Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31: World No-Tobacco Day or the Birthday of Genghis Khan

You decide.

The United Nations World Health Organization decreed May 31 as World No Tobacco Day in 1987 (not to be confused with the Great American Smokeout, which falls this year on November 15). Both observances promote a healthier, tobacco-free lifestyle. The American Cancer Society, the sponsor of the Great American Smokeout, says it wants a world with less cancer and more birthdays. And who can argue with that?

But, I don't know... sometimes I get tired of being scolded, even when it's for my own good. Maybe especially when it's for my own good.

So please allow me to suggest, in the alternative, that today is also the birthday of Genghis Khan.

Indeed, today is the 850th anniversary of Genghis Khan's birth; he was born in 1162.

The empire founded by Genghis Khan stretched across Asia and into Europe; his descendants conquered China; and, according to this 2010 post on the Discover Magazine website, one in every 200 men alive today is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. He's not quite the father of us all -- but he apparently tried to be.

Happy Birthday, Genghis Khan

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And, now, for something completely different

I'll bet you thought I was going to say that today is Monty Python Day, didn't you?

But it's not. My crack research department just advised me that May 10 may have been Monty Python Day -- and we all might have enjoyed that more than National Shrimp Day -- but, then, that just gives us something to look forward to together in May 2013, doesn't it?

No, the something different today is a change in tone. This week, we've had the solemnity of Memorial Day and the cosmic consequences of the Fall of Constantinople on End of the Middle Ages Day.

It's gotten too heavy around here.

That's why today we celebrate My Bucket's Got A Hole In It Day, a day honoring a kids' song.  Remember?

There's a hole in the bucket,
Dear Liza, dear Liza
There's a hole in the bucket,
Dear Liza, there's a hole.

Then fix it, dear Henry,
Dear Henry, dear Henry
Then fix it, dear Henry,
Dear Henry, fix it.

You're not seriously interested in the rest of the lyrics, are you?  If you insist, click the Read More button.  But don't blame me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Today we note the passing of the Middle Ages

Mental Floss and several other Internet sources claim that today is End of the Middle Ages Day. Several sources even explain why: On May 29, 1453, Constantinople (nee Byzantium), the city reconstituted by the Emperor Constantine as the New Rome -- the capital of a Roman Empire that, over the centuries, largely withered away around it -- fell to the Ottoman Turks.

According to Wikipedia's account, after taking the city, Sultan Mehmed II styled himself "Kayser-i Rum, literally 'Caesar of Rome.'" The Sultan's Wikipedia biography notes that there were Byzantine royals in his family tree. His predecessor, Orhan I had married a Byzantine princess and Mehmed himself claimed descent from the nephew of a Byzantine emperor (a nephew who had tried, and failed to overthrow his uncle). All families have problems.

But if Mehmed had a blood claim to imperial succession, Wikipedia reassures us that his "claim was not recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople, or Christian Europe."

One of the reasons why historians claim that the Middle Ages ended with the fall of Constantinople is that many well-educated Christians fleeing the Turks went west, most of them to Italy, sparking a revival of classical scholarship that came to be called the Renaissance.

Another reason, of course, is that Turks hiked tolls for goods -- spices, silks, and other fripperies -- passing from the Mystic East across their new domains to luxury-craving Europe. The price increases spurred some in Western Europe to begin thinking about possible alternative shipping routes. The Portuguese started sailing down the coast of Africa; the Spanish began gazing out across the Atlantic....

In thinking about the end of the Middle Ages, here's a possible musical selection for the jukebox tonight -- "It's the End of the World" by R.E.M:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day: Remember

Yes, today is the unofficial first day of summer, and a day off for most Americans. Fire up the barbecue. Pools and beaches traditionally open today in the Midwest.

