Looking around: implosion and woke Tartuffism edition

There is just too much insanity going on around the world to keep up with, especially with the Clownocratic Residency imploding in front of our eyes.

Biden presidency has lowest Q3 approval rating since WW II. You wouldn’t learn that from the PravdaMedia (can you believe I was blocked from the Jerusalem Post comments section for using that word?)

Reader “Gwendolyn” sent this amazing aerial footage of the chokepoints at the LA and Long Beach ports. No, this isn’t at all a Biden thing, but the Biden misadministration has been completely missing in action, when not actively making things worse. Then

And don’t miss Powerline’s week in pictures, supply chain edition. A taste:

Speaking of thing

Speaking of things imploding: this video by an Indian analyst may be a massive exercise in wishful thinking — I have no idea of her track record — but she claims that communist China is on the verge of a USSR breakup moment thanks to Xi’s disastrous actions.

But then there is woke Tartuffism everywhere. (“Tartuffe”, a.k.a., “The French Puritan”, is a classic of French theater, considered subversive in the 17th century for its theme — the skewering of false piety and sanctimonious hypocrisy. Verily, there is nothing new under the sun.) From the Powerline feed:

I honestly have no idea how that bizarre accident happened — it smells like a setup for a murder mystery in which somebody tampered with the gun to make a homicide look like an accident. [But why would anybody want this poor hapless woman dead?] Turns out, however, people had been walking off the set of the movie owing to long commutes, poor pay and not getting it on time, and dodgy safety on set. [UPDATE: the Daily Telegraph reports that the set armorer was age 24, had never worked on a movie set, and felt queasy about taking on that job. Also, that this wasn’t the first firearms mishap on set. They were too cheap to hire somebody with appropriate experience, I guess ;)]

But wokeness as a smokescreen for worker exploitation? That’s becoming a theme.

Kellogg’s goes woke while workers go broke. (Via Instapundit.)

And Walmart tells overworker, underpaid hourly employees they are guilty of internalized racial superiority.

Finally, intersection of academentia and conspiracy theories so crazy they could come out of Iran: “[Ed Driscoll:] I BLAME THE SPACE LASER: San Francisco State University Prof Says Jewish Pot is Making Black Men Gay.”

Shavua tov/have a good week.

Sabbath musical delight: analysis of “Strawberry Fields” by The Beatles

David Bennett here picks apart his favorite song of all time, “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

Anybody who’s ever tried to play along to this legendary song on the piano will have noticed that you’re either flat when playing in A (with the legendary Mellotron flutes intro in E), or sharp when playing in Bb (intro in F). David Bennett already explained in an earlier video that this happened because the final song was two takes in different keys and tempos spliced together — a fairly sparse, slow band arrangement in A and a faster orchestral version in C, which John Lennon told arranger and producer George Martin to splice together “you’re smart, you’ll figure out how”. Today this would be a piece of cake with ProTools or such; back in the day George Martin’s only option was to manipulate playback speeds of both takes until tempo and pitch met “close enough” somewhere in the middle.

But that isn’t the most interesting aspect of SFF — just one immediately apparent to the amateur musician.

Have a nice weekend and shabbat shalom.

The surname “Polturak”: a linguistic “hoot and a half”

Unlike English, most Germanic languages have a special word for the numeral 3/2, “one and a half”: for example, “anderhalf” in Dutch, “anderthalb” in German, “halvanden” in Danish.

I met somebody the other day whose last name was Polturak: previously I had spotted the last name Polterock in the USA. Mrs. Arbel asked what that last name could mean.

I looked it up in ancestry.com and… it turns out it comes from the Polish and Russian words for “one and a half” (półtora, полтора). Apparently the surname started as a sobriquet for somebody who is very tall and big.

And then my penny dropped. There’s an classic Israeli movie called “Charlie va-chetzi” (Charlie and a half)

Also, the late rav-aluf [=Lt. Gen.] Moshe Levy z”l, 12th Chief of Staff of the IDF, was known to all and sundry by his army nickname “Moshe va-chetzi” (Moses and a half), given to him because of his 6ft 5in [=1.96m] height. And I remember a colleague at [redacted] referring to the phsyicists at their institution as being so full of themselves, “they think they are Eloh-m va-chetzi” (G-d and a half).

Now I’ve heard the character of Sheldon Cooper’s mother in The Big Bang Theory referring to something as “a hoot and a half”, though it’s not a usage I remember encountering.

https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/bigbangtheory/images/9/94/Lego2.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/800?cb=20140308221647

from bigbangtheory.fandom.com

But likely all of these usages have a Slavic origin. [I dove into DeepL, incidentally the best machine translator ever. Aside from Polish and Russian, Lithuanian and Latvian — which is of course are not Slavic language but have been in close contact with Polish and Russian — have pusantro and pusotra. Interestingly enough, unlike Polish, its fellow West Slavic language Czech has no equivalent. Among the South Slavic languages, Slovenian has “poltretji” as an alternate use, but apparently Serbo-Croatian does not.]

If anybody has other examples or a plausible alternative etymology, please leave a comment 🙂

Chopin competition winners announced

After hours and hours… I’d fallen asleep already, then the audio on my iPad came on. There we go.

The head of the jury announced they had had an unusually difficult choice as the level was so exceptionally high. In the end, they awarded eight prizes (two tied prizes among the six).

https://chopin2020.pl/en/news/article/437/the-winner-of-the-18th-chopin-competition!

MAIN PRIZES:

  • 1st Prize – Mr Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada
  • 2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia
  • 2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Kyohei Sorita, Japan
  • 3rd Prize – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
  • 4th Prize ex aequo – Ms Aimi Kobayashi, Japan
  • 4th Prize ex aequo – Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
  • 5th Prize – Ms Leonora Armellini, Italy
  • 6th Prize – Mr “J J” Jun Li Bui, Canada

SPECIAL PRIZES:

  • The Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas – Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
  • The Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
  • The Krystian Zimerman Prize for the best performance of a sonata – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia

[unquote]

A couple of quick notes beforre I go back to bed:

  • The audience really went crazy over Garcia Garcia’s concerto performance, so the special prize was not unexpected.
  • Both Gadjiev and Sorita were favorities in the house this round
  • Armellini said during an interview earlier that outside classical, she liked progressive rock (yes! YES!)
  • During the announcements, Armellini and Gadjiev showed pretty blatant PSAs 🙂 Romance can blossom at competitions…

ADDENDUM after I woke up: remaning finalists, were, of course (alphabetical order)

  • Eva Gevorgyan (Russia/Armenia)
  • Hyuk Lee (South Korea)
  • Kamil Pacholec (Poland)
  • Hao Rao (China)

The Special Prize for the Best Performance of a Sonata was not awarded this year.

