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November 2006 Archives

November 30, 2006

The National Archives’ 100 Milestone Documents

It was during my days researching milestones for the Book of Records that I realized that primary sources began to make my heart go aflutter. Well, the National Archives’ 100 Milestone Documents website is just swoon inducing. It provides a scanned image, a transcript, and background notes for 100 history making American documents from 1776 to 1965 including every constitutional amendment, the Gettysburg Address, the Zimmermann Telegram, even the check that bought Alaska.
When the site launched back in 2003, the National Archives, National History Day, and U.S. News & World Report held a public vote to determine the ten most significant documents based on the percentage of voters who cited each doc in their top ten (List after the jump).

Continue reading "The National Archives’ 100 Milestone Documents" »

This Day in History: November 30

1782 Provisional articles of peace are signed in Paris between Britain and the United States, under which Britain recognizes U.S. independence.
1864 During the Civil War , the Confederates suffer a costly defeat in the Battle of Franklin, TN.
1939 The Soviet Union invades Finland.

Continue reading "This Day in History: November 30" »

What Are the Odds?


If you’re like me, you’re mortally afraid of rattlesnakes, fireworks, and hot tap water, but you just don’t know which one you should be most afraid of. Thankfully, the National Safety Council comes to the rescue with a handy table called “What are the odds of dying?” that will either reassure or horrify you, depending on your particular phobia. Unsurprisingly, cars, guns, and “noxious substances” are among the greatest dangers. But snake and lizard-fearers, rejoice—chances are slim that you’ll be killed by a venomous reptile (1 in 1,241,661 lifetime odds). And don’t fret too much about that big Fourth of July celebration: your odds are about 1 in 744,997 of being killed by fireworks discharge. But next time you fill the tub, keep it cool: your lifetime odds of death from contact with hot tap water are just 1 in 93,125.

Born This Day: November 30

1508 Andrea Palladio, architect (Padua, Italy; died 1580)
1667 Jonathan Swift, clergyman/satirist (Dublin, Ireland; died 1745)
1817 Theodor Mommsen, historian (Garding, Germany; died 1903)

Continue reading "Born This Day: November 30" »

November 29, 2006

Osama? Or Santa?

Oscar Brufani, a 52-year-old small business owner who delivers potato chips in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is suing Wal-Mart because one of its stores refuses to allow him to deliver there. Brufani claims that in Oct. 2004, a Wal-Mart store manager approached him and said he could no longer make deliveries there because of employee complaints that he looked like Osama Bin Laden. The long-bearded Brufani, whose parents were Italian immigrants, has continued making potato chip deliveries to his other customers. He said that he will go out of business, however, if he cannot resume working for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart apparently issued a press release saying Brufani’s charge was unfounded according to Spiegel Online. It’s also unclear whether or not the corporation, if it did ban Brufani, violated any of Argentina’s anti-discrimination laws.

Brufani also claims he was recently offered a position as a rival chain to work as Santa Claus.

–M. L. Liu

Grass vs. Turf, a Personal Odyssey

I’m a purist when it comes to sports. I hate the designated hitter, the defensive 3-second rule in basketball bugs me, and I think synthetic grass is an affront to humanity. When I went to last week’s Patriots/Bears football game at Gillette Stadium, a field that was grass at the beginning of the season, but has since been changed to synthetic turf because of problems with the real stuff, I was ready to act like a scorned lover and denounce my Patriots. How could they do this? Football should be played in the mud and the blood and the beer! Not on recycled tires and Coke bottles. But then I saw the field. It was pretty. Then I saw how the players moved on it. Wicked nice! Overwhelmingly the players liked it. I’ve heard others say that the new turf is good but I refused to believe them, thinking there was some sort of Astroturf-conspiracy going on. So I decided to do some research. And you know what? The stuff, specifically FieldTurf, is actually pretty neat. Not like the bone-breaking carpet-on-concrete stuff from yester-decade. Even FIFA endorses it! Here’s a link to the field turf site. Here are some of the players’ reactions to the new field at Gillette. Though I’m not a full convert yet, I no longer despise synthetic surfaces or the teams that install them.

