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March 2008 Archives

March 31, 2008

This Day In History: March 31

Today is the 91st day of 2008 and the 12th day of spring.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1889, the Eiffel Tower was completed. In 1930, the Motion Pictures Production Code, or Hays Code, was adopted to regulate the moral values of movies. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for reelection. In 2005, Terri Schiavo died 13 days after her feeding tube was removed after a prolonged legal battle.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Rene Descartes (1596-1650), philosopher/mathematician; Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), composer; Cesar Chavez (1927-93), labor leader; Herb Alpert (1935- ), musician, is 73; Al Gore (1948- ), former U.S. vice president/senator, is 60; Ewan McGregor (1971- ), actor, is 37.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1992, the Cubs acquired 23-year-old outfielder Sammy Sosa, who would go on to become their All-Star right-fielder.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We Americans write our own history. And the chapters of which we're proudest are the ones where we had the courage to change." - Al Gore

TODAY'S FACT: Gustav Eiffel built metal structures all over the world, but he also designed railway bridges and the interior structure of New York's Statue of Liberty.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 1,063 - height, in feet, of the Eiffel Tower (including the flagpole).

TODAY'S MOON: Between last quarter (March 29) and new moon (April 5).

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

0803TakeMeOut.jpgThis year is the centennial of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" the unofficial anthem of baseball composed by Albert Von Tilzer and written by Jack Norworth. Songs about baseball weren't new in 1908. "The Baseball Polka" had already been around for 50 years according to the Library of Congress Music Division. Yet "Take Me Out..." is probably the only piece of Tin Pan Alley music that most Americans can instantly recall. It's surely more memorable than "Take Me Out for a Tank Ride."

As Major League Baseball starts its 2008 season this week there will be many mentions of the song. Mainly, the league is hosting "in-park searches for the most talented performers of the unofficial anthem of baseball fans everywhere." (Enter online: here). There will also be many news articles about Katie Casey and the song's verses, as well as its conflicted history due to the new book Baseball's Greatest Hit: The Story of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

To get you in the spirit, Tinfoil.com, an online collection of early recorded sound, has a 1908 rendition of "Take Me Out..." performed by Edward Meeker.

The Library of Congress also has sheet music and other useful information on the song as well as many other baseball songs in their Performing Arts department:

Online Collection of Baseball Sheet Music including "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
Bibliography of Published Baseball Music and Songs

March 27, 2008

This Day In History: March 27

Today is the 87th day of 2008 and the 8th day of spring.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1794, the United States Navy was formed. In 1964, the largest U.S. earthquake, at a magnitude of 9.2, struck Alaska. In 2002, President Bush signed a sweeping campaign finance reform bill into law.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), scientist/inventor; Gloria Swanson (1899-1983), actress; Sarah Vaughan (1924-90), singer; Quentin Tarantino (1963- ), filmmaker, is 45; Mariah Carey (1970- ), singer, is 38.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1902, a Chicago Daily News reporter first dubbed the Chicago National League baseball team the Cubs.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell

TODAY'S FACT: Wilhelm Roentgen, the Nobel prize winning discoverer of X-rays, took his first medical x-ray of his wife's hand.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 9.5 - magnitude of the largest recorded earthquake, which struck off the coast of Chile on May 22, 1960.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (March 21) and last quarter (March 29).

March 26, 2008

This Day In History: March 26

Today is the 86th day of 2008 and the 7th day of spring.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1979, Menachem Begin and Anwar al-Sadat signed the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in Washington, DC. In 1997, the bodies of 39 Heaven's Gate cult members were found in California. In 1999, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was found guilty of second-degree murder for euthanizing a terminally ill patient.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Robert Frost (1874-1963), poet; Tennessee Williams (1911-83), playwright; Viktor Frankl, (1905-97), psychotherapist/author; Sandra Day O'Connor (1930- ), former U.S. Supreme Court justice, is 78; Diana Ross (1944- ), singer, is 64; Steven Tyler (1948- ), musician, is 60; John Stockton (1962- ), basketball player, is 46; Keira Knightley (1985- ), actress, is 23.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1973, Bill Walton led UCLA's basketball team to its 75th straight win and seventh straight NCAA title.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I talk in order to understand; I teach in order to learn." - Robert Frost

TODAY'S FACT: Oregon is the only state in the U.S. with a law permitting physician-assisted suicide in some cases; the law survived an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 130 - estimated number of suicides that Dr. Jack Kevorkian assisted before his arrest in 1999.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (March 21) and last quarter (March 29).