A series of “extra-statutory” prizes will also be awarded, albeit (more or less?) automatically:

  • Youngest Finalist (I believe that would be Gevorgyan)
  • Highest-Rated Polish pianist who did not make the final (that would be Szymon Nehring, who I still believe should have been a finalist)
  • Two Special Prizes for the highest-rated Polish pianist (that would be Kuszlik)
  • Hamamatsu City Prize for the winner (Liu) [Hamamatsu, Japan’s “City of Music”, is where Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai all have their headquarters]
  • “The Henryk Rewkiewicz Prize for the highly-rated pianist representing Poland, Belarus, Israel, Lithuania, Ukraine or Russia”, This time around, that would again be Kuszlik, as nobody from Belarus etc. placed higher.

 

CORRECTION 22 October, from the ceremony:
The youngest finalist is “”J. J.” (Jun Li) Bui, not Gevorgyan

Highest-Rated Polish pianist who did not make the final: went to Piotr Alexewicz. (We both liked his playing a lot, but I still don’t get why Nehring didn’t make the finals.) 

Eva Gevorgyan was given a special prize for the youngest female finalist.

 

 

 

A small victory for common sense at U. of Michigan

While checking Norman Lebrecht’s “Slipped Disc” blog for comments on the Chopin Piano Competition finals (winners are to be announced 90 min. from now), I stumbled upon this item

Apparently, one Bright Sheng, the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished Prrofessor for Composition, had been suspended as an undergraduate instructor for the following heinous, heinous crime!

You see, he had shown a 1965 movie production of Shakespeare’s Othello in class, featuring Sir Laurence Olivier in the title role. Olivier was nothing if not meticulous in adhering to the Bard’s portrayals of his characters, and presented his role as a Moorish general from North Africa in the Venetian army in… blackface.

This caused some students to derp about “being triggered” and “violating safe spaces”, and when Bright Sheng published an apology letter, they demanded his suspension. The spineless (and possibly sympathetic) administration, instead of using the letter in the manner of composer Max Reger[*], rolled over for them (what’s in a name? The dean’s name means ‘vulture’ in Dutch, or ‘liquid manure’.)

The FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) came to the professor’s aid. But surprisingly (or not), a letter in his defense by the “International Youth and Students for Social Equality at the University of Michigan” was posted on the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). You see, some old-school hard lefties are not much more enamored of “the New Irrationalism” (as I remember them calling the nascent postmodernist movement, back in my student days) of the “Woke Left” than I am, and sometimes this creates unexpected ad hoc alliances. An excerpt from the letter as reproduced on Norman Lebrecht’s blog:

Just hours ago, however, Slipped Disc posted an update, according to which Prof. Sheng has just been informed by U. of Michigan that he has been exonerated and is free to resume teaching.

One small victory for common sense against the Tartuffian neo-Stalinistsneo-Maoists. Allow me to quote from the Grace After Meals (birkat ha-mazon):

Ye-yimtza chen ve-seichel tov be`einei El-him ve-adam.

(And grace and good sense shall be found in the eyes of G-d and humanity.)

Amen.

[*] The German organist and neo-Baroque composer Max Reger once wrote a letter to a music critic who had panned his latest work: “I am in the smallest room of the house. I have before me your review. Soon it will be behind me.”

COVID19 micro-update, October 19, 2021: Israel exiting delta wave?

[Continuing to be crazy-busy here, and of course lots of non-COVID news — a brief local sitrep follows below]

First the bad news: we crossed the line of 8,000 dead of COVID, not “with” COVID. That’s the equivalent of almost 300,000 on a US-sized population. Yes, it could have been much worse — but that is, of course, cold comfort to those affected.

Now the good news: it increasingly looks like the worst is over. According to the Ministry of Health Dashboard, updated at 17:40, our severe COVID19 cases are now down to just 354, less than half what we had at the peak of the delta wave. When we put the number of daily new severe cases in 3-month perspective, we’re looking at less than a quarter of peak:

Daily deaths are now down to single digits for some days running now. At the peak of this wave, we had around thirty a day; our peak day in the alpha wave, January 24, we had 76 dead.

Severe cases are a lagging indicator, deaths even more so. Moreover, as beds in COVID19 wards increasingly free up, the population gradually becomes dominated by long-term cases. A source: “Nearly all the severe COVID beds at [redacted] are unvaccinated in their 40s and 50s now. Because of their youngish age, they tend to eventually make it, but they stay in the ward for weeks.”

Over the past four weeks, four vaccinated people under the age of 60 succumbed to the virus, and another four who died had been vaccinated more than six months earlier, compared with 46 unvaccinated people who died. 

https://www.jpost.com/health-and-wellness/coronavirus/covid-israel-passes-8000-deaths-what-do-we-know-about-them-682482

For new confirmed cases, it is a much starker picture. (The green line is a 7-day moving average.)

Percentage of positive tests:

The reproductive number dropped below 1 a month ago and has been at or below 0.8 since September 15.

Yesterday, we had 1,486 new positive cases. The age distribution below (averaged over the last month) speaks for itself though (left=female, right=male):

Yes, 55.8% of new cases are under age 20. New cases in the most vulnerable (60+) age group are just 4.7% of the total. (Vaccination in that age bracket is close to 90%, with booster shots just short of 80%. In the “general sector”, i.e., neither the “Arab sector” nor the “ultra-Orthodox sector”, the percentages are still higher.)

In our towns and communities “traffic lights” system, only six “red” lights are left, one of them a Beduin tribe, three others Arab or Beduin villages, the final two Jewish settlements in the disputed territories (“West Bank”).

We must not cry victory prematurely. But this is ahead of the most optimistic projections I had seen in an internal report. And remember: we didn’t lock down, and only applied very limited restrictions. The booster shot campaign (our medical system was the first to report the drop in antibodies and to implement a booster campaign) may not have been necessary for everyone, but they definitely made a difference in the most vulnerable age groups.

Hospital staff are breathing a sigh of relief, as they were dreading going into a “double whammy” winter (seasonal respiratory diseases + COVID).

What percentage of the population has “natural immunity”? Unlike most countries, we have always treated recovery from documented COVID infection as equivalent to double vaccination. About 13.7% in the “general sector” are such “machlimim” (recoverees), compared to a whopping 31% of the chareidi/”ultra-Orthodox” sector.

Now could we be needing a fourth shot? We’ve apparently stockpiled them just in case, but there are several 3-shot regimes in local use already:

[Hebrew U. and Hadassah Hospital virologist, Prof. Rivka Abulafia-Lapid] gave the example of the human papillomavirus vaccine, which is given in Israel at birth, at two months and at six months; the hepatitis B vaccine, which is given at birth, one month and six months; and the rotavirus vaccine, which is given at two months, four months and 18 months. In each of these cases the third shot confers long-lasting protection, she said.