This Day in History: Nov. 29

1916 U.S. Marines occupy the Dominican Republic.
1929 Richard E. Byrd and Brent Balchen pilot the first flight over the South Pole.
1945 The Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia is declared by the Communist-dominated constituent assembly, abolishing the monarchy.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Nov. 29" »

Blogging From a War Zone

The special feature in The World Almanac 2007, “Blogs From Soldiers and Their Families: Voices of Service to America,” featured several bloggers. Of them, Arnold Strong is currently serving in Afghanistan and “Buck Sargent” is still serving as a NCO in Baghdad.

If you’d like to read other blogs by military servicepersons and their families, J.P. Borda's milblogging.com is a great place to start. By using the “advanced search” function, you can browse blogs by gender, military branch and relationship to the service (mother, father, soldier), and country of origin.

If you are interested in reading civilian perspectives from within Iraq, check out Iraq Blog Count, which features blogs of Iraqis within Iraq as well as abroad, as well as many other blogs on the subject of Iraq. One of particular interest is the blog of Fatima, an American-born Iraqi, who posts at Thoughts from Baghdad about her experience returning to her home country.

Warning: As personal journals, language in these weblogs can be rough and some pictures may be inappropriate for children.

Continue reading "Blogging From a War Zone" »

Born This Day: Nov. 29

1797 Gaetano Donizetti, opera composer (Italy; died 1848)
1811 Wendell Phillips, abolitionist leader and political reformer (Boston, MA; died 1884)
1832 Louisa May Alcott, author (Philadelphia, PA; died 1888)

Continue reading "Born This Day: Nov. 29" »

November 28, 2006

The Return of Tut

We didn't plan on making this an all-Tutankhamun day, but it's worth following up on our previous Tut post with some breaking news: a team of Egyptian radiologists claim that King Tut was not killed by a blow to the head, as many had believed since a 1968 examination found bone fragments in his skull:

A mishap during the mummification process, or even damage incurred during that first x-ray examination may explain the misplaced--and misleading--bone fragments. Dr. Selim suggests the damage may have been caused by the expedition led by Howard Carter that first discovered Tut's tomb in 1922.
"We believe that this broken piece from the first vertebra of the king's spine may have been fractured and dislodged when Carter, Derry, Hamdy and their team tried to remove and free the gold mask, which was tightly glued and quite adherent to the body, by using some metal instruments that broke the thin, fragile piece of bone that lies immediately underneath the bone defect in the skull base through which the spinal cord emerges," Dr. Selim said.

And of course, a story about King Tut just isn't complete without a reference to the Mummy's Curse:

"While performing the CT scan of King Tut, we had several strange occurrences," he said. "The electricity suddenly went out, the CT scanner could not be started and a team member became ill. If we weren't scientists, we might have become believers in the Curse of the Pharaohs."

Radiologists Attempt To Solve Mystery Of Tut's Demise (ScienceDaily)

Time After Time

Ever stand in line at the grocery store and wonder just how much time you've spent (or wasted) doing just that? The American Time Use Survey, first introduced by the Department of Labor in 2003, offers a comprehensive annual analysis detailing how the average American's day breaks down. For instance, in 2005, the average American with a full-time job worked for 9.1 hours, slept for 7.6 hours, spent 3.0 hours on leisure/sports-related activities, and did household chores for 0.9 hours on their average weekday. Other interesting tidbits:

Married persons spent more time on household activities than single persons--2.1 hours compared to 1.4 hours.
Watching TV was the primary leisure activity of both men and women, accounting for half of all leisure time at an average of 2.6 hours per day. The next most common leisure activity--socializing--amounted to only 45 minutes per day.
Shopping occupied an average of 38 minutes for men and 58 for women.

For more detailed tables and demographic breakdowns, go to the American Time Use Survey home page.