March 25, 2008

This Day In History: March 25

Today is the 85th day of 2008 and the 6th day of spring.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1634, some 200 English settlers landed at the Maryland colony. In 1894, Coxey's Army, the first notable American protest march, departed Ohio in a revolt against staggering unemployment caused by the economic panic of 1893. In 1965, a civil rights march led by Martin Luther King Jr. ended in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1994, the U.S. withdrew its last troops from Somalia.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Bela Bartok (1881-1945), composer; Howard Cosell (1918-94), broadcaster; Jim Lovell (1928- ), astronaut, is 80; Aretha Franklin (1942- ), singer, is 66; Elton John (1947- ), musician, is 61; Sarah Jessica Parker (1965- ), actress, is 43.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1958, Sugar Ray Robinson defeated Carmen Basilio to regain the middleweight title for an unprecedented fifth time.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Sports is the toy department of human life." - Howard Cosell

TODAY'S FACT: Women over age 55 watch more television than any other age group in the U.S.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 38.3 million - number of Americans that identified themselves as black in 2006.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (March 21) and last quarter (March 29).

Sports Illustrated Free Online Archive

0803Sports Illustrated.jpgI'm slightly embarrassed that I didn't catch this earlier. Sports Illustrated has opened up their entire back catalogue, or "vault," for free; more than 50 years of covers, articles, photos, and videos. The articles are available as searchable html or bundled up by the issue. The full issues, ad placement and all, are presented in a page-flipping online reader.

Sports Illustrated Vault

To get you started, here are some articles relating to some of the "Memorable Moments in Sports" from The World Almanac 2008:
Secretariat's Record-Breaking Triple Crown: History in the Making (June 18, 1973)
The Band is on the Field: The Week (November 29, 1982)
Strug's One-Legged Vault: Profile in Courage (August 5, 1996) also, Strug profile: Happy Landing (August 11, 1997)
Mike Tyson (vs. Evander Holyfield): Feeding Frenzy (July 7, 1997)

Cover image (July 08, 1974) of Gerald Ford, the undisputed record holder for most NFL contracts declined by a future President.

March 21, 2008

This Day In History: March 21

Today is the 81st day of 2008 and the 2nd day of spring.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1960, South African police killed 69 unarmed black protesters. In 1963, the federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island closed. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter met with U.S. athletes and coaches to explain his decision to boycott the Moscow Olympic Games. In 1999, Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and English copilot Brian Jones became the first to circumnavigate the earth nonstop by balloon.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), composer; Benito Juarez (1806- 1872), Mexican president; Florenz Ziegfeld (1867-1932), theater producer; Timothy Dalton (1946- ), actor, is 62; Gary Oldman (1958- ), actor, is 50; Ayrton Senna (1960-94), Formula One racer; Rosie O'Donnell (1962- ), comedienne/actress, is 46; Matthew Broderick (1962- ), actor, is 46; Ronaldinho (1980- ), soccer player, is 28.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1946, UCLA running back Kenny Washington became the NFL's first black player since 1933.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Everyone hears only what he understands." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

TODAY'S FACT: Johann Sebastian Bach was not the only member of his family known as a composer; seven generations of Bachs achieved prominence in various musical fields from 1580 to 1800.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 14 - The number of escape attempts from Alcatraz recorded over the 29 years that the prison operated; none proved successful.

TODAY'S MOON: Full moon (March 21).

March 20, 2008

This Day In History: March 20

Today is the 80th day of 2008 and the 1st day of spring.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1922, the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Langley, was commissioned. In 1952, the U.S. Senate ratified a peace treaty returning sovereignty to Japan. In 1995, a Tokyo cult released sarin gas into the subway system, killing 12 and injuring thousands.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: B.F. Skinner (1904-90), psychologist; Sir Michael Redgrave (1908-95), actor; Fred Rogers (1928-2003), TV host; William Hurt (1950- ), actor, is 58; Spike Lee (1957- ), filmmaker, is 51; Holly Hunter (1958- ), actress, is 50.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1948, the National Boxing Federation adopted a 21-point safety program as an attempt to end a string of deaths in the ring.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten." - B.F. Skinner

TODAY'S FACT: The Japanese constitution, adopted in 1947, renounces war "forever."