[…] “My estimate is that once we have three vaccines, protection will last for a year,” said Abulafia-Lapid, a senior doctor at Hadassah Medical Center and part of the Hebrew University’s faculty. “There should be good memory in the body for around a year that can fight off COVID infection in many cases.”

And, are you listening, Biden puppeteers? We have no vaccination mandate (not even for medical staff). In fact, I am certain we would have had lower vaccination rates with a vaccination rate. Leaving aside that such a mandate is almost certainly unconstitutional, from a pragmatic viewpoint it is classic verschlimmbesseren (priceless German word for “making things worse by ‘improving’ them).

Also, the HMO staff and IDF medics on reserve duty who are doing the jabbing are clearly under strict instructions to screen for possible immune overreactions, and if people get a non-routine reaction to the first shot, the second is not “pushed” on them.

But as Jordan Peterson was saying in one segment of his talk the other day, the response to COVID (once the initial shock and uncertainty wore off ) has taken on aspects of religion for some people, not of pragmatic crisis management. COVID will go away one day, or (most likely) dwindle to one of many seasonal respiratory ailments. Normalizing a Chinese-style approach will cause long-term damage to democracy and the rule of law.

If you’re only going to watch one Jordan Peterson video, this is the one

A wide-ranging one-hour interview with the (UK) Daily Telegraph

When society forgets its moral values nihilism and terror reign. The internationally best-selling author and clinical psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson joins Steven Edginton to discuss the moral crisis facing the West, how people become radicalised and what is filling the void religion once held within society. Watch the full interview above or listen on your podcast app.

Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, daß er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.

Whoever is fighting monsters should beware that they not thus become monsters [themselves]. And when you stare for long into an abyss, the abyss also stares at you.

Friederich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good And Evil” (Jenseits von Guten und Bösen)

Apple M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max: today’s M1 Macbook Pro release

I don’t discuss computer tech a whole lot here, perhaps since it’s so large a part of my day job. I’ve been an Apple user for well over three decades: I can deal with Linux just fine (big part of my day job), but simply am much more productive on a Mac than on a Linux system. As historically, Hebrew [and right-to-left languages generally] were poorly supported if at all under Mac OS, Israel is nearly 100% Windows outside STEM academia and the “creative” professions — this has changed in recent years though, as Unicode has eliminated the issue. (I could work on a Windows machine for about 15 minutes before I get irresistible defenestration urges.)

As I used to travel a lot before lockdown, my main work machine was always a maxed-out desktop replacement laptop that I would use with one or two external monitors at work. I got the present one, a 16″ Macbook Pro with an octacore CPU, shortly before the first lockdown. I loved the machine, but I never ceased to be amazed how it dissipated so much heat — especially with a 4K external display — that the fans were running full speed all the time. And katy bar the door if I dare shut off the air conditioning. (OK, running my office cold helps me stay focused.)

Then I got an early M1 to try out, about a year ago. I was skeptical — what, Apple is now putting souped-up cell phone CPUs in their laptops? — but was blown away once I actually started using it. A machine that has half the memory and cost one-third of my “Yamaha CS-80 beast” laptop can handle the same workload with one hand tied behind its back? And yes, I can still hear the fans if I shut off the A/C (I have very keen hearing), but they are running so slowly that I really have to pay attention.

And yes, I have been getting increasingly annoyed at Apple for combining sanctimonious virtue signaling with kowtowing to the CCP regime (lately, by removing religious scripture apps from the Chinese app store). Unfortunately, all major tech companies Hoover in that regard nowadays. And Mr. Garrisoner, Tim Cook, whatever his supply chain skillset, simply isn’t Steve Jobs where it comes to “the vision thing”.

But this new Apple Silicon is, well, something else — probably the most truly innovative thing Apple has done in many years. Custom-built for them by TSMC in Taiwan (the world’s largest fabber), this system-on-a-chip applies everything they’ve learned building iPhone and iPad CPUs to create an architecture that simply rewrites the rules of the game. Intel, as much as it pains me to say, simply has nothing that comes even close in the same thermal envelope. Coworkers with M1 MBPs tell me they don’t bother bringing their power bricks anymore, as they know their laptops can run all day without running the battery dry.

Intel (and AMD, which itself outsourced production to TSMC years ago) can still give Apple a run for their money in HPC servers — but that wasn’t a market segment Apple was still active in anymore.

So today I tuned in to Apple’s “Unleashed” presentation for the new Macbook Pros. CNET below summarizes it. M1 with four performance and four efficiency cores, eight graphics cores, and up to 16GB integrated memory, is now joined by the new M1 Pro and M1 Max CPUs: both eight performance and two efficiency cores, 16 to 32 graphics cores, and up to 32GB (Pro) or 64GB (Max) integrated memory. Both are now available in new 14″ and 16″ laptops — yes,, if you so desire, you can get the Max in the 14″ form factor or “just” the Pro in the 16″ form factor. The new XDR screen raises the bar too — I’m not sure I need XDR for what I do, and I often work on multiple external displays, but I’m sure video editors will appreciate it.

They also posted an “explainer” of the new architecture, which turns out to be just Johny Sruji’s own presentation at the apple event.

Imagine, if somebody were building a HPC system for simulations (earthquake, weather forecast, CFD aerodynamics, drug discovery,…) and they could get their grubby hands on a few hundred of these and put them in their own customized enclosures (with redundant power supplies etc.)… You could drastically save on cooling bills, space, or both, and still be ahead in performance.

Sadly, that will never happen — although count on AMD and even Intel to come with copycat designs quite soon…

ADDENDUM: in the “come on, Apple” department: you finally upgraded your webcam to 1080p (from, ugh, 720p)?

And good on finally getting religion and returning at least a built-in HDMI and bringing back MagSafe — but (I know the laptop is too thin for a port on the machine itself) why not put an Ethernet port on the power brick the way y’all do it for the new iMac 24? Boo, Apple, boo.

18th Chopin competition: the finalists

The Chopin competition for piano takes places every five years in Warsaw. Such household names in the classical music world as Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson, Maurizio Pollini, and Krystian Zimerman won this competition at a young ageand used it as a jumpoff point for their burgeoning careers.

Last year was supposed to have been the 18th edition, but because of COVID it only took place now. I have been following the proceedings, streaming via YouTube (I habitually listen to music while working). This year was an absolute bumper crop, and I don’t envy the jury having to make picks. (They start off with a preselection of about 160 performers, from which about 80 (this year: 87) are admitted to the first round, winnowed down by half in each of the three following selections until 10-12 finalists remain.)

