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February 2008 Archives

February 29, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 29

Today is the 60th day of 2008 and the 70th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1740, French and Indian attackers destroyed the town of Deerfield, Mass. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Oscar for her performance of "Mammy" in Gone with the Wind. In 1944, U.S. troops under General Douglas MacArthur invaded the Admiralty Islands. In 1960, an earthquake at Agadir, Morocco killed 12,000.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Ann Lee (1736-1784), brought the Shaker sect to America; Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), composer; Herman Hollerith (1860-1929), engineer; Balthus (1908-2001), artist; Dinah Shore (1916-1994), singer; Al Rosen (1924- ), baseball player, is 84; Ja Rule (1976- ), rapper, is 32.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1972, Hank Aaron became the first MLB player to sign a $200,000 contract.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Painting is a language which no-one can replace with another language" - Balthus

TODAY'S FACT: In 1911, Hollerith's Tabulating Machine Company merged with 2 other enterprises to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, renamed in 1924 the International Business Machines (IBM).

TODAY'S NUMBER: 4 - number of shakers in the United States in 2008, all at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

TODAY'S MOON: Between last quarter (February 28) and new moon (March 7).

February 28, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 28

Today is the 59th day of 2008 and the 69th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1954, James Watson and Francis Crick identified the double-helix structure of DNA in a Columbia University laboratory. In 1983, the last episode of the TV series M*A*S*H aired on national television. In 1993, federal agents stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Michel de Montaigne (1553-1592), essayist; Vincente Minnelli (1910-1986), film director; Zero Mostel (1915-1977), actor/comedian; Bernadette Peters (1948- ), Broadway performer, is 60; Paul Krugman (1953- ), columnist/economist, is 55; John Turturro (1957- ), actor, is 51.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1960, the U.S. hockey team defeated Czechoslovakia, 9-4, to win their first Olympic gold medal in Squaw Valley, CA.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Men are most apt to believe what they least understand." - Michel de Montaigne

TODAY'S FACT: The highest-rated single TV show in history was the last episode of M*A*S*H, seen by 60.2% of TV-owning households, then about 50 million households.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 1 - number of gold medals won by the U.S. men's hockey team since 1960. They have finished second twice.

TODAY'S MOON: Last quarter (February 28).

February 27, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 27

Today is the 58th day of 2008 and the 68th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1827, New Orleans held its first Mardi Gras celebration. In 1951, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, limiting presidents to two terms. In 1973, members of the American Indian Movement occupied the village of Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, beginning a standoff with federal marshals that lasted until May 8. In 1991, Kuwait was freed from Iraqi occupation by U.S.-led forces.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), poet; Hugo Black (1886-1971), U.S. Supreme Court justice; John Steinbeck (1902-1968), writer; Marian Anderson (1902-1993), singer; Joanne Woodward (1930- ), actress, is 78; Elizabeth Taylor (1932- ), actress, is 76; Ralph Nader (1934- ), consumer activist, is 74.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1901, baseball's National League ruled that all fouls count as strikes except after two strikes.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I guess a man is the only kind of varmint [that] sets his own trap, baits it, and then steps in it." - John Steinbeck

TODAY'S FACT: Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. In 2008, it was celebrated on February 5, its earliest date since 1913.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 34 - number of years for which Hugo Black served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (February 20) and last quarter (February 28).

February 26, 2008

A Visual History of Box Office Receipts

may-aug 1987 v 2007.jpgIf you're the kind of person who checks out the high points of the U.S. box office in each new World Almanac — the top-grossing movies of the past year, the all-time champions — you owe it to yourself to check out this new interactive graphic from the New York Times. The graph shows two decades of box office receipts for (seemingly) every major movie released in the U.S. since 1986, where height indicates weekly revenue, length indicates longevity at the box office, and area and color correspond to total domestic gross revenue.