This Day in History: Nov. 28

1520 Portuguese mariner Ferdinand Magellan finds the westward route to Asia from Europe by rounding South America and entering the Pacific.
1912 Albanian patriots led by Ismail Qemal proclaim the country's independence.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Nov. 28" »

King Tut VS the Editors

King%20Tut%20smallHeader.jpgWhen British archaeologist Howard Carter unearthed the sealed tomb of Tutankhamen on Nov. 4, 1922, little was known about the Egyptian boy pharaoh. That didn’t stop newspapers from filling their pages with wild speculation and admiration for Tut’s ancient civilization as Carter, his patron Lord Carnarvon (George Herbert), and their crew worked their way through the tomb. It made for some peculiar headlines. After the jump, some winners that I found while researching for the World Almanac Book of Records.

Continue reading "King Tut VS the Editors" »

November 27, 2006

Born This Day: November 28

1633 Jean Baptiste Lully, composer who established opera in France (Florence, Italy; died 1687)
1757 William Blake, poet/artist/philosopher (London, England; died 1827)

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Occupations in Colonial America

Today when we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, we can expect answers such as doctor, lawyer, astronaut, or any number of other somewhat predictable occupations. But if you were to ask kids the same thing back in 17th century New England, you would have probably heard them say accipitrary, bloomer, or shrager. What exactly do these people do? Well, your answer can be found on this online list of colonial occupations.

–Vincent Spadafora

The Facts of Life

Last week, the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics released a preliminary report on their 2005 data on childbirth in the United States. Some notable facts include:

  • The birth rate for teenagers aged 15-19 fell to 40.4 births per 1,000 teenage girls from a peak of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.
  • The percentage of births to unmarried mothers rose from 35.8% of total births in 2004 to 36.8% of total births in 2005.
  • The cesarean delivery rate is now 30.2% of all births, a record high. The rate of cesarean delivery has increased 46% since 1996.

  • A fascinating and heart-wrenching story about a modern American hospital delivery is available online through The New Yorker.

    This Day In History: Nov. 27

    1095 The Crusades begin formally when Pope Urban II preaches a sermon in Clermont-Ferrand, France outlining his plan for a Crusade and calling on his listeners to join its ranks.
    1919 The Treaty of Neuilly is signed between the Allies of World War I and defeated Bulgaria, which gives up territories to Yugoslavia, Greece, and Romania.

    Continue reading "This Day In History: Nov. 27" »

    Born This Day: Nov. 27

    1746 Robert R. Livingston, diplomat and member of the Continental Congress (New York, NY; died 1813
    1853 Bat Masterson, Western gambler/lawman/saloon keeper (Henryville, Quebec, Canada; died 1921)
    1874 Charles A. Beard, historian (Knightstown, IN; died 1948)
    Chaim Weizmann, first prime minister of Israel (Pinsk, Byelorussia; died 1952)

    Continue reading "Born This Day: Nov. 27" »

    November 25, 2006

    This Day in History: Nov. 25

    1963 A state funeral for Pres. John F. Kennedy is held in Washington, D.C.
    1975 Suriname is granted independence by the Dutch Parliament.

    Continue reading "This Day in History: Nov. 25" »

    Born This Day: Nov. 25

    1562 Lope de Vega, playwright and poet (Madrid, Spain; died 1635)
    1835 Andrew Carnegie, financier and philanthropist (Dunfermline, Scotland; died 1919)
    1846 Carry Nation, temperance leader (Garrard County, KY; died 1911)

    Continue reading "Born This Day: Nov. 25" »

    November 24, 2006

    This Day in History: Nov. 24

    1642 Dutch navigator Abel Janszoon Tasman, leading a voyage of exploration in the southern hemisphere, visits the island of Tasmania south of Australia.
    1707 The most recent recorded eruption of Japanese volcano Mt. Fuji begins, continuing for several months.
    1863 During the Civil War, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant launches the Battle of Chattanooga, TN.
    1963 Lee Harvey Oswald, arrested for the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy, is shot and killed by Jack Ruby while in police custody in Dallas, TX.
    1976 Some 5,000 people die when an earthquake strikes along the Iran-Soviet border.
    1995 Irish voters narrowly agree to end the Irish Republic's constitutional ban on divorce.