By the time you arrive at the third round, basically everybody who remains is concert grade. The Piano League has a complete list of all 87 first-round competitors, with YouTube links to all their performances in the first and any further rounds they qualified for. Boldfaced are the twelve finalists.

  1. Leonora Armellini, Italy (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  2. J J Jun Li Bui, Canada (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  3. Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  4. Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round |Third Round)
  5. Eva Gevorgyan, Russia/Armenia (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  6. Aimi Kobayashi, Japan (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  7. Jakub Kuszlik, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  8. Hyuk Lee, South Korea (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  9. Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round |Third Round)
  10. Kamil Pacholec, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  11. Hao Rao, China (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  12. Kyohei Sorita, Japan (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)

Mrs. Arbel really, really liked Gadjiev — whom I agree has a certain “extra”. She wasn’t too keen on “piano bench girl” Aimi Kobayashi, who during the 1st round spent several minutes futzing with her piano chair before starting to play. Look, the classical music world has room for eccentrics like the late lamented Glenn Gould — but geniuses like him come around how often? Once in a decade? (Still, conductor Fritz Reiner supposedly once offered to adjust the height of Gould’s piano bench by slicing one-eighth of an inch off Gould’s rear end.) Anyway, her highly idiosyncratic, but clearly well-thought out reading of the complete Preludes kind-of won me over.

Leonora Armellini wowed me the first two rounds, less so the third, but still made it to the finals. Mrs. wasn’t so keen on Garcia, but perhaps because I am not a classical purist, I was warmer to him.

Of our favorites who didn’t make the cut:


Hayato “Cateen” Sumino, Japan (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round) — possibly he was a bridge too far for such a staid contest. He is an engineer and composer, and (gasp!) engages in crossover musical activities. Perhaps he might become another Vikingur Olafsson — who also would be a poor fit for this contest.


Szymon Nehring, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round) — previously winner of the Arthur Rubinstein competition in our hometown. This was a puzzling decision not just to me, as the angry comments at Norman Lebrecht’s “Slipped Disc” illustrate: on the other hand, there were many excellent “Polish School” pianists among the competitors, and some painful decisions were sure to have been needed.

Young Piotr Alexewicz, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round) was another “Polish school” pianist I liked who didn’t make it. I really liked his performance of the complete Preludes.

18-year old Avery Gagliano from our old hometown (Dallas) — winner of the US Chopin competition — did not shine in the 3rd round the way she did in the first two.


Nikolay Khozyainov, Russia (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round). Both Mrs. Arbel and I were enamored by this performance: why this didn’t make it to the finals, G-d knows. On 2nd playback, I may have caught a couple of clinkers, but I thought the passion and projection of his playing made up.

It’s not like the contest is free of controversy: in 1980 (?), the eccentric performance of Ivo Pogorelic prompted a fierce debate in the jury, with some threatening to resign if he was allowed to pass to the finals, and Martha Argerich actually resigning under loud protest when he was not allowed. (Full rules are also online at the official contest website: in particular, no juror is allowed to vote on their own students.)

However, this round the contest has committed itself, in the name of transparency, to release all the individual juror marks and comments publicly following the end of the contest.

All in all, there is wonderful musicianship on display here — and all of it can be accessed for free on YouTube from anywhere in the world!

Sabbath musical delight: Chopin, Variations on “Là ci darem la mano”, Op. 2

In keeping with the theme of the 18th Chopin Competition for Piano (all of which is live-streamed on YouTube), I am posting here an early work that is less well-known, but that had none other than Robert Schumann exclaim, “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!”

The repertoire for the various rounds in the Chopin competition follows a tabular roster: one or more pieces from each column in the table, for a total of about 40 minutes in the second round, one hours in the third round. (Yesterday somebody played the entire set of 24 preludes.) This set of variations on an aria in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” was one of the pieces in the second round.

Below is a video with a scrolling score, first of a solo piano performance, then with orchestral accompaniment.

Enjoy, have a nice weekend, and shabbat shalom

PS: was Chopin a French or a Polish composer? Answer: yes 🙂 It wasn’t just that Chopin was a Polish refugee in France for the second half of his life (1831-1849) and wrote most of his creative output there; his father Nicolas Chopin was a Frenchman from the Vosges region, who worked as a French tutor and later as a French teacher at the Warsaw Lyceum. (In those days, French was considered the language of culture among both the Polish and the Russian elite, and natively French-speaking teachers — or, for that matter, French governesses — were in some demand.)

The scene from a Chopin biopic I saw as a young boy, which has young Chopin being asked to play for Russian guests and answering “I won’t play for the butchers of the Tsar” appears to be a complete invention. In fact, he performed for Tsar Alexander I (who happened to be visiting Warsaw in so-called “Congress Poland”, a Russian puppet state dissolved in 1867 when they annexed Poland outright); the Tsar gave him a diamond ring as a token of appreciation.

What actually happened is that in November 1830[*], the then already famous pianist had set out on an open-ended concert tour. The same month, the November Uprising of the Poles against the Russians broke out. When that was finally crushed and Poland lost whatever autonomy it had left, Chopin decided not to return and instead joined the already sizable Polish diaspora in Paris, a fascinating subject about which I will blog another time.

[*] The year 1830 saw several other revolutions. First, the overthrow of the Restauration Bourbon regime in France and its replacement by the roi bourgeois (“burgher king”) Louis Philippe. Second, with French and English support, the Belgians ousted their Dutch occupiers and established an independent Kingdom of Belgium that exists to this day. Third, the very peaceful, orderly “Ustertag” protests in various Swiss cantons set in motion a process (1830-1848) that transformed the old Swiss Confederation into the Swiss federal state as we know it now.

Looking around: possible coup against Chairman Xi?; How “Let’s Go Brandon” went viral; Vaccine mandate kabuki theater

(1) I don’t know if this is wishful thinking or for real, but this (Indian?) vlogger claims that not only is: (a) Xi Jinping embroiled in a factional struggle with a Shanghai-centered faction who long for a return to the reformism of Jiang Zemin, and away from Xi[nnie the Pooh]’s neo-Maoism; but (b) the struggle has escalated into attempted assassination.

Again, viewer beware, but considering the mounting disasters for the regime both domestic and foreign, I would not be totally surprised if there were something to this. And if he feels desperate enough, he might just try to flee forward into a “short victorious war” for, say, the “unification of China” — hoping that patriotic favor may rally the people behind him…

(2) I was a little puzzled by “Let’s Go, Brandon” stickers and chant, since spectator sports aren’t my thing in general (not just NASCAR). So I may have been the last person to understand it was a bowdlerization of “F*** Joe Biden”. (This is about as opaque as calling someboy a “berk”, short for “Berkeley Hunt”, itself Cockney rhyming slang for “c*nt”. I’d have expected a clearer obfuscation like “Buck Joe Fiden”.) Bill Whittle below highlights the exact incident where this started, with an MSM reporter at a NASCAR race interviewing a driver named Brandon Brown trying to laughably gaslight viewers that clearly audible “F*** Joe Biden” chants were actually “Let’s go, Brandon!”. BIll speaks of “the gaslight exploding”.