At right, the top block is the 2007 "blockbuster season," running from spring to fall; the bottom block is the same time period from 1987. This sums up the major trend in a nutshell: over time, the opening-weekend peaks have grown larger, and the tails (indicating longevity and sustained money-making) have grown shorter. But there are exceptions to the rule, and all sorts of odd little easter eggs that pop with with close scrutiny: for example, scroll back so that July/August 1998 is at the far left of the browser window, and hover over Saving Private Ryan — you'll see its tail diminish to nearly nothing, then bubble back up in February with an Oscar-season revival (also note, just above it, a late-breaking yellow sliver for Life is Beautiful). Or look around August-September 2002: see that big red vein of revenue running through the middle of the graph? That's the truly anomalous, slow-starting, "word-of-mouth" hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Find any other oddities? Let us know in the comments.

The Ebb and Flow of Movies: Box Office Receipts 1986-2007 (NYTimes.com)

This Day In History: Feb. 26

Today is the 57th day of 2008 and the 67th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1935, Adolf Hitler secretly commissioned a new German air force, the Luftwaffe. In 1987, the Tower Commission released its report on the Iran-Contra affair, criticizing President Ronald Reagan. In 1993, a terrorist bomb went off in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing six.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Victor Hugo (1802-1885), writer; Levi Strauss (1829-1902), tailor/inventor; Buffalo Bill Cody (1845-1917), frontiersman/showman; Jackie Gleason (1916-1987), comedian; Fats Domino (1928- ), musician, is 80; Johnny Cash (1932-2003), musician; Michael Bolton (1954- ), singer, is 54.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1978, golfer Nancy Lopez won the first LPGA tournament of her career--the Bent Tree Classic in Sarasota, Florida.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor. To meditate is to labor; to think is to act." - Victor Hugo

TODAY'S FACT: Levi Strauss, a Bavarian immigrant who went to San Francisco during the Gold Rush, made his first pair of "jeans" out of canvas.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 48 - age at which Johnny Cash was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, making him the youngest living inductee.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (February 20) and last quarter (February 28).

February 25, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 25

Today is the 56th day of 2008 and the 66th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte returned to France from exile on the island of Elba. In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to levy income taxes, went into effect. In 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, fled the Philippines.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), artist; Enrico Caruso (1873-1921), opera singer; John Foster Dulles (1888-1959), diplomat; George Harrison (1943-2001), musician; Sally Jessy Raphael (1943- ), TV personality, is 65; Sean Astin (1971- ), actor, is 37.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1964, Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, defeated Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight boxing crown.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art... if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost." - John Foster Dulles

TODAY'S FACT: Renoir was debilitated by arthritis in his later years but continued to paint from his wheelchair with a brush strapped to his arm.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 1,060 -pairs of shoes left behind by Imelda Romualdez Marcos when the former Philippine first lady was forced to flee the country in 1986.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (February 20) and last quarter (February 28).

February 22, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 22

Today is the 53rd day of 2008 and the 63rd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1819, Spain signed a treaty turning eastern Florida over to the United States. In 1879, F. W. Woolworth opened his first store. In 1992, the UN Security Council approved the creation of a war crimes tribunal to address atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia's civil war. In 1997, Scottish scientists announced that they had cloned the first mammal from an adult, "Dolly" the sheep.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: George Washington (1732-1799), soldier/1st U.S. president; Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), philosopher; Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), composer; Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), poet; Edward (Ted) Kennedy (1932- ), U.S. senator, is 76; Julius Erving (1950- ), basketball player, is 58; Drew Barrymore (1975- ), actress, is 33.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1980, in the so-called "Miracle on Ice," the U.S. Olympic hockey team upset the Soviet Union, 4-3, in Lake Placid, NY.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate, upon real favors from nation to nation." - George Washington

TODAY'S FACT: Like Mozart, Chopin was considered a musical prodigy in childhood; by the age of 7 he had composed two simple marches.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 119 - number of years Woolworth operated its F.W. Woolworth five-and-dimes until closing its last 400 stores in 1997.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (February 20) and last quarter (February 28).