    Merry Cash Register

    Here it is: Black Friday, otherwise known as the busiest shopping day of the year. Snopes.com reported in 2005 that “although it may be the day the greatest number of holiday shoppers traipse through malls, it isn't the biggest day of the year in terms of dollars spent.” The biggest shopping day in terms of sales varies each year, but the Saturdays and Sundays before Christmas usually make the top 10. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the biggest shopping day of 2005 was Nov. 25, the Friday after Thanksgiving. In 2004, however, it was Saturday, Dec. 18, with about $8 billion in sales.

    –M. L. Liu

    Born This Day: Nov. 24

    1632 Baruch de Spinoza, philosopher (Amsterdam, Netherlands; died 1677)
    1713 Laurence Sterne, novelist (Clonmel, Ireland; died 1768)
    1784 Zachary Taylor, 12th president of the United States (Orange County, VA; died 1850)
    1849 Frances Hodgson Burnett, children's author (England; died 1924)
    1864 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, painter (Albi, France; died 1901)
    1868 Scott Joplin, composer/musician (Texarkana, TX; died 1917)
    1877 Alben Barkley, 35th vice president of the United States (Graves County, KY; died 1956)
    1888 Dale Carnegie, inspirational lecturer/author (Maryville, MO; died 1955)
    1913 Geraldine Fitzgerald, actress (Dublin, Ireland; died 2005)
    1925 William F. Buckley Jr., columnist/author (New York, NY)
    1938 Oscar Robertson, basketball player (Charlotte, TN)
    1940 Paul Tagliabue, commissioner of the NFL (Jersey City, NJ)

    November 23, 2006

    Changing Charts

    ps.jpgBack in high school chemistry, I thought of the periodic table of the elements as something more or less set in stone. Found a new element? Just tack it onto that big, boxy chart of 100-odd substances. But as elements continue to be discovered (including, most recently, confirmation of the existence of element 118) some scientists have proposed a reorganization of the classic table. One of the most interesting of these is the Periodic Spiral — explained neatly here by the New York Times, and also available in a very snazzy, interactive format at PeriodicSpiral.com.

    rps25-edit.jpgSomething else that I never thought of as possessing much potential for expansion or reorganization: Rock, Paper, Scissors. Fortunately, some people are much more creative than me, and also have waaaay too much time on their hands. For proof, look no further than the awe-inspiring RPS-25 chart, which illustrates all the possible "Paper smothers rock"-type equations in a game with 25 different hand symbols — from the classic trio, to bizarre new possibilities like "Sponge," "Alien," and "Dragon." If you can still concentrate through the post-Thanksgiving-dinner haze, print out the chart and have some fun creating conflicts like "Cockroach survives Nuke."

    Interactive Periodic Spiral

    R(ock) P(aper) S(scissors)-25

    This Day in History: Nov. 23

    1863 The three-day Battle of Chattanooga, an engagement of the Civil War, begins. Union forces under Ulysses S. Grant dislodge the Confederate defenders and force them into a disorderly retreat.
    1919 The first play-by-play of a football game is broadcast on the radio.
    1943 During World War II , U.S. Marines take control of the Gilbert Islands from the Japanese after fierce fighting.
    1971 China's seat in the Security Council, formerly held by Taiwan, is transferred to the People's Republic of China.
    1980 Some 3,000 die when a violent earthquake strikes southern Italy.
    1981 Many federal offices are shut down temporarily when Pres. Ronald Reagan vetoes a bill to finance government operations.
    2001 The UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia charges former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with genocide for his role in the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    2005 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is confirmed as the winner of the Liberian presidential elections, becoming the first woman to be elected as a head of state in modern Africa.

    Holidays Far From Home

    This holiday season, many members of the U.S. armed forces serving abroad won’t make it home to their families. But it is easier than ever to send some of the comforts of home to them; AnySoldier.com connects people who want to send care packages to active duty soldiers, marines, and airmen. Stationed in Iraq in 2003, Army Sgt. Brian Horn began distributing packages addressed to “Any Soldier” to the soldiers in his unit who were not receiving mail, and by January 2004 the effort reached out to “any member, of any of the Armed Forces in harms way.” The site includes recommendations for what to send to the servicemen and women listed, and instructions on how to send it. Another helpful site is TreatAnySoldier, through which Horn’s mother, a retired Army MP herself, provides preassembled care packages loaded with snacks, books, DVDs, hygiene products, and other goodies specially chosen for Iraq-climate use and durability.