But we have the day off for a reason... and I hope you will remember that reason, the more than one million Americans who have given up their lives for their country, at some point in your revels today.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in the aftermath of America's Civil War. Promoted by the Union Army veterans organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, the original date of Memorial Day (May 30) was chosen because (somehow) there'd been no major battle on that day. (Memorial Day became a Monday holiday in 1968.)

The American flag is run all the way up to the peak this morning, then immediately lowered to half-staff, as in the picture above, until noon. The flag is returned to full-staff thereafter.

A very informative (and profusely illustrated) Memorial Day post was put up last year by someone posting as "Jiggs" on the blog "Pictures in Time." (The image used here was taken from that linked post.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27 is National Grape Popsicle Day

Honestly, some "special" days seem more of a stretch than others.

Today certainly seems like one of the stretchier ones -- and yet, if you run "National Grape Popsicle Day" through your favorite Internet search engine, you will find multiple references to such an observance and unanimous accord that today is the day for same.

What you won't find -- and we know this because the crack research staff at The Blog of Days has frittered away, er, spent many otherwise productive minutes investigating these very questions -- is any explanation as to why today is specifically devoted to grape popsicles. We can tell you, however, that the popsicle was invented in 1905 by an 11-year old kid, Frank Epperson, in what amounts to a happy accident. Although today might make more sense if the first one was grape-flavored, history apparently does not record the flavor of that first cross between soda water and icicle. We can tell you that -- common usage notwithstanding -- Popsicle is should be rendered with a capital "P," at least when referring to the specific Popsicle brand of frozen treat.

Also uncertain is why today would be called "National" Grape Popsicle Day. Is Grape Popsicle Day celebrated on different days around the world -- next Tuesday in Uzbekistan, perhaps? Today is Mother's Day in Bolivia -- it was Mother's Day yesterday in Poland -- but we didn't call May 13 "National Mother's Day" in America. Do you suppose that -- just maybe -- with some of these micro-mini-holiday-ettes, the word "National" is popped on the beginning to make the day (at least arguably) seem more important? Solving this mystery is a long-term objective of our crack research staff -- but, so far, our investigation has not yielded any tangible results.

And lastly, while we're confessing our research failures, our investigation also failed to discover the identity of the person responsible for putting jokes that even six-year olds find corny on popsicle sticks. Of course, one can readily understand why this person would want to remain anonymous....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

June is the month for brides... and so much more

With May winding down, you're beginning to think about how you will celebrate each and every day in June.

I'll have a suggestion or two, of course, on how to celebrate each and every day -- that's what we're here for -- but, just in case you're taking the long view -- looking for some information about the entire month -- read on.

June is Potty Training Awareness Month. Good luck with that.

Our crack research staff found some support for the idea that June is National Pest Control Month -- but opinion is not unanimous on this; there is also some suggestion online that April is National Pest Management Month. The Blog of Days can not take sides in this conflict -- but we can report, with confidence, that June really is Fight The Filthy Fly Month. We can even tell you that June earns this distinction because it contains the feast day of St. Leufredus (on June 21), an 8th Century French monk, who is the saint to whom to pray when tormented by flies. According to Saints Preserve Us!: Everything You Need to Know About Every Saint You'll Ever Need, by Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers, when pesky flies bothered the good man during his prayers, Leufredus "banished those insects forever from his house."

June is also National Migraine Awareness Month. I thought that anybody with a migraine couldn't help but notice, in June or any other month. I hope this is wrong, but maybe in June migraines hurt more?

The National Safety Council declares June to be National Safety Month, "an annual observance to educate and influence behaviors around the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths." Preventable deaths are often tragic, but deaths can't be wholly prevented -- not indefinitely.

If you like turkey, June is for you: It's Turkey Lovers Month. And if you'd like an ice tea with that turkey sandwich, June is the month for you: It's also National Iced Tea Month.

(That apparently explains why The Tea Association of the USA is plugging the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas on June 4 and 5.)

You can find all sorts of strange month-long observances in June with a quick web search. I'll just leave you with two more.