TODAY'S NUMBER: $7 million - amount that Spike Lee's first feature film She's Gotta Have It grossed, far exceeding its $175,000 budget.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (March 14) and full moon (March 21).

March 19, 2008

This Day In History: March 19

Today is the 79th day of 2008 and the 89th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1918, the U.S. Congress established time zones and approved daylight saving time. In 1931, Nevada legalized most forms of gambling. In 1953, the Academy Awards were broadcast on TV for the first time. In 2003, a U.S.-led coalition began bombing Baghdad, marking the beginning of the Iraq War.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: David Livingstone (1813-73), physician/explorer; Wyatt Earp (1848-1929), lawman/gunfighter; Earl Warren (1891-1974), U.S. Supreme Court chief justice; Joe Venuti (1894-1978), jazz violinist; Glenn Close (1947- ), actress, is 61; Bruce Willis (1955- ), actor, is 53.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1995, NBA superstar Michael Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls after almost 2 years of retirement.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Life and liberty can be as much endangered from illegal methods used to convict those thought to be criminals as from the actual criminals themselves." - Earl Warren

TODAY'S FACT: The films Ben-Hur, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King all share the honor of receiving the most Oscars, at 11 each.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 32,292 - total points Michael Jordan scored in his career, third best in the NBA.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (March 14) and full moon (March 21).

Go Forth and Stimulate the Economy

0803Money.jpgThe IRS plans to start the first round of economic stimulus payments on May 2. All payments will occur automatically according to the last two digits of Social Security numbers of people who file their tax returns. Those who provide direct deposit information will have their payments deposited automatically. Everyone else will receive a check in the mail, albeit at a slower pace.

If you're dying of curiosity, the IRS has created an Economic Stimulus Payment Calculator to help you estimate the size of your new flat screen TV. There is also a payment schedule on the site.

IRS Announces Economic Stimulus Payment Schedules, Provides Online Payment Calculator

Name that group... from the Flickr page of DRB62

March 18, 2008

This Day In History: March 18

Today is the 78th day of 2008 and the 88th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established. In 1959, Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state of the U.S. In 1965, Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov made the first spacewalk. In 1990, two men stole 12 paintings valued at $300 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Grover Cleveland (1837-1908), U.S. President; Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov (1844-1908), composer; George Plimpton (1927-2003), author/actor; Vanessa Williams (1963- ), actress/singer, is 45; Queen Latifah (1970- ), singer/actress, is 38.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1930, the NHL's Boston Bruins won a record 20th consecutive home game, which was tied by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Art has something to do with the arrest of attention in the midst of distraction." - George Plimpton

TODAY'S FACT: Hawaii is the only state with a single, unified school system; it contains 255 regular schools, 3 special schools, and 26 public charter schools.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 26 - number of countries in the NATO alliance after the addition of 7 former-Warsaw Pact nations in March 2004.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (March 14) and full moon (March 21).

March 17, 2008

This Day In History: March 17

Today is the 77th day of 2008 and the 87th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1861, Italy--excluding Rome and Venice--was unified under King Victor Emmanuel II. In 1905, Franklin Delano Roosevelt married distant cousin Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1950, Californium, the radioactive 98th element, was created. In 1995, the FDA approved "varivax," the first chicken pox vaccine.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Gottlieb Daimler (1834-1900), engineer/inventor; Bayard Rustin (1910-87), civil rights activist; Nat King Cole (1919-65), singer; Kurt Russell (1951- ), actor, is 47; Rob Lowe (1964- ), actor, is 44; Mia Hamm (1972- ), soccer player, is 36.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1886, The Sporting News published its first issue.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him." - Bayard Rustin

TODAY'S FACT: Gottlieb Daimler is credited with building the first practical motorcycle in 1885.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 10 - number of elements in the periodic table that were identified before 1 CE.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (March 14) and full moon (March 21).

