote operation of a computer.

From Wikipedia:

In a demonstration to the American Mathematical Society conference at Dartmouth College in September 1940, Stibitz used a modified teletype to send commands to the Complex Number Computer in New York over telegraph lines. It was the first computing machine ever used remotely. (See the commemorative plaque and the hall where this event took place in the photos below.)

Here’s the site: McNutt Hall at Dartmouth, where the plaque belong hangs in the entryway:

  • 1947 – First case of a computer bug being found: A moth lodges in a relay of a Harvard Mark II computer at Harvard University.
  • 1956 – Elvis Presley appears on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time.

Here’s the King’s first appearance, to much female screaming. He sang “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender”:

  • 1969 – In Canada, the Official Languages Act comes into force, making French equal to English throughout the Federal government.

Here’s an example of the dual usage at a superb bagel bakery (the Fairmount) in Montreal (click to enlarge):

Here’s Elizabeth being crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953. She’s now reigned for over 69 years! (Her reign officially began on February 6, 1952.)


Notables born on this day include:

  • 1585 – Cardinal Richelieu, French cardinal and politician (d. 1642)
  • 1754 – William Bligh, English admiral and politician, 4th Governor of New South Wales (d. 1817)
  • 1828 – Leo Tolstoy, Russian author and playwright (d. 1910)

Here’s the great man in his study in 1908. when he was 80:

Here’s his gravesite at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky: a monument built on fried chicken.

  • 1941 – Otis Redding, American singer-songwriter and producer (d. 1967)
  • 1966 – Adam Sandler, American actor, screenwriter, and producer
  • 1980 – Michelle Williams, American actress

Those who succumbed on September 8 include:

  • 1087 – William the Conqueror, English king (b. 1028)
  • 1815 – John Singleton Copley, American-English colonial and painter (b. 1738)

Here’s Copley’s “Boy With a Flying Squirrel”, painted in 1765:

  • 1976 – Mao Zedong, Chinese philosopher, academic, and politician, 1st Chairman of the Communist Party of China (b. 1893)

Here’s the Chairman as a young revolutionary in 1927, when he was about 34 years old:

  • 1985 – Paul Flory, American chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1910)
  • 2003 – Edward Teller, Hungarian-American physicist and academic (b. 1908)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is once again touting her virtues:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m trying to convince the world of my inborn gentleness and goodness.
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Próbuję przekonać świat o mojej wrodzonej łagodności i dobroci.

And here is Szaron, the darkest tabby I’ve ever seen:

A meme from Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day: I see black dots everywhere!

From Facebook, and I make no claims about its truthfulness:

A tweet from Titania:

From Ken. showing Texas Governor Greg Abbott dilating on Texas’s new antiabortion law, with an aside on rapists. Texas deserves the governor it’s got!

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

From Barry, who finds this, as we all will, terrifying. A king cobra!

From Luana:

Tweets from Matthew. This is a good one; be sure to click on the picture to reveal the answer:

This isn’t just a headline, it’s a TRUE headline. See the BBC story here:

The second tweet is the one I’m highlighting.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Kulka dialogue)

September 1, 2021 • 6:30 am

It’s a new month, and summer is unofficially over: welcome to September 1, 2021: National Gyro Day, celebrating yet another cultural appropriation.

It’s also these food months:

National Chicken Month
National Honey Month
National Mushroom Month
National Papaya Month
National Potato Month
National Rice Month

Is there any single recipe that uses every one of those foodstuffs?

Further, it’s National Tofu Day (but only in the UK), Emma Nutt Day (celebrating the world’s first woman telephone operator, who started her job on this day in 1878), Ginger Cat Appreciation Day (if you’re the first reader to send a photo of your ginger cat, I’ll put it in this post), National Cherry Popover Day, World Letter Writing Day (I can’t remember the last time I wrote a personal letter, but it’s a shame the habit has vanished), and, in Australia, Wattle Day.

And here’s the winning First Ginger Cat from reader John C. McLoughlin:

Nigel, the oldest of our three gingers at 12 but a relentless sport-hunter nonetheless. He has been imprisoned as an indoor cat for the latter half of his life, but never ceases his attempts to escape and deal properly with the grosbeaks.

Remember the wattle featured in Monty Python’s “Bruces sketch,” featuring the Philosophy Department of Woolamaloo University in Australia? There was this poem:

⁣”This here’s the wattle, the emblem of our Land. You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand.”

Today’s Google Doodle returns as a get-vaccinated gif with a link (click screenshot) on where to get your Covid jab. Note the “l” letter getting a shot:

News of the Day:

The fat lady has sung, the war is over, and here’s the last soldier to leave Afghanistan.

Biden has vigorously defended his policy, asserting that “I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit.” And that’s understandable, at least to the American people, who agree that Biden did the right thing, but may have botched the execution. As the WSJ reports:

A poll conducted by Pew Research Center between Aug. 23-29 found that 42% of those surveyed said the Biden administration had done a poor job in handling the situation in Afghanistan. About 26% said it had done an excellent or good job, and 29% said it had done a fair job. The same poll found that 54% said the decision to withdraw was the right one, while 42% said it was wrong.

On the other hand, op-ed columnist Max Boot of the Washington Post, a centrist military historian, calls out Biden for botching the withdrawal big time in a piece called, “Biden has been a good President. But the exit from Afghanistan has been an epic own-goal.