February 21, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 21

Today is the 52nd day of 2008 and the 62nd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto. In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City. In 1972, Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Leo Delibes (1836-1891), composer; Anais Nin (1903-1977), writer; Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984), film director; Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), humorist; William Petersen (1953- ), actor, is 55; Kelsey Grammer (1955- ), actor, is 53; Jennifer Love Hewitt (1979- ), actress, is 29.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1970, in a game against the New York Rangers, Bobby Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks became the third player in NHL history to score 500 lifetime goals.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom." - Malcolm X

TODAY'S FACT: Chemnitz, East Germany, changed its name to Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1953. After East and West Germany reunited in 1990, the name was changed back following a referendum.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 1 - presidents since Richard Nixon who have not visited China. Jimmy Carter normalized relations with the People's Republic of China in 1979 but never made an official visit to the country.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (February 20) and last quarter (February 28).

February 20, 2008

Total Eclipse Tonight


Living in a major urban area, you usually miss out on a lot of the cool/nerdy astronomical phenomena, like meteor showers, due to the amount of light pollution. But not so tonight (Feb. 20): even city dwellers should be able to view a total lunar eclipse, from about 8:43 p.m. (E.S.T) till a few minutes past midnight. If you don't want to crane your neck upward for that long, the "total" part of the eclipse goes from 10:01 until 10:51, according to NASA.

Of course, an eclipse is not visible if clouds block your view of the moon. If that's the case in your area, check out the Clear Sky Clock, which lists astronomers' forecasts and could offer a nearby location where the clouds have lifted enough for viewing.

Then next total lunar eclipse won't take place until December 21, 2010.

Total Lunar Eclipse: Feb. 20, 2008 [NASA]
'The Eclipse That Saved Columbus' [AFP]
Clear Sky Clock

Composite of a total lunar eclipse by Fort Photo.

This Day In History: Feb. 20

Today is the 51st day of 2008 and the 61st day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1839, Congress passed legislation prohibiting dueling in the District of Columbia. In 1864, the Confederates won the Battle of Olustee, the biggest Civil War battle fought in Florida. In 1962, astronaut John Glenn made three orbits of the Earth. In 1986, the Soviet Union launched the Mir space station.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Ansel Adams (1902-1984), photographer; Sidney Poitier (1924- ), actor, is 84; Kelsey Grammer (1955- ), actor, is 53; Charles Barkley (1963- ), basketball player/broadcaster, is 45; Kurt Cobain (1967-1994), musician; Stephon Marbury (1977- ), basketball player, is 31.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1998, 15-year-old Tara Lipinski became the youngest woman to win a figure skating gold medal at the Olympics.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "History passes the final judgment." - Sidney Poitier

TODAY'S FACT: There have been 23 NASA astronauts from Ohio to date, including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 1,954 - length in miles of the border between the United States and Mexico.

TODAY'S MOON: Full moon (February 20).

February 22, 2008

New Postage Rates Pt. 2


I was surprised to hear stamps were going up in price only a year after they were last changed. Apparently, I missed the footnote to last year's price increases, which is that the price of postage will be adjusted each May per the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (or Public Law 109-435 approved Dec. 20, 2006).

Maybe consumers will finally decide to stockpile those Forever stamps, which will remain valid postage no matter what the price of first-class mail is in the future. According to a U.S. Postal Service news release, it has sold five billion Forever stamps since their introduction in April 2007. It plans to have an additional five billion of these stamps available for sale before the May price increases.

New Prices Coming May 12, 2008 (USPS)
Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (P.L. 109-435)
Previously: "New Postage Rates"

February 19, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 19

Today is the 50th day of 2008 and the 60th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1807, former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr was arrested for treason. In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of Japanese-Americans. In 1945, the U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543), astronomer; Stan Kenton (1912-1979), jazz musician; Lee Marvin (1924-1987), actor; Smokey Robinson (1940- ), singer, is 68; Amy Tan (1952- ), writer, is 56; Benicio Del Toro (1967- ), actor, is 41.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1995, Sterling Marlin became the first person in a decade to win back-to-back Daytona 500s.