June is World Naked Bike Ride Month -- but only in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, your local Naked Bike Ride will take place in March -- and for the same reason. If it's cold, who wants to peddle naked? Many American cities, including Chicago, will have their rides on Saturday June 9.

You may think that's pretty silly -- but I think I can top it: June is also National Goat Trauma Awareness Month.

Now I realize that you're probably inclined to believe everything you see on the Internet -- after all, everything here is true, right? -- but testimonials like this one on the National Goat Trauma Foundation website make me just a teensy bit suspicious:
"I thought that the goats were out to get me. People called me paranoid, but since attending one of the CGTF's workshops, I know I'm right. Goats ARE out to get me! And now I can protect myself!"
I might even go so far as to say (please forgive me) BAH humbug!

Whatever you choose to celebrate, get ready: In a few days, June will be bustin' out all over.

Bob Day or Sorry Day on May 26? Your choice

Your choice depends, I suppose, on whether you are a Bob or know anyone named Bob.

The crack research staff at The Blog of Days has been exhaustively researching the origin of "Bob Day" and how, out of all the 365 days in the year, Bob Day came to be fixed on the 26th of May. Entire minutes, even tens of minutes, have been devoted to this project -- and with no satisfactory results.

"Bob" is a good, friendly, even folksy name. "Bob" is a good name for a kids' baseball coach. "Good Neighbor Bob" sounds just about right in a way that "Good Neighbor Aloysius" does not.

(By the way, if your name is Aloysius, I mean no offense. But you may want to talk to your parents about why they did that to you.)

But the veteran research staff here could find no explanation as to how Bob Day got situated on the calendar today. Perhaps Bobs, being inoffensive, regular guys, chose today because there wasn't a whole lot else going on today and they figured no one would really mind.

What is the competition for Bob Day, you ask? Well, in Australia, today is "Sorry Day," or, more pompously, the National Day of Healing. Today, apparently, is a day set aside by the descendants of European settlers to feel bad about what their ancestors did to the Aborigines. (In America, we don't have anything similar. We've set up our surviving aboriginal peoples with casinos instead, and they're using them to reconquer America, one cup of nickels at a time....)

You could celebrate Sorry Day, I suppose, but you'd better hurry. By the time this posts (just after midnight in Chicago) it will already be late afternoon in Sydney.

If neither of these options is sufficient, allow me to remind you that today is the birthday of Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. That's Dr. Ride at left, on board Challenger during her first space mission, STS-7, in 1983. (Ride rode Challenger into orbit again, in 1984, as part of the crew of STS-41-G.)

Dr. Ride (she holds a PhD in physics from Stanford) retired from the astronaut corps in 1987. Among other things, she spends time now encouraging girls to go into technical fields, including engineering.

Dr. Ride's achievements and her ambitions are both worth celebrating today.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25: National Tap Dance Day

Wikipedia claims that National Tap Dance Day is established by federal law, but that may be stretching things just a bit. Instead it appears that, in 1989, the 101st Congress did adopt Senate Joint Resolution 53.

But the inspiration for National Tap Dance Day, or at least the inspiration for declaring today to be National Tap Dance Day, is that today is also the anniversary of the birth of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Are we not amused by National Escargot Day?

I told you yesterday that today is National Escargot Day.

But if your response to that was, "We are not amused," then perhaps you will be pleased instead to learn that today is also the anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria -- or, as her friends called her, "Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India."

Two grandsons, Kaiser Wilhelm II and George V, would be on opposite sides in World War I. A granddaughter, Alexandra, was married to Czar Nicholas II. Every family has problems.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is this week moving at a snail's pace? No surprise: It's Turtle Day today, Escargot Day tomorrow

Today is World Turtle Day. Oh, sure, the pretext here is that we should care for turtles and tortoises and support those who protect their fragile habitats -- and there's nothing wrong with that.