March 15, 2008

This Day In History: March 15

Today is the 75th day of 2008 and the 85th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 44 BCE, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated. In 1919, the American Legion was formed in Paris. In 1989, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was established. In 2003, Hu Jintao became president of the People's Republic of China.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), U.S. president; Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933- ), U.S. Supreme Court justice, is 75; Judd Hirsch (1935- ), actor, is 73; Sly Stone (1944- ), musician, is 64; Bobby Bonds (1946-2003), baseball player; Eva Longoria (1975- ), actress, is 33.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1962, the NBA's Wilt Chamberlain ended the season with a record scoring average of 50.4 points per game.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected." - Julius Caesar

TODAY'S FACT: The Supreme Court chief justice's salary was $4,000 in 1789; in 2007, Chief Justice John Roberts' salary was $212,100.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 3 million - approximate current membership of the American Legion.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter (March 14) and full moon (March 21)

March 14, 2008

This Day In History: March 14

Today is the 74th day of 2008 and the 84th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1794, Eli Whitney received a patent for the cotton gin. In 1936, the U.S. government began publishing the Federal Register. In 1989, U.S. President George H.W. Bush banned the importation of assault rifles.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: George Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), composer; Albert Einstein (1879-1955), physicist/Nobel Prize winner; Diane Arbus (1923-1971), photographer; Michael Caine (1933- ), actor, is 75; Billy Crystal (1947- ), actor, is 61; Kirby Puckett (1960-2006), baseball player.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1967, the AFL and NFL held their first common draft of college players.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding." - Diane Arbus

TODAY'S FACT: Albert Einstein was offered the role of president of Israel but declined, saying he was not suited for the position.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 19 - age of defensive tackle Amobi Okoye when drafted by the Houston Texans in 2007, the youngest college player to join the NFL.

TODAY'S MOON: First quarter (March 14).

March 11, 2008

Who Will Be The Memory Champion?

0803Memory.jpgAt the World Almanac I research a lot of interesting topics every day. The trouble is I'm not very good at remembering details after a few days. I also usually forget names several minutes after I hear them. I have trouble remembering what I did last week, or sometimes even yesterday. Essentially I'm no match for the "Mental Athletes" that competed in the USA Memory Championship qualifier last weekend. Contenders had to memorize the first and last names of 99 faces, the order of a shuffled deck of cards, an unpublished poem, and 25 rows of 20 digit numbers. The first place winner, a software engineer from San Francisco, remembered 66 first or last names and recalled the entire order of the deck of cards in 2 minutes 27 seconds.

The seven finalists will be subjected to even crazier challenges in the final event on April 22. It'll be aired on HDNet if your television provider carries it.

Interested to know how you might do? There are some test examples on the page. Any permanent U.S. resident age 12 or older can compete. Two lines of Speed Numbers is enough for me.

Row 1: 9 6 4 7 7 9 9 7 4 7 0 8 0 6 4 2 6 0 9 4
Row 2: 8 6 7 6 4 3 8 1 8 2 7 9 4 3 9 6 4 3 1 4

USA Memory Championship
Event categories with links to examples

Image from the Flickr page of wetwebwork

March 13, 2008

This Day In History: March 13

Today is the 73rd day of 2008 and the 83rd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1781, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. In 1884, the United States adopted Standard Time. In 1957, Jimmy Hoffa was arrested and charged with bribery.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Percival Lowell (1855-1916), astronomer; Walter Annenberg (1908-2002), publisher/philanthropist; L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), author/Scientologist; Neil Sedaka (1939- ), singer, is 69; William H. Macy (1950- ), actor, is 58.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1992, Los Angeles Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn called his 2,500th consecutive game; he hadn't missed a broadcast since November 1965.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "He who opens a school, closes a prison." - Victor Hugo

TODAY'S FACT: Standard Time was introduced in the U.S. at the instigation of the railroad companies who needed a set of standard times in order to plan train schedules across the country.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 27 - number of known moons orbiting the planet Uranus.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (March 7) and first quarter (March 14).