TODAY'S QUOTE:"Never do today what you can as well do tomorrow; because something may occur to make you regret your premature action." - Aaron Burr

TODAY'S FACT: About 33,000 Japanese-Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 29,035 - height in feet of Mount Everest, world's highest mountain.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (February 13) and full moon (February 20).

New Passport Cards to be Issued


Maybe I'm the only one around the office who's constantly contemplating my escape abroad ... but I was surprised to find out the U.S. government would begin issuing so-called passport cards this spring.

Passports can cost upwards of $75 to obtain, but the wallet-sized passport card can be had for as low as $20 (for a renewal). (Or submit applications for both at the same time and save!)

Though the passport card is valid only for land and water crossings between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, the card's cost and size is expected to ease travel for U.S. residents in border communities.

As with the e-passport, the passport card will contain a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip. Unlike the e-passport, the passport card's RFID chip will be capable of being "vicinity read," which "will allow CBP [Customs and Border Protection] officers, in advance of the traveler's arrival at the inspection booth, to quickly access information on the traveler from secure government databases, and allow for automated terrorist watch list checks without impeding traffic flow. In addition, they foresee that multiple cards can be read at a distance and simultaneously, allowing an entire car of people to be processed at once."

I just had this vision of a carload of people all happily waving their passport cards in the air. Somehow I doubt going through the border will be any more fun. Though the government hasn't yet set a release date for the card, it's already accepting applications.

U.S. Passport Card (Dept. of State)
Crossing U.S. Borders, including the latest rules (Dept. of Homeland Security)
"Here's What You Need to Get Back into U.S." (Chicago Tribune)
Previously: "Passport Woes"

The Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2008

LED-hand.jpgLast week the National Inventors Hall of Fame announced its 2008 inductees. To be inducted, inventors must hold a U.S. patent (sorry Leonardo da Vinci) and "the invention must have contributed to the welfare of mankind and have promoted the progress of science and the useful arts."

Take a look around you. Perhaps you see a digital clock, a solar-powered desk calculator, or your lunch in a Styrofoam container. Each was made possible by one of this year's inductees.

  • Nick Holonyak, Jr. invented the first LED (light emitting diode).
  • Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson were the first to convert the sun's energy into electricity using silicon solar cells.
  • Ray McIntire invented polystyrene foam while working at Dow Chemical.
Other important inventions include Sir John Charnley's low-frictional torque hip replacement in the 1960s and Malcom McLean's concept of containerized shipping. A personal thanks to Robert Adler (ultrasound TV remote) and Ruth Benerito (wrinkle-free cotton). Brief bios for all 18 inductees are available on the website.

The hall was created by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations in 1973. It now contains 371 inductees.

The 2008 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

Image from joelogon's Flickr stream

February 15, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 15

Today is the 46th day of 2008 and the 56th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine blew up in Havana Harbor, ultimately touching off the Spanish-American War. In 1944, American planes bombed the historic abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy. In 1950, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong signed a mutual defense pact. In 2005, the website YouTube was launched.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), scientist; Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), Harold Arlen (1905-1986), songwriter; Claire Bloom (1931- ), actress, is 77; Matt Groening (1954- ), cartoonist, is 54; Chris Farley (1964-1997), comedian; Jaromir Jagr (1972- ), hockey player, is 36.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1998, after 19 losses, Dale Earnhardt Sr. won his first and only Daytona 500.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "But I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. " - Galileo Galilei

TODAY'S FACT: The Simpsons is the longest running American sitcom, currently in its 19th season.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 12,750 - total length, in miles, of sidewalks in New York City.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (February 13) and full moon (February 20).

February 14, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 14

Today is the 45th day of 2008 and the 55th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1859, Oregon entered the union as the 33rd state. In 1899, Congress passed legislation authorizing states to use voting machines in federal elections. In 1912, Arizona entered the union as the 48th state. In 1929, seven mobsters were killed in Chicago in the "Valentine's Day Massacre."