But tomorrow is Escargot Day. Some people might argue that Escargot Day is really meant to encourage folks to eat snails, not because the week before a holiday always seems to take f...o...r...e...v...e...r.

But, consider: Turtle Day... Escargot Day... on consecutive days in the week before Memorial Day? Coincidence? I think not. Will that three day weekend never arrive?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22 is Buy a Musical Instrument Day

Buy everyone in the office a kazoo -- only don't be surprised if you're asked to leave your local tavern immediately after the accounting department breaks into an impromptu concert.

Some people just hate music.

By the way, Buy a Musical Instrument Day is different from Toot Your Own Horn Day. The latter is celebrated every day on LinkedIn.

Monday, May 21, 2012

National Waiter and Waitress Day today

TO: Blog of Days Readers

FROM: The Narrator

Today is National Waiter and Waitress Day. If you're here looking for a suggestion about what to celebrate tonight, this is a no-brainer: Go to your favorite local joint and tip even more than usual. Tell you server why.

Oh, sure, there is an alternative. Today is also Memo Day. No, I don't know why either. But that explains the format of today's post.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Coming attractions -- week of May 20

Memorial Day is coming, and Memorial Day is the unoffical beginning of the summer vacation season. It should therefore come as no surprise that this week you can observe National Safe Boating Week (May 19 to May 25) or Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week (May 21 to 27).

The coming summer also explains National Backyard Games Week (May 21 to 28).

The connection between National Medical Transcriptionist Week and Memorial Day is less obvious... and probably non-existent.

But if you don't like the suggestions for any of the individual days this week, you can always celebrate one of these.

May 20 is "Be a Millionaire Day"

Which is just peachy.

But where does one find directions on how to get one's own million with which to participate?

Let me save you the trouble of futile web searching: If you look, you will find helpful advice like... save money or watch your expenses. Imagine. Here's a news flash: If watching your expenses will help you be a millionaire, you already are.

But, even without your own million, maybe you can participate today by pretending. Dreams are free. That, indeed, may be the whole idea.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19 is "Plant Something Day"

Preferably not the relative you visited yesterday.

No, today, is a day to get out in the garden and exercise that green thumb. Put some flowers in the good, clean dirt. Plant those tomatoes you won't be able to give away when they all ripen at once -- in everyone else's garden too.

Get back to the land all morning long.

Then deal with your allergies and sciatica all afternoon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Today is "Visit Your Relatives Day"

May 18 is Visit Your Relatives Day.

I know this because I looked on the Internet and the Internet is never wrong.

The idea is you should pay a call on some relation that you think about from time to time but never actually go see.

I'd suggest, however, that you call first.

Otherwise you might find that they're not home.

Even if they are.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17 is Pack Rat Day. Forget about that. Celebrate Cool Papa Bell instead.

Unless you find something to sell on Antiques Roadshow, what can you get from being a pack rat anyway?

And, if you are a true pack rat, you'd never consider selling in the first place.

The truth is, those of us with cluttered desks or cubicles may be comfortable enough in our nests (God Bless this Mess) but we don't aspire to continue making bigger and bigger messes until we can be booked for Hoarding: Buried Alive.

May I suggest a much better alternative? May 17 is the birthday of James "Cool Papa" Bell, one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

No less an expert than Satchel Paige said that Bell was so fast he could turn off a light switch, then hop into bed and pull up the covers before the room got dark. In his autobiography, Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, Paige wrote, "If Cool Papa had known about colleges or if colleges had known about Cool Papa, Jesse Owens would have looked like he was walking." A favorite Paige story about Bell went something like this, "Let me tell you about Cool Papa Bell. One time, he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his rear end as he slid into second."

Cool Papa Bell's baseball career was just about over by the time Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey steamrolled the so-called gentleman's agreement that kept African Americans out of major league baseball, but Bell lived long enough to see himself enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

So, tonight, stop off for a quick one on the way home in honor of Cool Papa Bell.