What makes this disaster so infuriating is that it was entirely predictable. The U.S. military urged Biden to keep a small troop presence in Afghanistan and the intelligence community warned that a total pullout would lead to a Taliban takeover. President Barack Obama acceded to those concerns, and refused to withdraw U.S. troops before he left office. But Biden didn’t listen. He wanted to get out of Afghanistan in the worst way, and he did.

The more I think about this, the more the upcoming misery, death, and oppression, which falls largely on women, preys on my mind. Could we have prevented this by permanently keeping a cadre of volunteer troops in the country? Well, we’ll never know. And, of course, the government we installed was deeply corrupt and incompetent.

Reader Greg informs me that the much-admired Robert Sapolsky has a 90-minute interview on the Huberman Lab podcast, and, among many other topics discusses free will. Go here and scroll to minute 73 to hear his take. He’s a determinist, but tries to put a happy face on the fact that we’re robots made of meat. He’s also written a new book, Determined: The Science of Life Without Free Will, also mentioned in the free-will section but not yet listed on Amazon.

Over at his website Shtetl Optimized, Scott Aaronson reviews the new Netflix series “The Chair”, a show that will interest many of us, as it’s about a new chairperson, played by Sandra Oh, negotiating the difficulties of running a university English department. Apparently a lot of the program deals with wokeness. (I haven’t seen it.) Scott and his wife love the show, but he also has a bevy of kvetches.  (h/t Paul):

Last week Dana and I watched the full first season of The Chair, the Netflix drama that stars Sandra Oh as Ji-Yoon Kim, incoming chairwoman of the English department at the fictional Pembroke University. As the rave reviews promised, I found the show to be brilliantly written and acted. At times, The Chair made me think about that other academia-centered sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, which I freely confess I also enjoyed. But The Chair is much more highbrow (and more political), it’s about the humanities rather than STEM, and it’s mostly about academics who are older than the ones in Big Bang, both biologically and professionally.

Kvetches ensue.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 640,078, an increase of 1,346 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,535,094,, an increase of about 9,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 1 includes:

A painting of Pilgrims aboard the Speedwell by Robert Weir adorns the rear of America’s $10,000 bill (only five examples of this note are known, all in collections):

  • 1774 – British scientist Joseph Priestley discovers oxygen gas, corroborating the prior discovery of this element by German-Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele.
  • 1834 – Slavery is abolished in the British Empire as the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 comes into force, although it remains legal in the possessions of the East India Company until the passage of the Indian Slavery Act, 1843.
  • 1893 – Henry Perky patents shredded wheat.

Curiously John Kellogg patented shredded wheat as well, after Perky’s patent expired in 1912. Here you go:

  • 1914 – The German Empire declares war on the Russian Empire at the opening of World War I. The Swiss Army mobilizes because of World War I.
  • 1936 – The Olympics opened in Berlin with a ceremony presided over by Adolf Hitler.

The Olympic Village then consisted of a series of nice small houses, and here’s the room occupied by Jesse Owens at the ’36 Olympics, a black American who won four gold medals in track and field.

  • 1944 – World War II: The Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi German occupation breaks out in Warsaw, Poland.
  • 1965 – Frank Herbert‘s novel, Dune was published for the first time. It was named as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel in 2003.

A first edition and first printing of this book will cost you about $11,000:

  • 1966 – Charles Whitman kills 16 people at the University of Texas at Austin before being killed by the police.

Whitman’s spree ultimately involved killing his mother, wife, three people inside UT’s University tower, and 11 more from the top, a total of 16 deaths. He was later found to have a malignant brain tumor the size of a pecan, which could have caused the killing. What should be done with such a person? Operate and then incarcerate? Here’s the University Tower, where you’re no longer allowed to go to the observation deck.

  • 1971 – The Concert for Bangladesh, organized by former Beatle George Harrison, is held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

This was actually a pair of concerts on the same day; here’s a 5-minute summary video:

  • 1980 – Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is elected President of Iceland and becomes the world’s first democratically elected female head of state.
  • 1984 – Commercial peat-cutters discover the preserved bog body of a man, called Lindow Man, at Lindow MossCheshire, England.

You can now see Lindow Man, who lived roughly between 2 BC and 119 AD, at the British Museum. He was in his mid 20s and may have been ritualistically murdered:

  • 2007 – The I-35W Mississippi River bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapses during the evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145.

Here’s some surveillance video of the collapse:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 10 BC – Claudius, Roman emperor (d. 54)
  • 1744 – Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, French soldier, biologist, and academic (d. 1829)

Lamarck (below) was infamous for his theory of environmentally-induced but heritable changes; nevertheless, he was one of the first to actually theorize that evolution had occurred:

  • 1843 – Robert Todd Lincoln, American lawyer and politician, 35th United States Secretary of War (d. 1926)

Robert Todd was the oldest son of Abe Lincoln, but he didn’t look like him, at least in this picture:

  • 1907 – Eric Shipton, Sri Lankan-English mountaineer and explorer (d. 1977)
  • 1931 – Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1936 – W. D. Hamilton, Egyptian born British biologist, psychologist, and academic (d. 2000)

Hamilton would have been 85 today had he not died from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage, perhaps caused by a pill lodged in his gut. He was a genius, and though I never met him I have many friends who did, all of whom praised his generosity and brilliance. One of those friends is Dr. Anne Magurran of St. Andrews University, who sent the photo below that she took of Hamilton in Brazil. She also wrote this:

Here is a pic of Bill  I have on my laptop. It was taken in the floating lab in Mamiraua on my first visit (c.1992). Bill is working on his plant collection (he was interested in the extent of asexual reproduction in plants in flooded forest v. the terra firme forest). The pic was taken in poor lighting (in the evening) and is a photo of a photo so the quality is not great, but I think it captures the essence of the man as a field biologist. I did include it in a little description of my time working there for a piece on our lab website, but it hasn’t been included anywhere else.