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Jack Benny (1894-1974), comedian; Jimmy Hoffa (1913-1975), labor leader; Mel Allen (1913-1996), sports broadcaster; Florence Henderson (1934- ), actress, is 74, Meg Tilly (1960- ), actress, is 48; Drew Bledsoe (1972- ), football player, is 36.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1988, Bobby Allison became the oldest driver (age 50) to win the Daytona 500, while his son Davey finished second. It was the race's first 1-2 father-son finish.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." - Jack Benny

TODAY'S FACT: Valentine's Day derives from a religious feast day celebrating two Christian martyrs by that name, but details of their lives are murky. Many say the feast day was instituted as a replacement for the pagan festival of Lupercalis.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 24 - number of times that Mel Allen announced Major League Baseball's All-Star game.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (February 13) and full moon (February 20).

February 13, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 13

Today is the 44th day of 2008 and the 54th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1689, William and Mary were proclaimed joint monarchs of Great Britain. In 1866, Jesse James held up his first bank. In 1945, Allied aircraft began bombing the German city of Dresden. In 1960, France successfully detonated its first atomic bomb. In 2000, the last of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics ran in Sunday papers.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Grant Wood (1892-1942), artist; Chuck Yeager (1923- ), aviator, is 85; Kim Novak (1933- ), actress, is 75; Jerry Springer (1944- ), TV personality, is 64; Stockard Channing (1944- ), actress, is 64; Randy Moss (1977- ), football player, is 31; Robbie Williams (1974- ), singer, is 34.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1976, American Dorothy Hamill won the Gold Medal in figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

TODAY'S FACT: The city of Dresden was devastated by Allied bombing raids; estimates of civilian casualties from the bombings range from 35,000 to 135,000.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 17,897 - number of Peanuts comic strips penned by Charles Schulz over nearly 50 years.

TODAY'S MOON: First quarter (February 13).

February 12, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 12

Today is the 43rd day of 2008 and the 53rd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1554, Lady Jane Grey was beheaded. In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in New York City. In 1999, the U.S. Senate acquitted President Bill Clinton on both impeachment counts against him, the first 55-45 against conviction, the second 50-50. In 2002, former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic went on trial for crimes against humanity.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), U.S. president; Charles Darwin (1809-1882), scientist; Franco Zeffirelli (1923- ), director, is 85; Bill Russell (1934- ), basketball player, is 74; Judy Blume (1938- ), writer, is 70; Arsenio Hall (1955- ), actor/comedian, is 53; Christina Ricci (1980- ), actress, is 28.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1878, Harvard baseball player Frederick Thayer patented the catcher's mask.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Truth is generally the best vindication against slander." - Abraham Lincoln

TODAY'S FACT: Charles Darwin replaced Charles Dickens on Britain's 10-pound note in 2000, reportedly in part because Darwin's imposing beard would make forgery difficult.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 9 - days Lady Jane Grey was queen of England before she met her demise.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (February 6) and first quarter (February 13).

February 13, 2008

Delegates, Super and Otherwise

supertuesdayvoting.jpgIn 2000, it seemed that everyone took a crash course on how the electoral college worked. This year's civics lesson seems to be about party delegates. Who are they? Where do they come from? Why do "superdelegates" harness such power!?

You're not alone. The Wikipedia entry on superdelegates was a stub until December 2007, but has undergone more than 100 edits since Super Tuesday.