A quick one. Get it?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16 is National Sea Monkey Day

Kids of a certain age (50+, I think) will remember ads like this one for sea monkeys in all the best comic books. Instant life! For only a dollar!

Like a lot of kids, I somehow got hold of a sea monkey kit from somewhere, and mixed up my batch in breathless anticipation. I can't remember exactly how I got hold of it. I've suppressed that memory.

But I remember what happened to the sea monkeys.

Pretty much... nothing. To me, it looked mostly like cloudy water. Maybe there were some dots moving in the water. Maybe. If so, they didn't move not for long.

And yet today is celebrated, in some quarters, as National Sea Monkey Day. If you're so inclined, celebrate the first time you were scammed out of a hard-earned dollar.

I'd suggest not ordering a weiss beer as part of your celebration. The cloudy liquid may bring back unhappy associations.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Peace Officers Memorial Day

An honor guard at the Chicago Police Memorial Wall.

May 15 is National Peace Officers Memorial Day. First observed in 1962, today is set aside to honor all those who have served in law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, particularly those who have paid the ultimate price for their service.

These men and women are forever remembered at National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Law enforcement officers from all over the nation are gathering in Washington this week for ceremonies honoring their fallen or disabled comrades.

A picture of Chicago's memorial is also presented here because Chicago's delegation to the nationwide event this year will, of necessity, be smaller this week, possibly consisting of retirees only. The NATO Summit is coming to Chicago this weekend, and all hands are needed here on deck to get the city ready.

The men and women remembered on both of these walls would have understood that duty must come first.

Today in particular, remember any policemen among your family and friends. Maybe even say "thanks."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dance like a chicken -- it's May 14

No, you're not at a wedding, and it's way too early for Oktoberfest, but today is Dance Like a Chicken Day. Even Mental Floss says so.

And this is going to be in your head all day now, too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It's Mother's Day -- why aren't you celebrating with her?

Well, if you're like Anna Marie Jarvis, the woman who, more than anyone, made Mother's Day into a holiday in the first place, you might object to the over-commercialization of the observance. From the Wikipedia article on Mother's Day in the United States, "Commercialization of the U.S. holiday began very early, and only nine years after the first official Mother's Day had became so rampant that Mother's Day founder Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become, spending all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration." So... you could tell Mom you're not buying her a gift or even a card in protest of the 'commercialization' of the day, just like Anna Marie Jarvis. You wretch. But if there is no Mom in your life, perhaps you can celebrate Leprechaun Day today (it is that, too, you know) and, indeed, if there is no Mom in your life, your probably are a leprechaun. Or some other dubious creature.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Florence Nightingale or limericks: Choose wisely

I'd mentioned earlier this week that today would be the culmination of National Nurses' Week -- Florence Nightingale's Birthday.

But you may feel that you've sufficiently honored the nursing profession this week already.

For those feeling this way, I can offer National Limerick Day as an alternative.

National Limerick Day is celebrated on May 12 because today happens to be the birthday of Edward Lear, an English poet who popularized the limerick in works such as A Book of Nonsense. (He was also the author of The Owl and the Pussycat.) Today, in fact, happens to be Lear's bicentennial: He was born on this date in 1812.

Of course, there are those, like this unknown critic, who do not think very highly of limericks as an art form:

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
In space that is quite economical.

But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean

And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

If you know anyone who takes this attitude, it would probably be best not to recite any of the more pungent variations on the "girl from Nantucket," even today.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Have you celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week yet?

Today is the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week -- and, if you know any teachers, it's definitely a perfect day to take them out for a cold one to celebrate the completion of still another week dealing with the miserable little bastards, er, fine, upstanding youth of America.

And, as I told you last week, World Teachers' Day is still October 5.

But why wait so long?

If you're some sort of anti-intellectual Philistine and accordingly opposed to buying a round for your local educators, today is also National Twilight Zone Day. I thought about featuring this -- but I couldn't find a clue on the Internet as to why today is National Twilight Zone Day. Maybe next year....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Today is National Shrimp Day -- have a little fun

OK, sorry, sizeist jokes are out of order on The Blog of Days.