(3) And speaking of the total Mierdas Touch of what I call the Biden bubatron [puppet theater], in pretty much everything it touches, Robert Spencer points out that, Biden bubatron posturing aside, no actual vaccine mandate has ever been issued, since the regime is aware that it almost certainly won’t stand up in court. So instead they create the illusion that there is one, to gaslight into compliance with a, pardon the expression, “Schrödinger’s Mandate”.

I’ve made my own position crystal clear, I believe, but let me reiterate: I’m 110% pro-vaccination, but I am against coercion as I believe it will both be counterproductive and wreak long-term damage to the rule of law that will long outlast this pandemic.

Captain Kirk goes boldly where no 90-year old has gone before

Full coverage on space.com Seriously, this is incredibly moving to me.

Below I have embedded a short YouTube excerpt from the full video on space.com: Captain Kirk gets emotional after Blue Origin space flight.

It was only 11 minutes, to the von Kármán line (100 km above sea level) and back, but it will still put William Shatner in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest person ever to fly in space.

Here is a CNet “supercut” video of the whole event:

Instapundit cannot resist quoting a friend contrasting how articulate the 90-year old actor sounds compared to, well, the 78-year old “President John Gill” of the Mierdas Touch.

What happened to Friedrich Paulus after Stalingrad?

While doing a chore that engaged my hands rather than my eyes and ears, I saw a documentary from MDR[*] about the life of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus post-Stalingrad, and particularly his role in the postwar GDR (or DDR in German).

It’s all in German, and some of the people interviewed speak in a heavy Saxon dialect that I have trouble understanding. So I briefly went down a few rabbit holes.

First of all, there is no “von Paulus”, contrary to how some older English-language sources would have it. Paulus, like his polar opposite Erwin Rommel, was of middle-class origins rather than a Prussian Junker (literally: Squire; idiomatically: scion of a noble family with a military tradition).

Second, unbelievable as this may sound, Paulus had never commanded anything bigger than a battalion in the field prior to the Sixth Army! He had extensive experience (and stellar evaluations) in staff positions, up to and including 1st Quartermaster-General under Franz Halder, but his appointment surprised many for that reason. The outgoing Sixth Army commander, Field Marshal von Reichenau, was wearing a ‘second hat’ as commander of Army Group South, wanted to be relieved of the more junior position, and had recommended his onetime chief of staff for it. In the end, Reichenau got a severe stroke (while running outside in -40 degrees!) and died on the plane that took him to the hospital in Berlin. Field Marshal Fedor von Bock (uncle of anti-Hitler conspiracy kingpin Henning von Tresckow, his First Staff Officer) was switched from Army Group Center to South, and replaced in turn by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge (Tresckow stayed on).

Third, Paulus appears to have had a sense of decency. His predecessor Reichenau had been a fanatical National Socialist[**] who issued the utterly criminal and contemptible Severity Order: Paulus’s first act in office was to countermand these and similar orders.

Fourth, aside from his unwillingness to disobey direct orders from the Führer [y”sh] to hold Stalingrad at all cost, his decision to hold on to the last appears to have been motivated in large part by concern that, without the Sixth Army to tie down huge Soviet forces at Stalingrad, the entire Army Group might collapse, and with that potentially the entire Eastern Front.

His soldiers paid a terrible price for this decision. Of the 110,000 or so who eventually surrendered, only about 5 (five) percent would survive their POW experience. This wasn’t just due to mistreatment by the Red Army, but in large part due to the long siege with woefully inadequate supply from the air having depleted whatever reserves these men had left (and would sorely need to survive what was ahead).

Five, Paulus (and other generals) emphatically were not subject to these privations. You could almost say they got red carpet treatment, paired with trying to recruit them as collaborators. (With some success: One of Paulus’s former subordinates, General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach set up a “League of German Officers”.) Paulus rebuffed these overtures until after the July 20, 1944 Valkyrie Plot: as per the documentary, he knew many of the participants personally and held them in esteem. German Wikipedia (caveat lector) claims that on October 30, 1944 he even proposed to Stalin [y”sh] that he would raise and command a German volunteer army from among POWs; Stalin never answered, presumably due to the lack of enthusiasm among the POWs.

Six, Paulus agreed to testify at Nuremberg for the prosecution, but the Soviets reneged on their promise of allowing him to meet his wife and surviving son and daughter (the one son had fallen at Anzio). He was kept a prisoner until after Stalin’s death. (His family had been placed in Sippenhaft, “kin imprisonment”, by the Third Reich after Valkyrie: his wife never recovered from her imprisonment, and died in 1949.)

Seven, after Stalin’s death, Paulus was allowed to move to Dresden in the German “Democratic Republic” : he was welcomed by his former staff officer Wilhelm Adam, who had meanwhile become a politician for the NDPD, one of the communist SED’s satellite parties (its “pet German nationalists”, if you like). Paulus was assigned a luxurious villa outside the ravaged city, with a staff of servants (at least some of whom were Stasi spies, assigned to keep tabs on “Terrasse”, the code name the Stasi gave to Paulus). He was allowed to import a West German car (an Opel Kapitän) and to keep a Walther PPK pistol. His official position was as the head of the War History Research Council at the KVP (Kasernierte Volkspolizei, Garrisoned People’s Police, the predecessor of the East German Army).

The goal of the East German regime was to counteract West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s turn toward the US bloc (including thwarting remilitarization to what would become the Bundeswehr), and they appear to have been hoping Paulus would be useful to these aims.

He engaged in political and public activity (including organizing “All-German Officer Meetings” between wartime comrades now living on both sides of the Iron Curtain), and appears to have believed (in what with hindsight seems absurd naiveté for an officer of Paulus’s intelligence) that a reunification of Germany as a neutral state was possible.

After the second meeting, the DDR pulled the plug on the initiative. Paulus himself was forced to withdraw from further public activity by the ALS (a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig Disease”) that eventually would claim his life on February 1, 1957 — ironically, almost exactly on the fourteenth anniversary of the capitulation at Stalingrad.

Who needs Greek tragedies when you have real-life stories like this…

[*] Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, “Central German TV” — historically, former East Germany used to be the middle part of the country, the eastern part being Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia.

[**] While senior officers with the nobiliary “von” in their name were, on the whole, more likely to subscribe to old-school military values, and the anti-Hitler conspiracy in the Army was almost a “band of vons”, there were prominent exceptions to the rule.