Most news sites have picked up the issue:

Image: Voting in Super Tuesday Massachusetts from Financial Aid Podcast's Flickr stream

February 11, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 11

Today is the 42nd day of 2008 and the 52nd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin concluded their meeting in Yalta. In 1962, writer Sylvia Plath committed suicide in London. In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from a South African prison after over 27 years behind bars. In 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a friend while hunting quail.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Thomas Edison (1847-1931), inventor; Leslie Nielsen (1926- ), actor, is 82; Mary Quant (1934- ), fashion designer and creator of the miniskirt, is 74; Burt Reynolds (1936- ), actor, is 72; Sheryl Crow (1962- ), singer, is 46; Jennifer Aniston (1969- ), actress, is 39; Kelly Rowland (1981- ), singer, is 27.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1949, Willie Pep regained the featherweight boxing title by defeating Sandy Saddler.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The miniskirt enables young ladies to run faster, and because of it, they may have to." - John Lindsay, mayor of New York City

TODAY'S FACT: During his imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was allowed to receive one letter every six months and one visitor for 30 minutes every year.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 14,678 - number of unintentional deaths caused by firearms in the U.S. in 2006.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (February 6) and first quarter (February 13).

February 10, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 10

Today is the 41st day of 2008 and the 51st day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1763, the Seven Years War, often known in the U.S. as the French and Indian War, ended with the Treaty of Paris. In 1840, Britain's Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. In 1967, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, clarifying presidential succession, was ratified. In 1996, the IBM "Deep Blue" computer defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 34 moves, though Kasparov went on to win the tournament 3-1 with two draws. In 2005, North Korea publicly acknowledged that it had nuclear weapons.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Charles Lamb (1775-1824), writer; Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), writer; Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), playwright; Jimmy Durante (1893-1980), comedian; Mark Spitz (1950- ), swimmer, is 58; Laura Dern (1967- ), actress, is 41.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1990, Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in what has been called the greatest upset in boxing history.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Sentimentally I am disposed to harmony; but organically I am incapable of a tune." - Charles Lamb

TODAY'S FACT: Arthur Miller died exactly 56 years after Death of a Salesman opened in New York on this date in 1949.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 9 - number of children Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had together; all married into royal houses in Europe.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (February 6) and first quarter (February 13).

February 9, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 9

Today is the 40th day of 2008 and the 50th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected president of the Confederate States of America. In 1964, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, launching rock music's "British invasion." In 1994, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), U.S. president; Ronald Colman (1891-1958), actor; Brendan Behan (1923-1964), playwright; Roger Mudd (1928- ), broadcaster, is 80; Joe Pesci (1943- ), actor, is 65; Alice Walker (1944- ), writer, is 64; Mia Farrow (1945- ), actress, is 63; Travis Tritt (1963- ), singer, is 45; Mena Suvari (1979- ), actress, is 29.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1992, Magic Johnson, who had retired three months earlier after announcing he had contracted HIV, was named MVP of the NBA All-Star game.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A candidate's character is central to political reporting because it is central to a citizen's decision in voting. The media, therefore, have a major obligation--nay, a burden--to report on the character of our presidential candidates." - Roger Mudd

TODAY'S FACT: Some 45.3 percent of all U.S. TV-owning households tuned in to see The Beatles debut in America on The Ed Sullivan Show, the then-highest rated TV telecast and still the 24th highest of all-time.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 250 - length in feet of Henry Ford's first assembly line.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (February 6) and first quarter (February 13).

February 8, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 8

Today is the 39th day of 2008 and the 49th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded. In 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which drastically overhauled U.S. media regulations, into law. In 2005, Israel and Palestine announced a cease-fire.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), U.S. general; Jules Verne (1828-1905), writer; Lana Turner (1920-1995), actress; Jack Lemmon (1925-2001), actor; James Dean (1931-55), actor; Nick Nolte (1941- ), actor, is 67; John Grisham (1955- ), writer, is 53; Gary Coleman (1968 - ), actor, is 40.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1998, Finland beat Sweden 6-0 in the first women's Olympic ice hockey game.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "War is hell." - attributed to William Tecumseh Sherman

TODAY'S FACT: In 1971, Baskin-Robbins created "Jack Lemon Ice Cream" in honor of the actor.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 51 - number of years that artist Norman Rockwell illustrated the official Boy Scout calendar.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (February 6) and first quarter (February 13).