No, actually, in this context, "shrimp" refers to the small, edible crustacean.

And shrimp cocktails, if you can find a place that serves 'em, go very well with other kinds of cocktails.

National Shrimp Day (the image with this piece was taken from the linked site) should not be confused with National Shrimp Scampi Day. (That was April 29. Did you miss it?)

May 10 is also National Clean Up Your Room Day (see also, here and here lest you think I'm making this stuff up). Though no doubt necessary in many cases, National Clean Up Your Room Day does not sound like much of an excuse for an after-work outing.

So enjoy National Shrimp Day, and don't leave a shrimpy tip, you old crab.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 9: National Lost Sock Memorial Day

Mental Floss is a tremendous website, an online attic filled with strange and wonderful treasures, such as this recent list of obscure holidays in May.

From that list we get today's excuse for a celebration: National Lost Sock Memorial Day.

This strikes me as a holiday of particular import to scientists generally, and physicists in particular. Physicists posit that as much as 25% of the mass of the Universe is made of "dark matter," a so-far-only-hypothetical substance that has to be inserted in order to make their equations work.

The problem with hypothetical substances is that hard-headed skeptics question whether there really is any validity to the dark matter hypothesis or whether the equations themselves need to be rethought.

And, yet, the problem can be solved by looking in every basement, laundry room, or laundromat. Socks go into the washer. Some disappear there. The survivors go into the dryer. More vanish from there.

Where do they go?

I suggest that when physicists fully explore this problem they may well be finally able to prove that dark matter isn't hypothetical after all. Rather, dark matter is cotton and nylon and rayon and sometimes wool. It's not just "dark" either; some of the dark matter may turn out to be argyle.

Even if you're not a physicist, you too can celebrate National Lost Sock Memorial Day: Who hasn't lost a sock or two in the week's laundry? And, tonight, at your local, if you're looking for appropriate musical accompaniment, you can sing along with Bing Crosby and Louis Jordan, here performing that immortal classic, "Your Socks Don't Match."

Lost Sock Day logo obtained here; YouTube video obtained here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 8 is V-E Day

Today is as easy as yesterday was difficult: It's the 67th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, the day on which the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany is commemorated. This surely provides adequate cause for celebration.

There's a new book to read this year about V-E Day, too. Ed Kennedy's War: V-E Day, Censorship & The Associated Press is the posthumous memoir of the senior Associated Press correspondent who broke the story of Germany's surrender to a grateful Western world -- and got fired on account of it.

The release of the book has generated a number of stories about Kennedy's scoop (e.g., AP, Huffington Post, Newsday). Basically, Kennedy was one of 17 correspondents flown in to witness the German surrender on May 7, 1945 at 2:41am in a schoolhouse in Reims, France.

All the journalists were warned that news of the surrender would be embargoed until Allied Headquarters authorized the release. The reporters figured it would be a matter of just a few hours, even minutes -- good news is meant to be shared -- but, eventually, the Allies decided to try and keep the lid on for 36 hours,


Our gallant Soviet ally wanted its own surrender ceremony; they planned theirs for Berlin. The wartime alliance was already crumbling into the Cold War, but top American and British military commanders were anxious not to contribute to the faster deterioration of the relationship.

Kennedy went along with the embargo until he heard an announcement, made at 2:03pm on May 8, by the Germans, from Flensburg, a city already in Allied hands (meaning that the broadcast had to be approved by the Allied military censors). When Kennedy learned of that announcement, he went to the chief American censor and appealed for the right to break the story. Permission was refused.

Kennedy found an unmonitored military phone and called London anyway. The story was on the AP wires within minutes and political authorities got on board with the good news. Meanwhile, in Moscow, "Uncle Joe" Stalin was not pleased.