  • 1936 – Yves Saint Laurent, Algerian-French fashion designer, co-founded Yves Saint Laurent (d. 2008)
  • 1942 – Jerry Garcia, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1995)

Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on September 1 include:

  • 1903 – Calamity Jane, American frontierswoman and scout (b. 1853)
  • 1966 – Charles Whitman, American murderer (b. 1941)
  • 1970 – Frances Farmer, American actress (b. 1913)

Farmer was a paranoid schizophrenic who became notorious for episodes of illness, and eventually was institutionalized as she got worse. She was played by Jessica Lange (nominated for Best Actress) in the 1982 movie “Frances”.  Here’s a smal video bio of Farmer with comments by Jessica Lange:

  • 1977 – Francis Gary Powers, American captain and pilot (b. 1929)
  • 1981 – Paddy Chayefsky, American author, playwright, and screenwriter (b. 1923)
  • 2007 – Tommy Makem, Irish singer-songwriter and banjo player (b. 1932)
  • 2015 – Cilla Black, English singer and actress (b. 1943)

Here’s my favorite song of Cilla (it was also her biggest hit):

  • 2020 – Wilford Brimley, American actor and singe (b. 1934)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Kulka and Hili are playing:

Szaron: I’m getting closer.
Hili: I’m ignoring it.
In Polish:
Szaron: Zbliżam się.
Hili: Ignoruję to.

And a rare dialogue with Kulka!

A: Are you coming out from the wardrobe?
Kulka: Not yet.
In Polish: A: Wychodzisz z szafy? K: Jeszcze nie.

From Lorenzo the Cat, labeled, “Motherhood, the truth.”

From Divy:

From Jesus of the Day:

The last American soldier leaves Afghanistan:

Weatherman Al Roker at NBC, informed (by trolls on Twitter, of course) that he was too old to be covering hurricanes, issues a pungent reply:

From Masih. We all know that Iran has political prisoners, jailed (and often executed) for voicing ideas the regime doesn’t like. Here’s Masih showing the wife of a man scheduled to be executed for belonging to a Kurdish political party, pleading for his life.

Today’s tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial. Once again, a new “resident” lived but a few days, probably perishing from disease or hunger:

From Simon, a really cool series of cat-themed milk cartons (I think):

From Barry: A tweet from John Cleese showing responses to complainers about “The Life of Brian”:

From Ginger K., an awesome domino fall:

Tweets from Matthew. In this first sedimentary section, the bottom is Precambrian and the top layer Triassic. The intervening 380 million years isn’t represented, as the layer eroded away.

Bobcat takes the easy way through:

Stairs several centuries old going down to the Thames in East London, north side of the river:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

August 31, 2021 • 6:30 am

Well, the month is almost gone. Good morning on Monday, August 31, 2021: National Trail MIx Day! (My favorite trail mix is a mixture of salted peanuts, M&Ms, and raisins—not exactly the healthiest combination.) It’s also Eat Outside Day, National Matchmaker Day, and National Diatomaceous Earth Day, celebrating the sediment of fossilized algae).

News of the Day:

The fat lady has sung in Afghanistan: the U.S. finished its withdrawal of military and other personnel yesterday, a day early. The Kabul airport is now in the hands of the Taliban, though the NYT estimates that perhaps 100,000 people remain in the country who would be eligible for a U.S. visa. These include Afghans who aided the U.S. military, and Ceiling Cat have mercy on their souls. From the NYT:

More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians died in the 20-year war, in addition to tens of thousands of casualties among U.S. contractors, the Afghan military and national police, insurgents and others, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

President Biden said in a written statement that he would address the nation on Tuesday to mark the end of the war.

The NYT also has a seven-minute video of Afghan women showing their reaction to the Taliban takeover: “I won’t go 20 years back in time: Young Afghan women speak out.”  It features three career women (boxer, musician, and t.v. presenter) who will surely lose their jobs under the Taliban, but still have the courage to speak out publicly.

This site, Sorry, shows pictures of anti-covid-vaccination people who died of the virus. It could serve to prompt the unvaccinated to get their jabs, along the lines of those gruesome warnings on cigarette packages, but of course antivaxers won’t look at the site. Although some people celebrate these deaths, joking about “survival of the fittest”, I get no joy in celebrating their demise, for these folks, however ignorant, leave behind others who are bereft.   (h/t Su)

The Associated Press reports that many birds of prey are endangered worldwide. The problems, of course, include habitat loss and global warming, but also the ingestion of toxic substances. The problem is more severe than I would have imagined:

A new analysis of data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and BirdLife International found that 30% of 557 raptor species worldwide are considered near threatened, vulnerable or endangered or critically endangered. Eighteen species are critically endangered, including the Philippine eagle, the hooded vulture and the Annobon scops owl, the researchers found.