February 7, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 7

Today is the 38th day of 2008 and the 48th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1904, the Great Fire of Baltimore, which destroyed over 1,500 buildings, broke out. In 1917, a German U-boat sank the British ship California off the Irish coast. In 1964, the Beatles arrived in New York.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: St. Thomas More (1477-1535), lawyer/writer/politician, saint; Charles Dickens (1812-1870), novelist; Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957), writer; Eubie Blake (1883-1983), composer, pianist; Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), novelist; Garth Brooks (1962- ), singer, is 46; Chris Rock (1966- ), actor/comedian, is 42; Ashton Kutcher (1978- ), actor, is 30.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1970, Pete Maravich set the all-time record for points scored in a college basketball game (69).

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Take nothing on its looks: take everything on evidence." - Charles Dickens

TODAY'S FACT: The Beatles had released three singles in the U.S. to very little fanfare before "I Want to Hold Your Hand" soared up the charts.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 71 - number of days (plus 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds) in Ellen MacArthur's record-setting solo sail around the globe, which she finished on this day in 2005.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (February 6) and first quarter (February 13).

February 6, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 6

Today is the 37th day of 2008 and the 47th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1778, representatives of the United States and France signed an alliance in Paris. In 1788, Massachusetts ratified the U.S. Constitution and became the 6th U.S. state. In 1952, Britain's King George VI died of cancer. In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a bill changing the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan National Airport. In 2001, Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), dramatist/poet; Aaron Burr (1756-1836), politician/U.S. vice president; Babe Ruth (1895-1948), baseball player; Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917- ), actress, is 91; Bob Marley (1945-1981), musician; Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th U.S. president; Tom Brokaw (1940- ), journalist/author, is 68.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1958, the Boston Red Sox signed Ted Williams for $135,000, at the time the highest salary in baseball history.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Status quo, you know, that is Latin for 'the mess we're in.'" - Ronald Reagan

TODAY'S FACT: Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and chairman of the Reagan Legacy Project, lead the effort to rename Washington National Airport after Ronald Reagan.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 76 - percentage of Israel's population that is Jewish.

TODAY'S MOON: New moon (February 6).

February 5, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 5

Today is the 36th day of 2008 and the 46th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1631, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, arrived in Boston from England. In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt announced a plan to expand the Supreme Court to as many as 15 justices. In 1988, Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega was indicted in Florida on charges of bribery and drug trafficking.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), politician/diplomat; Red Buttons (1919-2006), comedian; Hank Aaron (1934- ), baseball player, is 74; Christopher Guest (1948- ), actor/filmmaker, is 60; Jennifer Jason Leigh (1962- ), actress, is 46; Laura Linney (1964- ), actress, is 44; Bobby Brown (1969- ), singer, is 39.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1972, Bob Douglas, "the Father of Black Basketball" became the first African American elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them." - Adlai Stevenson

TODAY'S FACT: The Third Punic War, between Rome and Carthage, led to the destruction of the city of Carthage in 146 BC; some 2,100 years later, on February 5, 1985, the mayors of Rome and Carthage met in Tunis, Algeria, and signed a friendship treaty declaring the end of the war.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 31 - number of years between the assassination of Medgar Evers and the conviction of his killer, Byron de la Beckwith, on this day in 1994.

TODAY'S MOON: Between last quarter (January 30) and new moon (February 6).

February 4, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 4

Today is the 35th day of 2008 and the 45th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected as first president of the United States by the Electoral College. In 1922, the Ford Motor Co. acquired the Lincoln Motor Co. for $8 million. In 1974, newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped in Berkeley, California. In 1999, Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Fernand Leger (1881-1955), artist; Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974), aviator; Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), theologian/Holocaust victim; Rosa Parks (1913-2005), activist; Betty Friedan (1921-2006), writer/activist; Oscar de la Hoya (1973- ), boxer, is 35.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1987, skipper Dennis Conner sailed to victory in the America's Cup, redeeming his loss in 1983--the first time an American had failed to win the 132 year-old event.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself." - Betty Friedan

TODAY'S FACT: The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, were the first Olympic Games to use artificial snow.

