Friday, August 23, 2013

Vesuvius Day, Waffles and Pluto Demoted

Maybe, for a Saturday, we should lead with Waffle Day.

According to the considered judgment of most of the Usual Suspects, Saturday, August 24 is Waffle Day. Enjoy them plain or fancy, as you prefer.

While you're in the restaurant, however, you may wish to entertain your breakfast mates with the fact that Saturday is also Vesuvius Day, commemorating the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and the destruction of the Roman cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Mt. Vesuvius viewed from the ruins of Pompeii.  Image obtained from Wikipedia.

Pliny the Elder was just the most famous victim of Vesuvius's 16,000 or so victims on this occasion. We remember Pliny the Elder because of the surviving eyewitness account of the disaster, penned by his nephew, Pliny the Younger. According to Wikipedia, in the eruption of A.D. 79, "Mount Vesuvius spawned a deadly cloud of stones, ash and fumes to a height of 20.5 miles, spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing."

Also on August 24, on August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union voted to demote Pluto from "planet" to "dwarf planet." The IAU's explanation of this decision is available online.

On August 23 we observe The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade. Saturday, August 24, happens to be the anniversary of the birth of British abolitionist William Wilberforce (born August 24, 1759). Usual Suspect therefore tells us that August 24 is Wilberforce Day.

Baseball's Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr., turns 53 on Saturday. British Actor and humorist Stephen Fry turns 56 on August 24. Among Mr. Fry's many accomplishments is that he was the definitive personification of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves.

Pete Rose was barred from baseball on August 24, 1989.

Even without taking the eruption of Vesuvius into account, August 24 is a tough day in Roman history. The Visigoths began their sack of Rome on August 24, 410. The Vandals took their turn on August 24, 455.

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