    –Sarah Janssen

    Born This Day: Nov. 23

    1749 Edward Rutledge, legislator, and signer of the Declaration of Independence (Charleston, SC; died 1800)
    1804 Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States (Hillsboro, NH; died 1869)
    1859 William "Billy the Kid" Bonney, Western outlaw (New York, NY; died 1881)
    1876 Manuel de Falla, composer (Cádiz, Spain; died 1946)
    1881 Enver Pasha, soldier and Turkish nationalist leader (Istanbul, Turkey; died 1922)
    1887 Boris Karloff, actor (London, England; died 1969)
    1915 Ellen Drew, actress (Kansas City, MO; died 2003)
    1933 Krzysztof Penderecki, composer (Debica, Poland)
    1945 Susan Anspach, actress (New York, NY)
    1954 Bruce Hornsby, singer/musician (Williamsburg, VA)

    November 22, 2006

    This Day in History: Nov. 22

    1497 Explorer Vasco da Gama rounds the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.
    1917 The National Hockey League is founded in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
    1943 At the World War II Cairo Conference held November 22-26 in Cairo, Egypt, Allied governments meet to define their war aims with respect to Japan .
    1963 Pres. John F. Kennedy is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, TX. Vice Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president.
    1967 The UN Security Council unanimously approves Resolution 242, proposing in essence that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories in return for recognition of its independence by the Arab states and the establishment of secure borders.
    1975 Juan Carlos I becomes king of Spain, days after the death of Francisco Franco.
    1988 After years of secrecy, the Air Force displays the B-2 Stealth bomber.
    1990 British Prime Min. Margaret Thatcher resigns.
    2005 The German Parliament elects Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Party, as chancellor of Germany.

    The Rich Are Not Like You and Me

    You've heard of the Forbes 400--the annual list of the world's richest people. But Forbes magazine also does an annual "Fictional 15," which lists the richest fictional characters. This year, previous champion Santa Claus (estimated net worth: infinite, according to Forbes) was unseated and banned from the list in a controversial shake-up. Claus's elimination was in part due to letters from angry (presumably junior) readers, who swore to the veracity of his existence.

    "We don't claim to have settled the ongoing controversy concerning Claus' existence, but after taking into account the physical evidence--toys delivered, milk and cookies devoured--we felt it was safer to remove him from consideration," wrote Michael Noer and David M. Ewalt.
    Santa wasn't the only character who lost his spot: Cruella deVille was toppled by dwindling fur industry profits, and Ebeneezer Scrooge donated his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to Forbes. Defense contractor "Daddy" Warbucks, who adopted Annie in her eponymous musical, was named number one, thanks to surging profits in the defense industry. Other members of the fictional financial upper crust include real estate tycoon Mr. Monopoly and The Simpsons' nuclear energy kingpin C. Montgomery Burns, who doubled his fortune in a "technology exchange" with North Korea.

    Find the rest of the list here.

    Flying Across the Pacific

    The China Clipper Today marks 71 years since the first commercial transpacific flight. Pan American’s China Clipper, a Martin M-130, departed from San Francisco Nov. 22, 1935 heading for the Philippines. It arrived at Manila on Nov. 29 after overnight stops at Hawaii and Pan Am “Skyways Hotels” at Midway, Wake, and Guam.
    The actual time spent in flight was 59 hours, 47 minutes. Now the same trip can be done in one or two legs in about 12-15 hours. The China Clipper averaged 143.3 mph compared to the 650 mph cruising speed of a Boeing 747. But it was a huge leap forward from the ocean liners that would take more than 20 days to cover the same distance. Of course, airfare was exorbitantly expensive, far higher than what even the most brilliant World Almanac editors could afford. When regular passenger service began Oct. 21, 1936, a roundtrip ticket to Manila cost $1,438.20 or about $21,000 by today’s prices.