TODAY'S NUMBER: -81°F - the coldest outdoor temperature recorded in North America to date, at Snag in Canada's Yukon Territory, on this day in 1947.

TODAY'S MOON: Between last quarter (January 30) and new moon (February 6).

February 3, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 3

Today is the 34th day of 2008 and the 44th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1913, the federal income tax was authorized with ratification of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. In 1959, rock pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. In 1962, President John Kennedy banned trade with Cuba. In 1994, President Bill Clinton ended the 19-year-old trade embargo with Vietnam.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), composer; Horace Greeley (1811-1872) activist/newspaper editor; Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), writer; Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), artist/illustrator; James Michener (1907-1997), novelist; Blythe Danner (1943- ), actress, is 65; Morgan Fairchild (1950- ), actress, is 58; Nathan Lane (1956- ), actor, is 52; Maura Tierney (1965- ), actress, is 43.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1990, legendary jockey Willie Shoemaker rode the 40,350th and final race of his career.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense." - Gertrude Stein

TODAY'S FACT: Juneau, Alaska, can be reached by cruise ship, ferry, or air, but it is the only U.S. city that cannot be reached by road

TODAY'S NUMBER: 400 - pages of federal tax rules in the first edition of the commonly used Standard Federal Tax Reporter. There are now more than 67,000.

TODAY'S MOON: Between last quarter (January 30) and new moon (February 6).

February 2, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 2

Today is the 33rd day of 2008 and the 43rd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1626, Charles I was crowned king of England. In 1848, the war between the U.S. and Mexico ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1921, airmail service began between New York and San Francisco. In 1990, South African president F.W. de Klerk ended the ban on the African National Congress and promised to free Nelson Mandela.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: James Joyce (1882-1941), author; George Halas (1895-1983), football coach/team owner; W.H. Auden (1907-1973), poet; Jussi Bjoerling (1911-1960), opera singer; Elaine Stritch (1926- ), actress/comedienne, is 82; Stan Getz (1927-1991), jazz musician; Farrah Fawcett (1947- ), actress, is 61; Christie Brinkley (1954- ), model, is 54; Shakira (1977- ), singer, is 31.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1936, the first inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame were announced: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality." - James Joyce

TODAY'S FACT: Since the release of the popular movie Groundhog Day (1993), crowds of up to 30,000 have visited Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania each year on February 2 to see whether Punxsutawney Phil observes his shadow.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 96 - number of times in the 120-year history of Groundhog Day that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow.

TODAY'S MOON: Between last quarter (January 30) and new moon (February 6).

February 1, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 1

Today is the 32nd day of 2008 and the 42nd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1861, Texas voted to secede from the Union, as pro-Union Governor Sam Houston stormed out of the session in protest. In 1920, Canada created the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. and more than 700 other demonstrators were arrested at a protest in Selma, Alabama. In 2003, the U.S. space shuttle Columbia fell apart minutes before it was due to land, killing its seven-member crew.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: John Ford (1895-1973), film director; Clark Gable (1901-1960), actor; Langston Hughes (1902-1967), poet; Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004), opera singer; Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), Russian president; Princess Stephanie of Monaco (1965- ) is 43.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1995, Utah Jazz guard John Stockton broke Magic Johnson's record for all-time assists, finishing the game with a career total of 9,227.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Humor is laughing at what you haven't got when you ought to have it." - Langston Hughes

TODAY'S FACT: Before February was Black History Month, Harvard scholar Carter G. Woodson created "Negro History Week" in 1926, for the second week in February, when both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 12,345,678,987,654,321 - number that results from multiplying 111,111,111 by 111,111,111.

TODAY'S MOON: Between last quarter (January 30) and new moon (February 6).

About February 2008

This page contains all entries posted to The World Almanac in February 2008. They are listed from newest to oldest.

January 2008 is the previous archive.

March 2008 is the next archive.

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

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