Other species are in danger of becoming locally extinct in specific regions, meaning they may no longer play critical roles as top predators in those ecosystems, said Gerardo Ceballos, a bird scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and co-author of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Andean condor, the world’s largest bird, is one of those endangered species. You can see the PNAS paper by Cruz et al. here.

A professor not only quit, but retired in the middle of a class after a student refused to wear a mask and then, when provided with one, refused to wear it properly. As the Red & Black, the University of Georgia student newspaper, reports, psychology professor Irwin Bernstein was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it any more:

The 88-year-old psychology professor explained to the student that he could die from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and age-related problems, Bernstein said in an email to The Red & Black.

Only about 15 minutes into the Tuesday lecture, which consisted of Bernstein taking the student attendance, he asked the student to pull her mask up again, but this time, the student did not respond.

Bernstein, who was already informed that two of his absent students tested positive for COVID-19, then announced his resignation on the spot and left the class immediately.

“At that point I said that whereas I had risked my life to defend my country while in the Air Force, I was not willing to risk my life to teach a class with an unmasked student during this Pandemic,” Bernstein said in an email to The Red & Black. “I then resigned my retiree-rehire position.”

An alpha female macaque has emerged as an alpha-primate in a troop at a Japanese nature reserve, the first time that’s been observed in the 70-year recorded history of a troop on the island of Kyushu (h/t Ginger K):

In a rarely seen phenomenon in the simian world, a nine-year-old female known as Yakei has become the boss of a 677-strong troop of Japanese macaque monkeys at a nature reserve on the island of Kyushu in Japan.

Yakei’s path to the top began in April when she beat up her own mother to become the alpha female of the troop at the Takasakiyama natural zoological garden in Oita city. While that would have been the pinnacle for most female monkeys, Yakei decided to throw her 10kg weight around among the males.

In late June, she challenged and roughed up Sanchu, the 31-year-old alpha male who had been leader of “troop B” at the reserve for five years.

Meet the new boss:

(from The Guardian): Nine-year-old female known as Yakei, pictured, has become the boss of a 677-strong troop of Japanese macaque monkeys at a nature reserve on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Photograph: Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 639,081, an increase of 1,348 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,525,210,, an increase of about 9,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 31 includes:

In the middle of this edition of Police News is the sensationalized report of Nichols’s murder:

  • 1895 – German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin patents his navigable balloon.
  • 1897 – Thomas Edison patents the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.

This established the principle of all film projectors: conveying the illusion of motion by passing a series of still images past the viewers. Here’s one of the earliest Kinetoscope films, “Fred Ott’s Sneeze“. Ott was one of Edison’s assistants who had just taken snuff.

The Gleiwitz (Gliwice) Tower, a real historical relic, still stands (below). It’s the tallest wooden structure in Europe at 118 m (387 ft).

  • 1943 – USS Harmon, the first U.S. Navy ship to be named after a black person, is commissioned.

The ship was named after Leonard Roy Harmon, who got the Navy Cross posthumously for standing between Japanese fire and a wounded shipmate. Here’s a photo and a poster:

The Princess with the two Princes:

  • 2006 – Edvard Munch‘s famous painting The Scream, stolen on August 22, 2004, is recovered in a raid by Norwegian police.

There were two versions of this painting; both were stolen at different times but both were recovered.

Notables born on this day include:

  • AD 12 – Caligula, Roman emperor (d. 41)

The historical records of his perfidy show that he wasn’t nearly as dreadful as people think.

  • 1870 – Maria Montessori, Italian physician and educator (d. 1952)
  • 1907 – William Shawn, American journalist (d. 1992)
  • 1924 – Buddy Hackett, American actor and singer (d. 2003)

Here’s Hackett telling several stories, including a duck joke (the last one) on Johnny Carson’s show:

  • 1935 – Eldridge Cleaver, American activist and author (d. 1998)
  • 1940 – Robbie Basho, American guitarist, pianist, and composer (d. 1986)

A note on Basho, whom I used to listen to, from Wikipedia: “Basho died unexpectedly at the age of 45 due to an accident during a visit to his chiropractor, where an “intentional whiplash” experiment caused blood vessels in his neck to rupture, leading to a fatal stroke.” Here’s some rare live footage of Basho, who reminds me of John Fahey:

  • 1945 – Itzhak Perlman, Israeli-American violinist and conductor

Those who slipped away on August 31 include:

Here’s an intense Baudelaire, photographed in 1863:

Here’s Braque with his cat. Why do so many artists have Siamese cats?

  • 1969 – Rocky Marciano, American boxer (b. 1923)
  • 1973 – John Ford, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1894)
  • 1979 – Sally Rand, American actress and dancer (b. 1904)

Rand’s popularity derived largely from her “fan dances,” in which she appeared to be nude, revealing glimpses of her body from behind a large fan made of feathers. In reality, she usually wore a body stocking. Here’s a modest fan dance from the 1934 World’s Fair:

  • 1986 – Henry Moore, English sculptor and illustrator (b. 1898)

A famous Moore sculpture, “Nuclear Energy” (1963-1967) sits just a block from my office, placed on the site where the first nuclear chain-reaction took place. It’s supposed to represent both the peaceful and destructive aspects of nuclear energy, but to most people it looks like an atomic bomb. It’s ironic when busloads of Japanese tourists unload in front of the sculpture to be photographed. The building in the background is the Regenstein Library (the main library of the University of Chicago), which is across the street from my building.