    Check out a brochure for the China Clipper, some photos, and other memorabilia from the original journeys at David Faige’s amazing on-line collection.
    -Andrew Steinitz

    Born This Day: Nov. 22

    1643 Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, explorer in North America (Rouen, France; died 1687)
    1819 George Eliot, novelist (Warwickshire, England; died 1880)
    1868 John Nance Garner, 32nd vice president of the United States (Red River County, TX; died 1967)
    1869 André Gide, writer (Paris, France; died 1951)
    1883 José Clemente Orozco, muralist (Zapotlán del Rey, Jalisco State, Mexico; died 1949)
    1890 Charles de Gaulle, French president and general (Lille, France; died 1970)
    1899 Hoagy Carmichael, songwriter (Bloomington, IN; died 1981)
    1913 Benjamin Britten, composer (Suffolk, England; died 1976)
    1921 Rodney Dangerfield, comedian (Babylon, NY; died 2004)
    1932 Robert Vaughn, actor (New York, NY)
    1940 Terry Gilliam, director (Minneapolis, MN)
    1941 Tom Conti, actor (Paisley, Scotland)
    1943 Billie Jean King, champion tennis player (Long Beach, CA)
    1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, actress (Los Angeles, CA)
    1967 Boris Becker, champion tennis player (Leimen, Germany)

    November 21, 2006

    Does Thanksgiving Breach the First Amendment?

    Our third and sixth Presidents thought so, according to this bit of Thanksgiving history from the Library of Congress:

    The first President of the United States, George Washington, proclaimed November 26, 1789 to be a day of national thanksgiving and prayer after receiving Congressional requests for such a decree… Thanksgiving failed to become an annual tradition at this time. Only Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison declared national days of thanks in their terms. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams considered the practice to infringe upon the separation of church and state. Governors, on the other hand, particularly in the New England states, regularly issued proclamations of thanksgiving.
    We've all heard the debates on whether posting the Ten Commandments or a nativity scene in a federal building defies the Constitution, but I’ve never personally heard anyone argue against Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. So I was surprised to learn that creating the American holiday of Thanksgiving wasn’t as easy as gorging on that second slice of pumpkin pie. It took the destruction caused by the Civil War for it to occur annually. Seriously. Read more or just view the timeline at the LOC’s Learning Page.
    Or embarrass the youngins at the kids table by reading aloud Washington’s 1789 letter.

    -Andrew Steinitz

    Football Under the Lights

    As pro football goes, one would think that any major event in the history of the sport would have taken place somewhere in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin. However one of the most important games ever played, the first pro football night game, was played in Providence, RI. Once upon a time (or more specifically from 1925-1931) there was an NFL team in Providence called the Providence Steam Roller. And on Nov. 6, 1929, under the newly installed floodlights at Kinsley Park Stadium in Providence, RI, the Steam Roller hosted the visiting Chicago Cardinals (who later went on to become the Arizona Cardinals) in the first ever night game in NFL history.

    Despite the game’s success not everybody benefited. For at least one player on the Steam Roller named Tony Latone, there were drawbacks. According to the terms of his contract, he was paid $125 per game for day games, and only 60% of that for night games. The reason for the lesser pay? The owners used the money saved to pay for the lights.

    –Vincent Spadafora

    This Day in History: Nov. 21

    1620 The Pilgrims sign the Mayflower Compact.
    1783 In Paris, Frenchmen Jean François Pilâtre de Rozier and Marquis François Laurent d'Arlandes make the first successful balloon ascent.
    1789 North Carolina entered the Union as the 12th of the 13 original states.
    1964 The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, at the time the world's longest suspension bridge, opens in New York.
    1995 After talks outside Dayton, OH, the warring parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina reach agreement to end their conflict.
    The Dow Jones industrial average passes 5,000 for the first time.
    2001 An elderly Connecticut woman mysteriously dies of inhalation anthrax, the fifth fatality in an outbreak that began in early October.
    2005 Israeli Prime Min. Ariel Sharon quits the Likud Party and forms a new political party, National Responsibility.