March 12, 2008

This Day In History: March 12

Today is the 72nd day of 2008 and the 82nd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi began a 200-mile march protesting British salt tax. In 1947, President Truman introduced the "Truman Doctrine" aimed at fighting communism. In 2002, the UN Security Council approved a resolution endorsing a Palestinian state.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Elaine de Kooning (1920-89), artist/critic; Jack Kerouac (1922-69), writer; Liza Minnelli (1946- ), actress, is 62; James Taylor (1948- ), singer/songwriter, is 60; Carl Hiaasen (1953- ), author, is 55; Darryl Strawberry (1962- ), baseball player, is 46.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1966, the NHL's Bobby Hull scored his 51st goal, becoming the first player to surpass 50 in a season.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion." - Mahatma Gandhi

TODAY'S FACT: Bobby Hull was in his ninth NHL season when he surpassed the 50-goal mark. His son, Brett, did it in his fourth full season.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 3 - number of weeks it took Jack Kerouac to write On the Road.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (March 7) and first quarter (March 14)

March 11, 2008

This Day In History: March 11

Today is the 71st day of 2008 and the 81st day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1888, the "Great Blizzard of '88" killed 400 Americans. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed the "Lend-Lease" bill, allowing the U.S. to provide supplies to its allies. In 2004, terrorist bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killed 191 people.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Lawrence Welk (1903-1992), bandleader; Mercer Ellington (1919-1996), bandleader/composer; Rupert Murdoch (1931- ), media executive, is 77; Antonin Scalia (1936- ), U.S. Supreme Court justice, is 72; Jerry Zucker (1950- ), filmmaker, is 58; Johnny Knoxville (1971- ), actor, is 37; Dan Uggla (1980- ), baseball player, is 28.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1979, the NHL's Randy Hold was penalized a record 9 times for 67 minutes.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all." - Antonin Scalia

TODAY'S FACT: According to the Forbes 400, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch's wealth increased from $7.7 billion in 2006 to $8.8 billion in 2007, but his rank on the list dropped from 32 to 33.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 44 - number of countries that received the $50 million in funds and military goods made available under the 1941 Lend-Lease bill.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (March 7) and first quarter (March 14).

March 10, 2008

This Day In History: March 10

Today is the 70th day of 2008 and the 80th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1862, the U.S. treasury issued its first paper money. In 1864, Ulysses S. Grant became commander of the Union armies. In 1972, the U.S. Senate approved lowering the minimum voting age to 18.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908), violinist/composer; Albert Fraenkel (1848-1916), physician; Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987), playwright/politician; Chuck Norris (1940- ), actor, is 68; Sharon Stone (1958- ), actress, is 50; Rod Woodson (1965- ), football player, is 43.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1978, the Boston Bruins acquired veteran Dennis O'Brien on waivers from the Cleveland Barons, making him the first player to be with four different NHL teams in one season.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting." - Tom Stoppard

TODAY'S FACT: The first paper money to circulate in the United States was issued in 1690 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 122,295,645 - number of popular votes cast in the 2004 presidential election--the highest eligible-voter turnout since 18 to 20-year-olds were enfranchised.

TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (March 7) and first quarter (March 14).

Gary Gygax, R.I.P.

Potts-DnD.jpgSince I've already inserted myself into two different conversations about this topic today, I might as well formally blog about it here: the New York Times has a heartfelt and funny op-obit* for Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, written by Wired's Adam Rogers—and an equally funny diagram of D&D's influence on the average role-playing-game aficionado, by designer Sam Potts.
Mr. Gygax's genius was to give players a way to inhabit the characters inside their games, rather than to merely command faceless hordes, as you did in, say, the board game Risk. Roll the dice and you generated a character who was quantified by personal attributes like strength or intelligence.

You also got to pick your moral alignment, like whether you were "lawful good" or "chaotic evil." And you could buy swords and fight dragons. It was cool.

Yes, I played a little. In junior high and even later. Lawful good paladin. Had a flaming sword. It did not make me popular with the ladies, or indeed with anyone. Neither did my affinity for geometry, nor my ability to recite all of "Star Wars" from memory.

Yet on the strength of those skills and others like them, I now find myself on top of the world. Not wealthy or in charge or even particularly popular, but in instead of out. The stuff I know, the geeky stuff, is the stuff you and everyone else has to know now, too.