  • 1997 – Diana, Princess of Wales (b. 1961)
  • 2000 – Dolores Moore, American baseball player and educator (b. 1932)
  • 2002 – Lionel Hampton, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (b. 1908)

There’s never been a jazz vibe player as good as Hampton. Here he is playing “Flying Home,” a hit for Benny Goodman’s group:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili ponders a nap:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m considering different possibilities of lying down.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Rozważam inne możliwości leżenia.
And Szaron sharpens his claws:

From Alex, a real heartwarmer (and tearjerker):

From Cats, Beavers, and Ducks, with the caption, “Look at my bikini! LOOK AT IT!”

From Facebook (I have a feeling I’ve posted this before):

From Masih, retweeted. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. . .

Today’s tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial offers a free online course; the other “chapters” are in the thread after this one.

The New School has adopted a social-justice mascot with binary pronouns.  You can read about Gnarls Narwal here. (The old mascot was a plain old unwoke narwhal.)

A tweet from Ginger K. What the hey?

Tweets from Matthew. Nothing changes under the sun. . .

If you’re in the UK, you can watch this, but otherwise you probably can’t hear this tear-inducing interview with paralympic swimmer Eleanor Robinson.

I missed this yesterday, but only because Matthew didn’t send me the tweet. You can read more about this remarkable man here. He developed over 40 vaccines, and it’s estimated that his work continues to save 8 million lives per year. (Hilleman worked at Squibb and later at Merck & Co.) Why didn’t he win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine?

And an artist who could draw angry cats:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

August 29, 2021 • 6:30 am

We’ve reached the tail of the weekend: it’s Sunday, August 29, 2021:  National Chop Suey Day, a day of not only cultural appropriation, but also degradation (the was devised in America). My mother used to serve it with those crunchy canned noodles and cooked celery, which was dire.

It’s also Lemon Juice Day, More Herbs, Less Salt Day (devised by the food-is-medicine crowd), National Swiss Winegrowers Day, Individual Rights Day (this does not include the right to abjure masks), and International Day against Nuclear Tests.

Wine of the Day: I couldn’t have paid much for this Spanish red, as it appears to sell for $20 now, but given the (high) review from Robert Parker, I worry that it’s going downhill. My palate is not good at translating flavors and smells into words, so here’s Robert Parker’s take, written in 2014.  Drink until 2020? Well, let us have it with good cheese, a crispy baguette, and a huge heirloom tomato drenched in first-class Italian olive oil. . .

Parker’s take:

From one of Priorat’s coolest micro-climates, this 2012 Black Slate is composed of 60% old vine Grenache (60+ years) and 40% old Carignan (80 years), and aged 12 months in concrete tanks, old wood foudres, and two-year-old barrels. It reveals lots of licorice, crushed wet rock, sweet blueberry and black raspberry fruit characteristics along with a full-bodied, moderately tannic mouthfeel. The tannins are sweet and well-integrated, and the wine is drinking beautifully already. For a relatively expensive Spanish appellation, this is an outright steal! Consume it over the next 3-6 years. (RP) Inner quote mark

I’m pleased to report that it’s still drinking superbly in 2021. Although I couldn’t detect the crushed wet rock or licorice, it did taste like alcoholic raspberry juice, and went down like velvet. An excellent wine; check the reviews for a given vintage, and buy it if it’s not expensive.

News of the Day:

I keep harping on the fact that Biden should get the White House Cat he promised us several hundred days ago. Now we learn that the First D*g, Major, bit Secret Service agents eight days in a row, while Press Secretary Jen Psaki described this duplicitously as “one biting”. She lied! Here’s her evasive answer about why she wasn’t transparent.

More important, Joe, ditch that dangerous d*g and get the First Cat, for crying out loud!

We are 3 days from the evacuation deadline from Kabul Airport, and Uncle Joe says that another serious attack from either ISIS or the Taliban is “highly likely” in the next day or so, as there’s a “specific, credible threat”. France and Britain have already made their final exit, but at least 350 Americans remain in the country; and they’re not all at the airport. Biden also says that although a drone strike killed two ISIS leaders, more revenge is to come. The Washington Post has an analysis of the ISIS suicide attack (followed by gunfire), with many pictures and videos.

Here are the 13 U.S. troops killed in the suicide bombing and ensuing gunfire: 11 men and 2 women. Click on the screenshot to see their stories at the NYT:

Hurricane Ida will have begun striking the Gulf Coast of the U.S. as you read this, with some predicting that it will be the strongest hurricane since the beginning of the 20th century. It may well become a category 4 storm with winds as high as 130 mph (209 kph) and a storm surge of 15 feet in New Orleans—a city averaging seven feet above sea level! Tomorrow will be exactly 16 years since the devastating Hurricane Katrina struck the same area, killing more than 1,800 people and causing $125 billion in damage.