    Born This Day: Nov. 21

    1694 Voltaire, philosopher/author (Paris, France; died 1778)
    1768 Friedrich Schleiermacher, preacher and philosopher (Breslau, Lower Silesia--now Wroclaw, Poland; died 1834)
    1893 Harpo Marx, comedian/actor (New York, NY; died 1964)
    1920 Stan Musial, baseball player (Donora, PA)
    1927 Joseph Campanella, actor (New York, NY)
    1943 Marlo Thomas, actress (Detroit, MI)
    1944 Earl Monroe, basketball player (Philadelphia, PA)
    1945 Goldie Hawn, actress (Washington, D.C.)
    1961 Mariel Hemingway, actress (Mill Valley, CA)
    1963 Nicollette Sheridan, actress (Northington, England)
    1966 Troy Aikman, football quarterback (West Covina, CA)
    1969 Ken Griffey Jr., baseball player (Donora, PA)
    1984 Jena Malone, actress (Lake Tahoe, NV)

    November 20, 2006

    This Day in History: Nov. 20

    1789 New Jersey becomes the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
    1815 In the aftermath of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, the 1815 Treaty of Paris, a treaty of alliance, is signed by France's opponents: Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia.
    1945 The Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals begin in Germany.
    1947 Britain's Princess Elizabeth, heir to the throne, marries Philip Mountbatten.
    1950 In the Korean War, U.S. forces reach the Chinese border.
    1975 Francisco Franco, authoritarian leader of Spain from 1939 to 1975, dies in Madrid.

    Born This Day: Nov. 20

    1841 Wilfrid Laurier, Canadian statesman (Saint Lin--now Laurentides, Québec; died 1919)
    1866 Kenesaw Mountain Landis, first commissioner of baseball (Milville, OH; died 1944)
    1884 Norman Thomas, American Socialist party leader and six-time presidential candidate (Marion, OH; died 1968)
    1886 Karl von Frisch, Austrian zoologist and Nobel laureate (Vienna, Austria; died 1982)
    1889 Edwin Hubble, astronomer (Marshfield, MO; died 1953)
    1900 Chester Gould, cartoonist and creator of Dick Tracy (Pawnee, OK; died 1985)
    1908 Alistair Cooke, broadcaster (Manchester, England; died 2004)
    1920 Gene Tierney, actress (Brooklyn, NY; died 1991)
    1923 Nadine Gordimer, writer (Springs, South Africa)
    1925 Robert F. Kennedy, senator and presidential aspirant (Brookline, MA; died 1968)
    1926 Kaye Ballard, actress (Cleveland, OH)
    1927 Estelle Parsons, actress (Lynn, MA)
    1932 Richard Dawson, actor and TV personality (Hampshire, England)
    1946 Judy Woodruff, TV journalist (Tulsa, OK)
    1956 Bo Derek, actress (Long Beach, CA)

    Mesmerizing Maps

    If you love maps, scroll down to the next entry--I'm about to introduce you to your new favorite time-wasting habit. Can’t resist? Here it is: Packed with geography games, David Andersson’s GeoQuiz page includes quizzes on U.S. states, European nations, and the more challenging capitals of Africa and “25 Cities of Sweden.”

    Zoë Kashner

    November 18, 2006

    Dow 12,000... Population 300 Million

    Year in and year out, we dutifully track every little change in the size and composition of the U.S. population — so forgive us if we get a little more excited than most about a major numerical milestone: the Census Bureau estimates that on October 17, 2006, the nation’s population hit 300 million for the first time, up from 200 million in 1967 and 100 million in 1915... and fewer than 40 million in 1868, when the first World Almanac was published. For a little perspective on how the rest of the nation has changed, the Census Bureau offers some fascinating comparisons of key statistics (the price of milk, the median age of the population, and more) at the 100, 200, and 300 million markers.

    –C. Alan Joyce

    Bizarre Deaths of the Day

  • Alexander I of Greece - king of the Hellenes 1917–20: died October 25, 1920 from blood poisoning after being bitten by his gardener's pet monkey.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer - mass murderer: beaten to death 1994 with a broomstick by a fellow inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institute.
  • William Huskisson - 1st person killed by a train. His 1830 death occurred at the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway. As he stepped on the track to meet the Duke of Wellington, Stephenson's 'Rocket' hit him. He died later that day.
  • Martha Place - 1st woman executed in the electric chair: Executed at Sing Sing Prison, NY, on March 20, 1899. She had murdered her stepdaughter.