France: Eric Zemmour, challenger for Macron?

Douglas Murray, writing in the Daily Telegraph, seems to think so (paywalled):

[…]This time, however, it seems possible that the Le Pen family’s disastrous hold on a portion of the French Right may finally be slipping. An alternative has emerged. The author and commentator Eric Zemmour has not even announced his candidacy yet. But already the polls show that if he does run, he will effectively kill off Marine Le Pen as a serious candidate.

Zemmour at the 2012 Paris Book Fair
Eric Zemmour (from Wikipedia)

Polls show her support falling by more than 10 per cent in only a few months, while other candidates of the French centre-Right languish far behind her. Were Zemmour to run, it looks possible that he could go through to the final round as the candidate to stand off against President Macron. That is assuming that Macron himself manages to make it through. Here, certainly, would be a revolution.

Zemmour himself is not well known to English readers. Some of his views would be considered seriously radical in British politics. But in France he is a phenomenon. The Jewish son of French-Algerian parents, he spent most of his career as a respected mainstream writer on politics. Then in the past decade or more, he suddenly became a pariah among everyone except a significant proportion of the French public.

In a string of books, notably Le Suicide Francais (2014), Zemmour has sought to shatter the consensus of the Parisian intellectual and journalistic class. He wrote about subjects that the public cared about deeply, but which were skated around by France’s intellectual elite. Quite something, given that France’s intellectual class is infinitely braver than our own (to the extent that we [=the British] have one).

French intellectuals and writers have not shied away from the troubling questions of mass immigration, Islamism and more. But it was Zemmour who said many things that the public had not previously dared. He called for halts on immigration, controversially lamented the demographic alteration of the French population, and called for direct measures to counter these changes.

His books have sold in their hundreds of thousands. But the price he paid was among his peers. Only recently he lost his job presenting a popular television show for reasons spuriously invented and applied solely to him. He has frequently been taken to court for “hate speech”. Other journalists call him every predictable name. Yet with each assault Zemmour has not just survived but grown.

Today he is a celebrity in France. Paris Match recently put him on their front cover because of a photo snatched of him in the sea bathing with his attractive young female assistant. It is a scenario unimaginable in Britain. To even approximate it you would have to imagine Mary Beard papped on the front of Hello magazine with a new squeeze, while considering a run for No 10.

So can Zemmour do it? The polls currently suggest that he could. Macron’s ratings have slumped, and though it is likely he will make the final round of the presidential election it is not certain that he will. […] andd by not yet announcing, Zemmour is playing a clever media game of his own. If he did run, he would have to at least consider creating a serious party structure beneath him. Yet that is what Macron did after coming from nowhere before the last election.

All that is certain is that if Zemmour even made it through, it would be a political earthquake. Not just in France but across Europe. The EU has survived in recent decades on a technocratic class that occasionally registers deep public concerns, but does little or nothing to address them.

Zemmour does not follow in that tradition. With his dislike of the European Union, hatred of the status quo and belief that France can reassert itself as a sovereign power, the French public may go to the polls next time with a chance for serious change. Whether they vote for it, or accept it if they do, will of course be another matter entirely.

PS: Closer to the USA, this essay by Joel Kotkin in Newsweek is a must-read (via Instapundit): The New Face Of Autocracy

The real question when it comes to big tech is not the one posed by Haugen’s testimony—whether Facebook and the other tech platforms allow “misinformation” or “hate speech” on their platforms; her testimony instead conveniently missed the real problem: that a handful of mega-firms are now controlling content for much of the population.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults now get their news through social media sites like Facebook or from Google.This is even more true among millennials, soon to be the nation’s largest voting bloc. And tech oligarchs have further expanded their domain by purchasing much of what is left of the mainstream media, including the New Republic, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and the long-distressed Time Magazine .

And contrary to what Haugen and the Senate seem to believe, the biggest problem with having the flow of information so tightly concentrated in the hands of so few is not that it allows posts from hate groups or divisive political operatives or skinny teenagers. It’s that a tiny handful of oligarchs are dictating what is knowable, or what views are valid.[…]

The technocratic future is already upon us. And it has little need for the labor of the lower classes—or the messiness of democracy. These same people have amassed the power to control and disseminate information far more subtly and efficiently than Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin.

Given their power and influence in both parties, the current congressional kabuki show will likely change nothing. The tech oligarchs may take a well-publicized slap on their wrists, but the political class seems unlikely to break up Facebook, confiscate Jeff Bezos‘ bank account, or seek to force the ideals of legitimate free speech on technocrats who rarely fret over such 18th Century concerns.

We now stand on the edge of becoming a society akin to China, where the central authority determines truth and what can be legitimately debated. The prospect of a duopoly of oligarchs and the federal apparat acting together present arguably the most profound challenge to the future of traditional democratic debate.

Go read the whole long (and depressing) thing.

Apple’s “Foundation” series: a multimillion dollar moustache on Isaac Asimov’s Mona Lisa

I absolutely devoured the original Foundation Trilogy when I first discovered the three novels at age ten (in Dutch translation), and actually own a first edition of the Doubleday single-volume trilogy (which I picked up for a song and a dance at a used book store).

This won a well-deserved “Best All-Time Series” Hugo award in 1966 (back in the day when the Hugo hadn’t become the Yugo Award yet).

Astonishingly, this was originally written and published as a series of short stories in Astounding, after Asimov pitched to his editor John F. Campbell the idea of writing a kind-of “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” set in a future Galactic Empire. The basic premise: “psychohistorian” Hari Seldon predicts that the Empire will collapse, and humanity will pass through 30,000 years of Dark Ages. However, if a storehouse of all human knowledge can be kept on a safe planet, the Dark Ages can be shortened to a “mere” 1,000 years before the emergence of a Second Empire. The Emperor (or rather, the powers behind the throne) agrees to the creation of this “Foundation”, and this is where the ball starts rolling with twists and turns, and some wild cards thrown in.

The plot is typical Asimov: so strong and sweeping that the readers overlooks the at best perfunctory characterization. Some aspects of the novels are dated: nobody had ever used the word “computer” for an actual device yet, for instance, and it shows. So there is a certain “retro-avant” quality to the books as one rereads them.

So when Apple announced they would release an TV serial of the books on Apple+, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, this was long overdue; on the other hand, I expected them to make a pig’s breakfast of it. But who knows: they might surprise me.

Alas, no. Robert A. Heinlein once described feedback from his editor with (I think) Putnam as “they think it’s swell tomato juice that should only be peed in to make it better”. Judging from the end product, Apple+ took this as a howto manual rather than satire.