In the surrender instrument, the Germans were required to cease hostilities by 11:01 pm on May 8. The need for some delay is understandable -- word has to be given to commanders in the field -- and the collapsing Nazi armies were no longer the model of Germanic efficiency that they may once have been. But the sooner combatants knew that the shooting is supposed to stop, the sooner people would stop dying. Getting the word out about the surrender was, in that sense, a matter of life and death; holding up the news so that the Russians could stage their own photo-op was therefore not a great idea, and, in a sense, downright cruel.

The AP has now apologized to Kennedy's family (Kennedy died in 1963).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Nursing you through the problem of May 7

Today presents a problem. If you're casting about for some pretext to go out for a cold one with the gang from the office, Mondays often pose a problem, at least during the NFL offseason.

The list of single day observances is particularly short today.

Wikipedia tells us today is National Masturbation Day.


Somehow I just don't see this as something you want to mention when you try and sidle up to the cute new girl in bookkeeping. If it works out for you, I'm happy for you both.

You'll pardon me, though, if I don't offer to shake hands.

For everyone else, I suggest that today is the second day of National Nurses Week, celebrated every year from May 6 through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale.

May 12 is also International Nurses Day -- and, no, that's not just coincidental.

If you are a nurse, or have nurses in the family, or would like to meet nurses, perhaps you can observe both today and Saturday. That's up to you.

If, however, you'd rather wait to celebrate nursing until Flo's birthday -- today marks the beginning of Children's Book Week, billed as "the longest-running literacy initiative in the country." Below you'll see the poster for this year's CBW, designed by children's book illustrator David Wiesner.

Maybe you can make it a quick stop tonight, then hurry home and read your kid Green Eggs and Ham.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Today is International No Diet Day. Have a donut.

No, seriously, you could look it up. It's not just college kids hijacking Wikipedia, it's a real, by-gosh day established in 1992 by Briton Mary Evans Young, Director of the group Diet Breakers.

Wikipedia says that today the day to celebrate "body acceptance and body shape diversity," a day "dedicated to promoting a healthy life style and raise awareness of the dangers and futility of dieting."

So... Happy International No Diet Day. See you at brunch.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Yes, but do you know what Cinco de Mayo is really all about?

You don't need The Blog of Days to clue you in on Cinco de Mayo celebrations, certainly not in the United States or Mexico.

But -- hey you! -- Mr. and Ms. Average American? Do you have any clue why you're quaffing Coronas today?

I didn't think so.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (and, no, kids, the Mexicans do not celebrate the Fourth of July on Cinco de Mayo -- or even September 16, which is the real Mexican Independence Day).

Stay with me for just a moment: On May 5, 1862 an outnumbered Mexican army repulsed invading French forces outside the city of city of Puebla. The city was defended by two forts, Loreto and Guadalupe, Ft. Guadalupe being the stronger of the two. French General Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Comte de Lorencez, misinformed as to the strength of the defending garrison (under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza), ordered an uphill frontal assault against Ft. Guadalupe. While Lorencez was thus engaged against Zaragoza, his flank was turned by a Mexican cavalry column under the command of Brigadier General Porfirio Díaz.

The French were forced to fall back to the coast and await reinforcements.

Reinforcements came and the French then steamrolled the Mexicans and installed a puppet emperor. (The United States, being then engaged in a great civil war, was unavailable, at that point, to remind the French of the Monroe Doctrine.) So on Cinco de Mayo, the French lost a battle -- but they later won the war.

They just didn't win it for very long.

Eventually, the American Civil War ended and the American government began supporting President Benito Juárez. Édouard Manet's painting (above) shows what happened to the puppet emperor, Maximilian I, in 1867.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May the fourth be with you!

Yes, today is unofficial Star Wars Day -- or, as it is also known, Luke Skywalker Day (probably among those who would rather forget that Episodes I, II and III were ever made).