Though we've never asked, I have to assume that former and current Dungeons & Dragons fans figure prominently among the readership of the World Almanac. And to all of you, I can only say: I'm jealous. Seriously. No one in my small circle of childhood friends had any interest in the game, so I had to content myself with rolling up characters on my own, paging wistfully through the Monster Manual, and dreaming of the day when I could be a full-fledged D&D geek, too. (Then Zork came along and made it all better.)

Yet here I am, a couple of decades later, still messing about with charts and statistics on a daily basis. Coincidence? I think not.

Note: * Can I claim copyright on that phrase?

From the NY Times:
Geek Love (op-ed by Adam Rogers)
D&D Flowchart (op-art by Sam Potts)

March 6, 2008

Design and the Elastic Mind

0803Flybot.jpgA new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York takes a look at how cutting-edge science is affecting design, which may ultimately change our everyday lives. Most of the items in Design and the Elastic Mind might never reach that point. Some are just a step above novelty, like rings made from a loved one's bone tissue and a honeycomb vase made by bees. Others have more practical applications: Harvard's Flybot, developed with funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is the first microrobot to replicate insect flight. Robert Lang's innovative origami calculations have been applied to creating a compact telescope and folding airbags.

The sleek webpage itself is worth a look as it lets you glide through concepts according to several interwoven themes.

Design and the Elastic Mind

March 7, 2008

This Day In History: March 7

Today is the 67th day of 2008 and the 77th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1912, Roald Amundsen publicly announced his successful arrival at the South Pole. In 1936, Adolf Hitler defied the Treaty of Versailles and ordered German soldiers to reoccupy the Rhineland. In 1965, state troopers attacked 600 civil rights protesters on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: John Herschel (1792-1871), mathematician/astronomer; Luther Burbank (1849-1926), naturalist; Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), composer; Willard Scott (1934- ), TV personality, is 74; Ivan Lendl (1960- ), tennis player, is 48; Peter Sarsgaard (1971- ), actor, is 37; Rachel Weisz (1971- ), actress, is 37.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1996, Magic Johnson became the second player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career assists.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding." - Marshall McLuhan

TODAY'S FACT: In addition to being the first to reach the South Pole, Roald Amundsen was also the first to sail the Northwest Passage and the first to complete a Transarctic flight.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 73,674 - estimated number of Americans 100 years old or older in 2006.

TODAY'S MOON: New moon (March 7).

March 6, 2008

This Day In History: March 6

Today is the 66th day of 2008 and the 76th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1836, the Texas fort known as the Alamo fell to Mexican forces after its last defenders were slain. In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property in the Dred Scott decision. In 1981, Walter Cronkite signed off as CBS Evening News anchor for the last time. In 2007, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff for Vice Pres. Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), painter/sculptor/architect; Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-55), soldier/writer; Bob Wills (1905-75), singer; Lou Costello (1906-59), actor/comedian; Ed McMahon (1923- ), TV personality, is 85; Alan Greenspan (1926- ), economist, is 82; Gabriel García Márquez (1928- ), novelist, is 80; Kiri Te Kanawa (1944- ), opera singer, is 64; Shaquille O'Neal (1972- ), basketball player, is 36.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1923, Johnny Weissmuller became the first swimmer to break five minutes for 440 yards. Weissmuller finished in 4:57, improving his own world record of 5:08 by 11 seconds.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has." - Michelangelo Buonarroti

TODAY'S FACT: Of the nine justices who decided Dred Scott's fate, seven were appointed by pro-slavery Southern presidents and five came from slaveholding families.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 13 - number of days the Alamo defenders held off Mexican forces.

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

March 5, 2008

This Day In History: March 5

Today is the 65th day of 2008 and the 75th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1770, British soldiers fired into a crowd of rowdy demonstrators, killing five, in the Boston Massacre. In 1946, Winston Churchill mentioned the "Iron Curtain" in a speech often regarded as the beginning of the Cold War. In 1970, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by 43 nations, went into effect.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Rex Harrison (1908-90), actor; James Tobin (1918-2002), economist; Felipe González Márquez, (1942- ), former Spanish premier, is 66; Penn Jillette, (1955- ), comedian/magician, is 53; John Frusciante (1971- ), musician, is 37.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1993, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson received a lifetime competition ban after testing positive for banned substances a second time.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory... From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." - Winston Churchill

TODAY'S FACT: By 2007, 188 countries were signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. North Korea withdrew in Jan. 2003, joining India, Israel, and Pakistan.