Millions of dollars, splendid CGI graphics, a quite lavish score… and completely bastardizing the story, throwing in voracious bug-eyed monsters on Terminus [the Foundation’s home base]; a cloned line of dictatorial emperors that’s completely at odds with the books; and of course all sorts of male characters had to be replaced by women of color. (Never mind that two main story arcs in Books 2 and 3 have a female protagonist to begin with.) And sex — I don’t mind sexuality at all if it has a function in the plot, but it felt contrived here (the original books were pretty much G-rated, Asimov’s later sequels less so).

Apple+’s “Foundation” is the antithesis of Star Trek:The Original Series. ST:TOS was produced on a shoestring budget with special effects worthy of a high school theater production —  but became a classic because the technical limitations forced the producers to put the plots front and center (numerous episodes were written by established scifi authors). Here we have enormous resources being thrown at, well, painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

Apple+ has borne fruit… and it’s a horse apple.

Sabbath musical delight: livestream of 18th International Chopin Competition, 2nd round

I was planning to post something about how much of a staple secondary dominants (i.e., V chords relative to chords other than the I/tonic) are in the pop and musical songwriter’s arsenal (from Abba to the Beatles to Queen to…) but this is way better.

The International Chopin Competition in Warsaw is getting live-streamed on YouTube this year. Past livestreams are archived on the channel and can be played back —- you don’t have to tune in live. And while I probably would attend in person if I were in or near Warsaw for work at this time, I really appreciate being able to attend “virtually”, and doubly so that this is all offered for free.

Enjoy, have a nice weekend, and shabbat shalom!

Stranger than fiction: the life of Beate Uhse, the female WW II pilot who became a pioneering “adult” entrepreneur

Going down WW II rabbit holes in search of minor characters in my alt-hist series, I keep running into stories too fantastic for fiction.

Beate Uhse (later Beate Rothermund-Uhse, 1919-2001) was born October 25, 1919 as Beate Köstlin on a large farm outside Cranz, East Prussia (today Selenogradsk in the Russian exclave around Kaliningrad/Königsberg). Her father was a gentleman farmer, her mother a physician — one of the first five women in Germany to graduate as an MD. She was a tomboy growing up, engaging in sailing and other sports, and at age 15 became regional champion in javelin throwing for Hessia. At age 16 she spent a year in England as an au-pair to improve her English.

She had meanwhile gotten the “flying bug” and eventually, in 1937, wore down her father and was allowed to take flying lessons, getting her license at age 18. As she was clearly a natural flyer, she then proceeded to an advanced license, then to aerobatics training. She indeed flew as a stunt double in German movies, in part because she was short enough to “hide” from the camera in front of the actor, flying the plane while he pretended to do so.

She won, or showed among the first three, in several flying contests: on one occasion she placed second after Dr. Melitta Schiller (later Melitta Gräfin von Stauffenberg, sister-in-law of the Operation Valkyrie protagonist). [As Melitta is a secondary character in Operation Flash, this is how I bumped into Beate.]

Her instructor, Hans-Jürgen Uhse, kept proposing marriage and she eventually agreed. The couple had one son; the father was killed in a mid-air crash in 1944. [She would later remarry and have two more children with her second husband.]

During the later part of the war, she would ferry planes (Messerschmidt 109 and 110, Focke-Wulf 190, and Junkers 87 “Stuka” dive bombers[*]), from aircraft factories to Luftwaffe airfields; eventually she was given the Luftwaffe rank of Hauptmann [Captain, literally “Head Man”]. She came repeatedly under Allied attack, but always escaped thanks to her aerobatic skills. She even was checked out on the Me-262 jet fighter near the end of the war.

During the Battle of Berlin, she escaped at the controls of a small passenger plane, and eventually ended up in Flensburg on the Danish border. There she settled with her young son after a brief stay as a POW of the British army.

Unable to make a living flying under Allied occupation, she turned to black market sales of agricultural products. While making deliveries to her customers, she heard her fellow women unburden: husbands would come home from POW camps, they would eagerly become intimate, and… nine months later would be faced with trying to raise a baby in a half-bombed-out Germany. She quickly compiled a brochure about birth control — particularly what is known as “the rhythm method” in the USA and as the Ogino-Knaus method (or “periodic abstinence”) in Europe — and sold it for 50 pfennig (half a Mark). In short order, she sold tens of thousands, and used the money as starting capital for a mail-order business focusing on “marital health” books and products. Within two years, she needed 14 employees.

In 1962 she started her first “brick and mortar” store, still in Flensburg. By the time I regularly flew into and through Germany for work, you could see her “adult” stores at airports and large train stations. I did not bother to check what was inside, but I know Germans are nearly as up-front about such matters as the Dutch, so I can imagine.

Still, she got a lot of early pushback from the more socially conservative segments of Flensburg society: a total of 2,000 (!) complaints were filed against her for “incitement to indecency”, but as ought to be clear from her very unconventional wartime experiences, she had about the fear levels of a Jack Russell Terrier (i.e., none). When a tennis club blackballed her because of her “questionable morals” she simply started her own club.

In 1970, she sponsored the “Love And Peace Festival” on the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn — notable particularly to Jimi Hendrix fans as the last festival where he performed. [**]

She kept flying into old age: if you don’t understand German, you can still get some idea from the images in this brief documentary clip by the NDR TV channel, “the entrepreneur Beate Uhse”.


A German documentary quotes her as saying the only thing she liked better than love-making was flying. Of course, she bought a private plane the moment she could afford to, and kept flying into old age. At age 75, characteristically, she took up scuba diving.

Having survived cancer, she died in 2001 of complications of pneumonia. As per her last will, there was no memorial service, but a public celebration with country music [UPDATE: yes, the American kind] and meatballs.

Say what you will of her, but she was undeniably a “character”.

[*] “Stuka” is a German-style acronym for STUrzKAmpfflugzeug, dive fighter plane

[**] Jimi Hendrix performed live one more time, on September 16, 1970, at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, where he guest-jammed for two songs with War, the new band of erstwhile The Animals frontman Eric Burdon.

Type XXI U-boats: inspiration for postwar US submarines

[Part 2 of my submarines post from yesterday.]

During World War II, submarines of all belligerents were really more submersibles: they had reasonably high surface speed (say, about 18 knots) on diesel engines, and could go underwater at really low speeds, for comparatively short intervals until they needed to surface to run their diesels and recharge their batteries.

The Dutch O-19, O for onderzeeboot or submarine [cf. German Unterseeboot or U-boat], and its sister ship O-20 were the first to use a snorkel to allow running the diesel at periscope depth.)