Try not to laugh (or groan at this one). Or, better still, try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3: Celebrate World Press Freedom Day

The United Nations officially designates today as World Press Freedom Day, which seems just a touch ironic, given the high esteem and regard in which journalists are held throughout so much of the world.

Of course newspapers and newspaper reporters haven't always been so popular in the United States either. General William Tecumseh Sherman once said, "If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast." He wanted to hang reporters as spies from time to time, and he was not the only general who felt that way. But they weren't always right.

But this discussion is contrary to the spirit of the occasion. Instead, to get in the mood for today's celebration, how about renting or buying Humphrey Bogart's 1952 classic, Deadline USA? I found a small snippet of the finale on YouTube which I present herewith in the good faith belief that, in context, this is a fair use:

The speech by Ed Hutcheson (Bogart's character) captures the essence of World Press Freedom Day:
It's not just me anymore. You'd have to stop every newspaper in the country now and you're not big enough for the job. People like you have tried it before -- with bullets, prison, censorship -- but as long as even one newspaper will print the truth, you're finished.
That speech always mists me up some.

If you can't find Deadline USA for rent or sale today, consider watching the 1948 film noir, Call Northside 777, with Jimmy Stewart as a crusading Chicago reporter -- a Chicago movie that was actually filmed largely in Chicago.

If you'd prefer lighter fare, you can't go wrong with the 1940 screwball comedy, His Girl Friday, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. His Girl Friday was a remake of the 1931 movie, The Front Page, with Pat O'Brien in the Rosalind Russell role. If you don't know these movies, you'll scratch your head for awhile over that one. The Front Page was originally a play, written by two Chicago newspapermen... but this is The Blog of Days, not cinema appreciation class.

So raise a glass today to all the ink-stained wretches, an increasingly endangered species. To the Fourth Estate!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's Teacher's Day in Bhutan and Iran

Kind of rhymes, doesn't it?

But the two holidays have different origins. In Iran, Teacher's Day commemorates the assassination of Ayatollah Murtaza Motahhari, a key follower of Ayatollah Khomeini's at the time of the 1979 Revolution. He was Chairman of the Council of Revolution of Iran at the time of his murder.

In the Himalayan nation of Bhutan, Teacher's Day is observed on May 2 to honor the Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who established a number of schools in that nation.

If you're out carousing tonight with a teacher or two and you want to look really smart, ask if they know of anyone who died today (besides Osama bin Laden)?

I'll give you three -- you can look up any others on your own:

Leonardo da Vinci

Former Wisc. Sen. Joe McCarthy

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

Of course, this close to Loyalty Day, you may want to be careful what you say about either McCarthy or Hoover....

If you're planning ahead, World Teachers' Day is October 5.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1 is also "Loyalty Day" in the USA

Today, May Day, was originally supposed to be the international workers' holiday commemorating the Haymarket Square Massacre right here in Chicago, Illinois in 1886.

But things changed when Messrs. Lenin, Stalin, et al., created the original Workers' Paradise.

If you're of a certain age, you probably think of May Day as the scary day on which the Soviet Union reviewed its latest military hardware. Western intelligence analysts used to study pictures of the reviewing stand in Red Square to see which Politburo members had survived the Russian winter.

During the Eisenhower Administration, American men in gray flannel suits tried to come up with alternatives to May Day.

They came up with two.

In the United States, today is both "Law Day" -- you've probably heard about that one -- and "Loyalty Day," both observed today.

According to Wikipedia, Loyalty Day "is a day set aside for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom." It was first observed in 1921 as "'Americanization Day," and was intended to counterbalance the celebration" of International Workers' Day. It was made an official public holiday by Congress in July 1958 and President Eisenhower issued a proclamation marking May 1, 1959 as the first, official celebration of Loyalty Day.

It hasn't really caught on in a lot of places.

But, if you can't get out tonight to start a Loyalty Day celebration at your local tavern, you can always come out to Batavia, Illinois for the big Loyalty Day Parade on May 6.