TODAY'S NUMBER:1,219 -- number of drug tests conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency for the 2006 Summer Olympics; one person tested positive and was disqualified.

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

March 4, 2008

Saving Some Sun but Wasting Some Electricity?

1216pm_clock.jpg As the anointed resident blogger on daylight saving time, I thought I would bring to your attention a study conducted by researchers at the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB). The study focused on Indiana, which only two years ago began observing daylight saving time (DST) as a whole. Prior to that, only a few Indiana counties did so.

Analyzing meter readings from southern Indiana households before and after the adoption of the observance of daylight saving time, the researchers made the following conclusions:

... DST results in an overall increase in residential electricity demand. Estimates of the overall increase in consumption range from 1 to 4 percent. We also find that the effect is not constant throughout the DST period, with evidence for electricity savings in the spring and increases that are greatest in the fall. These findings are generally consistent with simulation results that point to a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling.

The researchers note that further research would be necessary to determine if their findings could be replicated in other parts of the country. They also don't discount the benefits DST may provide to people's sense of well-being. A preliminary, working paper on the study, titled "Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana" can be found here (PDF).

According to the Indiana Business Journal, however, Duke Energy Corp.—the company whose data the UCSB researchers used—doesn't endorse the study's conclusions. Among Duke's objections were the study's exclusion of data on electricity consumption by business and industry and the fact that most of its residential customers in the study area don't rely on electric heat.

For a summary of the study and the debate surrounding DST, the Wall Street Journal article "Daylight Saving Time Wastes Energy, Study Says" provides some good information.

Previously: "Time Changes Risky for Pedestrians"

Photo: "12:16 P.M." of a three-sided clock at the Västerhaninge, Sweden, commuter station, by Steffe.

This Day In History: March 4

Today is the 64th day of 2008 and the 74th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1789, the first United States Congress met in New York City and declared the new Constitution in effect. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 32nd U.S. president. In 1954, the first successful kidney transplant was performed. In 1997, President Bill Clinton forbade the use of federal funds for human cloning research.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), composer; Casimir Pulaski (1747-79), military leader; Knute Rockne (1888-1931), football coach; John Garfield (1913-52), actor; Catherine O'Hara (1954- ), actress, is 54; Patricia Heaton (1959- ), actress, is 49; Ray Mancini (1961- ), boxer, is 47.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1995, champion boxer George Foreman refused to fight top-contender Tony Tucker and was stripped of his title by the World Boxing Association.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Most men, when they think they are thinking, are merely rearranging their prejudices." - Knute Rockne

TODAY'S FACT: Between 1945 and 1990 the U.S. produced more than 70,000 nuclear bombs and warheads; of these about 9,938 remained in the nuclear stockpile as of 2007.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 12 - Years that Franklin Delano Roosevelt held the presidency, the longest term of any president.

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

March 3, 2008

This Day In History: March 3

Today is the 63rd day of 2008 and the 73rd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1791, Congress passed its first excise tax, one on distilled liquors, which later sparked the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. In 1845, Florida was admitted as the 27th state of the U.S. In 1931, the United States adopted "The Star-Spangled Banner" as its national anthem. In 2005, U.S. millionaire Steve Fossett became the first person to fly solo, non-stop around the world, without refueling.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), inventor; Jean Harlow (1911-37), actress; James Merrill (1926-95), poet; Ira Glass (1959- ), radio personality, is 49; Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1962- ), athlete, is 46; Jessica Biel (1982- ), actress, is 26.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1944, Bob Montgomery regained the lightweight boxing title in a rematch against Beau Jack.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you" - first words spoken on the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant, Thomas Watson

TODAY'S FACT: There is no law that requires "The Star-Spangled Banner" to be set to a specific tune. The most popular version was originally composed around 1775 as the song of the Anacreontic Society, an English musicians club.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 6 - number of Olympic medals won by Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