Faced with ever-better Allied aerial overwatch, German U-boat command at first adopted the snorkel, but an engineer named Helmut Walter wanted to go much further: design a boat from the ground up for primarily underwater. His original plan for a hydrogen peroxide drive (“Walter-Antrieb”) proved fraught with too many practical obstacles, so a more familiar diesel-electric drive was adopted instead: the boat was powered by four electrical engines (two high-powered ones for ordinary use, two quiet and low-powered ones for silent running) off a very large battery array, which was charged by a diesel engine. Also, the hull design was optimized for better hydrodynamics when fully submerged.

Bureaucratic infighting and technical problems caused major delays for this Elektroboot, then material shortages and Allied bombing aggravated them. Type XXI was meant to be assembled from nine separately built segments (the conning tower plus eight hull segments): in practice, this process worked poorly, and the giant bunker for the final assembly was destroyed by a bombing raid with Grand Slams (10-ton bunker busters dropped from specially modified Avro Lancasters).

In the end, of the 130 hulls commissioned, only four ever reached operational status, and that near the end of the war when it was way too late for them to have any impact. One was the U-2540, later redesignated as the civilian research sub Wilhelm Bauer (named after the German inventor of the modern submarine), today a museum ship at the naval museum in Bremerhaven.

In Allied postwar evaluation, they found many teething troubles and construction flaws, but the fundamental principles found adoption, particularly eagerly so with the US GUPPY (Great Underwater Propulsion Power program) and the Tang-class submarines. Later, of course, Captain [and future Admiral] Hyman Rickover would take this to the next level by replacing the diesel with a nuclear reactor in USS Nautilus… The rest is history…

Here is a walkthrough with still pictures. And here is a video walkthrough:

Life aboard a WW II era US submarine: USS Pampanito and Silversides,

[Too busy today for a long-form blog post: so here is something from my writing background stash.]
Here are video tours about two WW II-era US subs: the USS Pampanito (with some comments from surviving crew members)

and the US’s top-scoring sub in the Pacific theater, the USS Silversides

These boats had about twice the tonnage of the Kriegsmarine’s Type VII submarines (such as the U-96, known to every war movie buff from the landmark movie Das Boot), so there were some more creature comforts:

  • instead of one bunk for every two sailors (“hot-bunking” in two 12-hour shifts), there were two bunks for every three sailors (three 8-hour shifts)
  • there was a somewhat spacious wardroom for the ratings, plus a small one for the officers
  • there were three tiny officers’s cabins: one for the captain with a small writing desk and chair as well as a bunk, another for the two watch officers, a third for three additional officers

And not just creature comforts:

  • the engine room on the USS Silversides was spacious enough for a small lathe, which allowed machining replacements for broken parts
  • with six torpedo tubes in the bow and four in the stern, the boat packed twice the firepower of a Type VII C (four bow, one stern)

For contrast, here is a tour of the U-995 (a surviving Type VII C); after the war, it served in the Norwegian navy until 1965, then has been a museum ship ever since. [The U-505 in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is a somewhat larger Type IX.]

COVID19 update, October 4, 2021: is molnupiravir a game changer?; Accidental intravenous injection and myocarditis; brief Israel update

(1) There have been a number of attempts to repurpose existing antiviral drugs, such as the Tamiflu competitor Avigan (favipiravir, developed in Japan by a subsidiary of FUJI). Eventually, these didn’t pan out.

Until now. Dr. Campbell thinks molnupiravir, developed by Merck, may be a game changer

Summarizing the release from Merck: with interim analysis of their Phase 3 study: patients were recruited among those who tested positive or had mild COVID, and had at least one risk factor. (There is no point in giving an antiviral to somebody with severe COVID, since at that point your enemy #1 is a destructive immune response, no longer the virus.)

Of 385 people who got the drug, 28 required hospitalization and none died.

Of the 377 in the control group who got a placebo, 53 required hospitalization and eight died.

As a result, Merck has stopped the trial so they can give the drug to everybody, and they are preparing an application to the FDA for an Emergency Use Authorization.

Skeptical as I am of “science by press release”, this one just might be the real deal.

(2) Inadvertent intravenous injection. Older nurses and doctors were still taught, when giving an intramuscular injection, to draw back a little on the plunger after sticking in the needle. If the liquid entering the syringe is clear, you can safely inject; if you draw blood, you’ve hit a blood vessel: pull out, change the needle, and jab elsewhere.

They’ve stopped teaching this in nursing school some time ago. Yet Dr. Campbell (a retired nursing school instructor) explains that even when jabbing in the deltoid or the buttocks, this may lead to an inadvertent intravenous injection once every several thousand jabs.

Now could this cause complications? A research team showed that it does happen in mice.

Li, C.; Chen, Y.; Zhao, Y.; Lung, D. C.; Ye, Z.; Song, W.; Liu, F.-F.; Cai, J.-P.; Wong, W.-M.; Yip, C. C.-Y.; et al. Intravenous Injection of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) MRNA Vaccine Can Induce Acute Myopericarditis in Mouse Model. Clin. Infect. Dis. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciab707

They injected three groups of mice: intramuscular (IM) with mRNA vaccine, deliberate intravenous (IV) injection with mRNA vaccine, and intravenous (IV) with saline (as the control group). Guess what? No myocarditis in the IM and control groups; “bingo” in the IV group.

Conclusions

This study provided in vivo evidence that inadvertent intravenous injection of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines may induce myopericarditis. Brief withdrawal of syringe plunger to exclude blood aspiration may be one possible way to reduce such risk.

Dr. Campbell however thinks this is not specific to mRNA vaccines and may also apply to viral vector vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, etc.)

(3) Meanwhile in Israel, according to data from the Ministry of Health dashboard: I’ve been hesitant about posting data due to all the holidays affecting testing, but that season is now behind us, and it looks like we’re finally past the hump in every respect. Total severe cases have dropped to 528, of which 391 unvaccinated, 98 without boosters, and 33 with boosters. (Not clear what is the status of the remaining six: recovered and re-infected?) If comparing incidence per 100K people age 60+ in each status group, the ratios become truly lopsided: 142.1:28.7:2.3 (two). Yes, vaccinated+booster are about sixty times less likely (142.1/2.3=61.8) to be infected than unvaccinated.

About half the vaccinated population overall got boosters (3.5 out of 6.1 million), which is probably well above that of eligible people (younger people got vaccinated later and won’t become eligible until the next two months). In the most vulnerable 60+ age brackets, it’s more like 80% coverage:

blue=booster, light green=two doses, dark green=only one dose

What’s more, the epidemic propagation coefficient R has been at or below 0.75 for the past week. New hospital admissions, percentage of tests that come out positive, etc. are all down. The municipal “traffic lights” classification for the 280 largest municipalities is plotted here as a function of time: the graph speaks for itself. My own Tel-Aviv suburb went from “red” to “green” by degrees.

NB: day.month format for dates.