The trial of startup prodigy Elizabeth Holmes for wire fraud begins August 31, and it now seems possible that Holmes’ lawyers will mount a mental-instability defense. New court documents reveal that Holmes might claim that she was in an abusive relationship with her romantic and business partner Balwani. If you’ve read John Carreyrou’s book on the debacle, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (a wonderful read), you won’t see evidence of such abuse. An excerpt from the new WSJ story (Carreyrou worked for the paper):

Ms. Holmes claims the abuse by her former business and romantic partner was psychological, emotional and sexual, according to the documents.

Ms. Holmes accused Mr. Balwani of controlling what she ate, when she slept and how she dressed, throwing sharp objects at her and monitoring her text messages and emails, among other things, according to one of the filings.

Mr. Balwani “unequivocally denies that he engaged in any abuse at any time,” according to one of the newly unsealed filings. His lawyer, Jeffrey Coopersmith, argued this week that the filings should remain under seal so that Mr. Balwani’s trial, currently scheduled for early next year, can be fair.

Kate Bowler, a professor of divinity at Duke, is dying of colon cancer. In an op-ed, “One thing I don’t plan to do before I die is make a bucket list,” she says that such lists are worthless:

“Make a list,” prods another Caitlin, so I try again and again and again. Lists of places to go. Dreams to interpret. Careers I might have enjoyed. Enormous statues I want to see. Languages I have learned and promptly forgotten. My line items are alternatively boring, plausible, unlikely and all of them seem to include an unmet Canadian need to drive a Zamboni.

What strange math. There is nothing like the tally of a life. All of our accomplishments, ridiculous. All of our striving, unnecessary. Our lives are unfinished and unfinishable. We do too much, never enough and are done before we’ve even started. We can only pause for a minute, clutching our to-do lists, at the precipice of another bounded day. The ache for more — the desire for life itself — is the hardest truth of all.

But I disagree. In my view, you should make a bucket list well before you know you’re dying, and do the things that you think would enrich your life. As they say, “Nobody wishes on their deathbed that they had worked harder.” That’s true, and I can’t imagine dying without seeing Antarctica again, or visiting Australia (all my bucket list involves travel). I can well imagine, on my deathbed, saying “I should have taken that chance to go back to Antarctica.” Of course, all of this is determined by the laws of physics, but you can be influenced in what others tell you.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 637,066, an increase of 1,281 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,508,379, an increase of about 8,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 29 includes:

  • 708 – Copper coins are minted in Japan for the first time (Traditional Japanese date: August 10, 708).
  • 1831 – Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction.
  • 1869 – The Mount Washington Cog Railway opens, making it the world’s first mountain-climbing rack railway.

This 3-mile track is the second steepest Cog Railway in the world, with an average grade of 25% and the steepest grade of 37%. Here’s a photo of the tracks in 1893. There used to be a resident cat at the weather station atop the mountain, but he died.

Here’s a replica of that first motorcycle, which looks rather cumbersome:

  • 1898 – The Goodyear tire company is founded.
  • 1911 – Ishi, considered the last Native American to make contact with European Americans, emerges from the wilderness of northeastern California.

I read about Ishi in anthropology class in college; he was the last supposedly “uncontacted” Native American in the country, a member of the Yahi tribe (his tribal affiliation is now questioned). In “captivity” he spent the last five years of his life as a janitor at the University of California at Berkeley, living in a University building in San Francisco. He was often sick because he lacked immunity to the diseases of white people. Here he is in 1914 with a “fire drill”:

  • 1930 – The last 36 remaining inhabitants of St Kilda are voluntarily evacuated to other parts of Scotland.

This island was 64 km from the mainland, and its inhabitants lived in unique stone structures (it’s now a World Heritage Site). Here’s a 1908 video about the isolated island and its inhabitants. I don’t like the bit about gathering puffins.

A short video of the Soviet bomb and its explosion.

  • 1966 – The Beatles perform their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
  • 1997 – Netflix is launched as an internet DVD rental service.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1632 – John Locke, English physician and philosopher (d. 1704)
  • 1780 – Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, French painter and illustrator (d. 1867)
  • 1915 – Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actress (d. 1982)

The laws of physics compel me to show this clip of the ending of Casablanca, with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. “We’ll always have Paris.”

And here’s a rare clip of Bird and Diz in 1951; they’re playing “Hot House”:

  • 1923 – Richard Attenborough, English actor, director, and producer (d. 2014)
  • 1924 – Dinah Washington, American singer and pianist (d. 1963)
  • 1947 – Temple Grandin, American ethologist, academic, and author
  • 1958 – Michael Jackson, American singer-songwriter, producer, dancer, and actor (d. 2009)

Here’s a great 12-minute video showing the evolution of Michael Jackson’s style of dancing, extending from 1968 until two days before he died in 2009. Ignore the “NFL content” sign and click on “Watch on YouTube”:

  • 1967 – Neil Gorsuch, American lawyer and jurist, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Those who took had The Big Sleep on August 29 include:

Here’s the venerable bearded religious icon, second president of the Mormon Church and founder of Salt Lake City:

  • 1982 – Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actress (b. 1915)

Note that she died on her birthday.

  • 2016 – Gene Wilder, American stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author (b. 1933)
  • 2018 – James Mirrlees, Scottish economist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1936)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Kulka change places:

Szaron: I’m going in.
Hili: I’m going out.
In Polish:
Szaron: Wracam do domu.
Hili: Wychodzę.
Kulka and Szaron are pals (and sleep together every night), and Szaron and Hili are friends, too, but Hili hates Kulka. Cat friendships are not transitive:

Two items from Facebook:

Note that Mr. and Mrs. Potato head have been relegated to a lower status because of gender.