    –Edward Thomas

  • Oh Penguin, the Pipes are Calling

    Exploring very inhospitable places was all the rage for nations at the turn of the last century and Scotland came on the scene Nov. 2, 1902. That day, the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition set out aboard the Scotia under the helm of William Speirs Bruce. They would be the first to explore the Weddell Sea and planted the first permanent research station, the Omond House, on the South Orkney Island of Laurie on April 1, 1903. But the most famous (or at least my favorite) event involved the expedition bagpiper, Gilbert Kerr. That a scientific expedition would bring along a bagpiper in full highland regalia is amazing enough but Kerr proceeded to “experiment” by forcing a penguin to listen to his performance.


    The penguin was indifferent. Per their report:

    Neither rousing marches, lively reels, nor melancholy laments seemed to have any effect on these lethargic, phlegmatic birds; there was no excitement, no sign of appreciation or disapproval, only sleepy indifference.

    It was probably much more concerned about the stew that it would become in the coming days.

    Read more about the voyage at the Glasgow Digital Library.
    And the Royal Scottish Geographical Society celebrated the Centenary of the Scotia’s Voyage in 2002-04.

    Image from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

    -Andrew Steinitz

    ...Or, Put on a Sweater

    With temperatures dropping and days shortening, it might be time to consider how energy efficient your home is. In October, the government projected that the prices of residential heating fuel would be lower than or close to what they were last winter. Forecasts of a cooler winter, however, might mean that some consumers—specifically those who rely primarily on heating oil or electricity—will end up paying more to heat their homes these next few months. Here are some things you can do to save energy and reduce your home heating costs: 1) Seal or caulk any leaks in your home, such as the area around window frames; 2) Use sunlight to heat your home during the day; and 3) Adjust your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting. More tips can be found at the Alliance to Save Energy web site.

    –M. L. Liu

    Mysteries of the Masons

    Glancing through a reprinted copy of the 1868 edition of The World Almanac I came across some information about the number of Freemasons in the U.S. This was a more relevant topic in days past because the Masons had been accused or suspected of being the force behind a number of conspiracies and events either real or imagined. Today in pop culture, the Freemasons have become the poster group for all secret societies. They’ve been parodied on the Simpsons, had a member who turned out to be Jack the Ripper in the movie From Hell, and served as the keepers of a fortune in gold in National Treasure. According to the first edition of The World Almanac, there were an estimated 300,000 Freemasons in the U.S. Their membership was at its highest in 1959, when there were 4,103,161 masons in the U.S. As of 2005, there were 1,569,812 masons in the U.S. And not one of them will divulge the secret handshake.

    –Vincent Spadafora

    A Serious Surprise

    Nielsen’s 10 top-rated shows for the 2005-06 television season contained few surprises—American Idol reigned supreme (again), and Survivor survived. See if you can figure out what’s missing from the Top 10:

    1. American Idol-Tuesday
    2. American Idol-Wednesday
    3. CSI
    4. Desperate Housewives
    5. Grey’s Anatomy
    6. Without a Trace
    7. Dancing With the Stars
    8. CSI: Miami
    9. Survivor: Guatemala
    10. NFL Monday Night Football

    Continue reading "A Serious Surprise" »

    Priming the Pump

    Americans love their cars, but we hate to pay for the gas that keeps them going. You can track regional gas prices here at the Department of Energy website, which also explains where your gas dollars go and what factors cause prices to rise and fall. Before you fill your tank, check GasBuddy.com, a user-maintained directory of low gas prices across the country; if nothing else, it can help you avoid the awful experience of discovering that you could have paid 10 cents less per gallon by driving down the block.

    And if you’re still feeling bad about your last $40 fill-up, here’s some small comfort: thanks to high tariffs and taxes in Japan, Western Europe, and even Canada and Mexico, gas prices in the U.S. have consistently ranked among the lowest in the world. For the historical proof, click here.

    –Sarah Janssen

    About November 2006

    This page contains all entries posted to The World Almanac in November 2006. They are listed from newest to oldest.

    October 2006 is the previous archive.

    December 2006 is the next archive.

    Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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