Here’s a beautiful cat painting from A Room with a Mieux. The artist is Léa Roche from Spain:

From Masih and a retweeter on the burqa:

Today from the Auschwitz Memorial. You can tell from these photos that even if an inmate survived the “selection”, he or she didn’t live long in the camp:

From reader Barry, who likes this photo of a red squirrel:

From Ken, who says, “Will the real Mike Pompeo please stand up?”

Tweets from Tina Purcell, Matthew’s wife. Apparently the editing is going well.  Decent bubbly, too!

From Ginger K. Why do cats do this? And I wonder why its tongue is out. . .

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up on this first one from Sacramento.

Coyotes sit on the Capitol grounds,
Making some ungodly sounds.

What they’re doing here is above my pay grade, but I’m still impressed.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

August 28, 2021 • 6:30 am

We’ve reached the Cat Sabbath: it’s Saturday, August 28, 2021: National Cherry Turnover Day, a pastry I love. It’s also Red Wine Day, National Bow Tie Day, International Read Comics in Public DayDream Day Quest and Jubilee (celebrating Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, given this day in 1963), Speak Kind Words Day (“you look mahvalous!”) and the feast day of Augustine the Hippo. At least one venue got the joke:

News of the Day:

The latest update on the death toll in Afghanistan remains at 13 U.S. military, but the number of dead Afghans (some were Afghan-Americans with U.S. citizenship) now stands at 170, with over 200 wounded. It’s still chaos, but now the Taliban has locked down the airport, keeping people from even getting near it. 12,500 people were evacuated on Thursday, and as of yesterday afternoon 5,400 are inside the airport waiting to fly out. Pakistan, inundated with refugees, says it won’t accept any more.

Biden’s promise to exact retribution on ISIS-K for its suicide attack in Kabul has at least started: the U.S. launched a drone strike on ISIS-K yesterday. All we know is this:

“The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan,” said Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. military spokesman. “Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”

But what was the target? Why is that a secret?

Politico reports that the U.S. provided the Taliban with a list of American citizens, holders of green cards, and Afghans who helped the Americans, all to facilitate the entry of these people into the Kabul airport. The downside of this is plain:

But the decision to provide specific names to the Taliban, which has a history of brutally murdering Afghans who collaborated with the U.S. and other coalition forces during the conflict, has angered lawmakers and military officials.

“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defense official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”

The Biden administration’s reason is that such a list would help the Afghans get to the airport through Taliban checkpoints. It’s interesting, though, that as of Wednesday the U.S. took the Afghans off the list, leaving only Americans and green-card holders. The Taliban still have the names, though.

Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of assassinating Robert Kennedy in 1968, seems to have gotten parole. According to the Los Angeles Times, a California parole board recommended his release. Sirhan is 77 years old and has been in prison for 53 years. (Two of RFK’s sons spoke in favor of the release, one of whom said that he didn’t think Sirhan killed his father!) The state’s governor (whoever that is going to be!) could still block Sirhan’s release. Here he is in his mugshot in 1969 and then at his 15th and penultimate parole hearing—in 2016.

Photo by Gregory Bull/AP.

If you want to get a bit depressed about the rapidly changing and sometimes conflicting recommendations about the pandemic, including the need for boosters or inoculating young children, read Zeynep Tufekci’s NYT op-ed  “Show me the data!” She argues that too many decisions are being made too rapidly, and without the necessary data. To wit:

For example, much of the debate over whether vaccine efficacy is waning and boosters are needed has centered on Israel’s experience because it started vaccinating earlier than many other countries and is now administering boosters. Many charts and graphics from its Health Ministry about vaccine efficacy and booster effects have been floating around recently, leading to a lot of discussion among scientists and consternation on social media, as well as substantial media coverage.

Unfortunately, no raw data, let alone a research paper, was released until weeks after some figures started appearing. That led to scientists squinting at screenshots, trying to reverse engineer graphs. Needless to say, this is less than ideal, not the least because the vaccine and booster data from Israel suffers from confounding. After early reports and charts caused a lot of concern by suggesting the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy may have fallen by as much as 40 percent, an actual preliminary report released weeks later showed that figure was too confounded to be reliable.

In another example, a recent Israeli chart appears to show that a booster shot provides a great deal of protection even a single day after it has been administered — which is essentially impossible. Many things could be going on, including behavior change among those first in line for the booster.

I’ll just ask my doctor if and when to get a booster shot, as he keeps up with this stuff and in fact wrote recently that the universal call for the “third shot” is premature. I’m pretty sure I’ll get the booster, though. What’s the downside (there is one: it deprives poor countries of needed vaccine).

Check out this headline from the Victoria News in Vancouver (click on screenshot).  (h/t Ken)

If you think I’m a duck lover, meet Khim Khiang of Nanaimo, British Columbia. A duck egg he planned to eat hatched an adorable duckliing, and, well, it was all over.

The couple decided to keep the duck and named him Tiny.

“He was so cute,” [wife] Marlow smiles, recalling how the bird would fit in the palm of her hand or perch on top of one her children’s heads.

Kaing woke up at five o’clock every morning to care for Tiny. He would spend three hours with the duckling before work, hand-feeding him a breakfast of bugs on a stick, before allowing him to cuddle near his neck.

“I got to really take care [of him],” Kaing smiles. “[Be] gentle [with him].”

One of the best times with the bird was tub time.

“He was so tiny in the bathtub,” Marlow smiles, before showing video of Kaing leaning over the tub’s edge protectively watching the duckling swim. “But he got bigger! So his bathtub had to get bigger!”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 636,491, an increase of 1,266 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,500,359, an increase of about 10,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 28 includes:

  • 632 – Fatimah, daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, dies, with her cause of death being a controversial topic among the Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims.

The Sunnis hold that Fatimah, beloved of the Prophet, died from grief, while the Shia claim she died after an attack ordered by Abu Bakh, the first Caliph. Just another reason these sects hate each other.

  • 1830 – The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s new Tom Thumb steam locomotive races a horse-drawn car, presaging steam’s role in U.S. railroads.

What the above sentence doesn’t say is that it’s not clear whether the race actually occurred, or who won. One rumor is that the locomotive was way ahead until a belt slipped off, and then the horse won. Here’s a replica of the Tom Thumb, as the original wasn’t preserved:

(from Wikipedia)This image is part of the collection of historic photographs of Baltimore County, Maryland USA owned by the Baltimore County Public Library, Towson Maryland USA.

Here’s that first issue, long before the magazine started circling the drain and emphasizing ideology above science (go have a look at the latest contents).

This was caused by an ejection of mass from the Sun. As Wikipedia notes, “A solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would cause widespread electrical disruptions, blackouts, and damage due to extended outages of the electrical grid. The solar storm of 2012 was of similar magnitude, but it passed Earth’s orbit without striking the planet, missing by nine days.”

Here’s a rare original bottle of “Brad’s Drink”:

Only 14, Till was killed by two white men, supposedly for whistling at one of their wives. (A visitor from Chicago, Till didn’t know the local “rules”.) Below is his mother Mamie at the funeral, which she insisted include an open casket so people could see what the racists did to her boy (you can see a photo here). The two murderers were acquitted and then in 1956 admitted that they’d killed Emmett.

He was a racist git, that old Thurmond, but despite his attempt to sink a voting rights act, it was passed within two hours after his 24-hour filibuster. (By the way, Senate Rules then didn’t allow you to sit down or have bathroom breaks, so Thurmond peed into a bucket.)

This was a big deal to us young folk in college. Chicago wouldn’t issue permits for the antiwar demonstrations, but instead attacked the protestors on orders of Mayor Richard Daley. The protestors, on television, chanted, “The whole world is watching..” Here’s a short documentary. This led to the famous trial of the “Chicago Seven“, arrested for conspiracy and crossing state lines to incite a riot. If you’re my age or so, how many of the Seven can you name? I got five, which isn’t bad. (Five were convicted, the convictions were reversed on appeal, and the government declined to retry them.)

This is an unbelievable case, involving a guy (Wells) force to commit a bank robbery lest the conspirators detonate a bomb strapped around his neck. He robbed the bank, but they set off the bomb and Wells died. Here he is with the bomb around his neck shortly before it went off. (It’s not clear whether he himself was a conspirator and got involved in a way he didn’t want.)


Notables born on this day include:

Seton was the first American to become a saint.

Here’s one of Burne-Jones’s paintings: “The knights and the briar rose“:

  • 1908 – Roger Tory Peterson, American ornithologist and author (d. 1996)
  • 1925 – Donald O’Connor, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 2003)

Here’s a well known scene: O’Connor singing and acting the song “Make ‘Em Laugh”. It is, of course, from the movie “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952). He was a great physical comedian.

  • 1954 – George M. Church, American geneticist, chemist, and engineer
  • 1965 – Shania Twain, Canadian singer-songwriter

Remember this song?

  • 1969 – Sheryl Sandberg, American business executive
  • 1982 – LeAnn Rimes, American singer-songwriter and actress

Those who took the Big Nap on August 28 include:

And what a great park it is!

  • 1955 – Emmett Till, American murder victim (b. 1941)

See above.

  • 2020 – Chadwick Boseman, American actor (b. 1976)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron, sharing MY couch, are just resting. . .

Hili: Are you asleep?
Szaron: No, I’m just pretending.
Hili: Me too.
In Polish:
Hili: Śpisz?
Szaron: Nie, tylko udaję.
Hili: Ja też.

And little Kulka, photogaphed by Andrzej, whose shadow is visible:

I don’t post Far Side cartoons often, as I thought Gary Larson discouraged that, but they seem to be everywhere these days. Given the content of this one, I don’t feel terrible about putting up a rare one:

A Carpe Diem cartoon (artist Niklas Eriksson) sent by Bruce:

From Mark:

Masih tweets about the aftermath of the Kabul suicide bombing (there now seems to have been only one bomber). This is grisly.

From Mark: Chuck E. Dee!

The Auschwitz Memorial tweet of the day:

From Ginger K. The tweet is a week old, but still holds:

From Barry. What this cat wants is bloody obvious:

Tweets from Matthew. First, we see both morphological and behavioral mimicry in a pipefish. Note how it hangs around next to a piece of vegetation:

A remarkably well preserved insect from the Eocene (30-50 million years ago):

Matthew’s starting to edit his next book!