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

March 2, 2008

This Day In History: March 2

Today is the 62nd day of 2008 and the 72nd day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1836, Texas became independent from Mexico. In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner of the previous year's U.S. presidential election, though Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote. In 1933, the film King Kong premiered in New York. In 1969, the Concorde supersonic airplane flew--at subsonic speeds--for the first time.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Sam Houston (1793-1863), soldier/politician; Pope Pius XII (1876-1958); Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) (1904-91), author; Mel Ott (1909-58), baseball player; Desi Arnaz (1917-86), actor/musician; Tom Wolfe (1931- ), author/journalist, is 77; Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ), former Soviet leader, is 77; Lou Reed (1942- ), musician, is 66; Jon Bon Jovi (1962- ), musician, is 46.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1927, Babe Ruth became the highest paid baseball player to date when the Yankees announced he would earn $70,000 a season for three years.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When I'm in New York I look at the Empire State Building and feel as though it belongs to me ... or is it vice versa?" - Fay Wray

TODAY'S FACT: King Kong was made in 1933 for about $10.5 million (in today's dollars); the 2005 remake cost a whopping $207 million to produce.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 27 - number of publishers that rejected And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss' first book for children.

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

March 1, 2008

This Day In History: March 1

Today is the 61st day of 2008 and the 71st day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1781, the Articles of Confederation were officially adopted. In 1932, the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from the family home in New Jersey; he was later found dead. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. In 2003, Pakistani counter-terrorism officials seized Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a principal planner of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. In 2005, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that the execution of convicts who had committed their crimes before the age of 18 was unconstitutional.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Glenn Miller (1904-44), bandleader; Ralph Ellison (1914-94), writer; Dinah Shore (1917-94), singer/TV host; Yitzhak Rabin (1922-95), prime minister of Israel; Harry Belafonte (1927- ), musician/actor, is 81; Roger Daltrey (1944- ), musician, is 64; Ron Howard (1954- ), actor/director, is 54.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1969, Major League Baseball star Mickey Mantle announced his retirement.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "You can cage the singer, but not the song." - Harry Belafonte

TODAY'S FACT: Following the sensational Lindbergh baby kidnapping, in June 1932 Congress passed the so-called Lindbergh Law, which gave the FBI jurisdiction over kidnappings that crossed state lines.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 190,000 - number of Peace Corps volunteers invited to 139 countries since its inception in 1961.

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

March 16, 2008

Edward's Untimely Death Series: Entry #11

jvf.jpgOur nation's first secretary of defense, James V. Forrestal, took office on September 17, 1947, and was sworn into office by President Harry Truman as the Cold War was beginning.

Born February 15, 1892 in Matteawan (now Beacon), NY, Forrestal attended Dartmouth, and later Princeton, but left prior to completing his degree. He served as a naval flier during World War I. In 1916, Forrestal joined an investment banking house as a bond salesman, and over the next 24 years he rose in the company becoming a partner, vice president, and then president in 1937.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Forrestal (who, following World War I had worked as a publicist for Democratic candidates), a special administrative assistant in 1940, and six weeks later appointed him undersecretary of the navy, where he headed naval procurement and production. Forrestal became secretary of the navy, following the death of his boss Frank Knox in 1944, guiding the department in the last year of the war, and after the Japanese surrender. Although he fought the unification of the Army and Navy departments, he helped shape the National Security Act of 1947, an act that weakened what would later be the department of defense (August 1949), which ironically he became head of.

During his period as secretary of defense, the Soviet Union blocked access to West Berlin, necessitating the Berlin Airlift, Communist governments took over China and Czechoslovakia, and war broke out between Arab and Israeli armies following the proclamation of the Israeli state in 1948. Internally, there were many problems with President Truman, over budgets and power, and Truman forced Forrestal to resign on March 28, 1949. Suffering physical and mental exhaustion, he entered Bethesda Naval Hospital, and leapt to his death from a 16th-floor window on May 22. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.

March 4, 2008

Edward's Untimely Death Series: Entry #10

Although Harriet Quimby (1875-1912) had an amazingly short career as a pilot—a mere 11 months—she is famous for being the first American woman to become a licensed pilot and the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

Born in Michigan, May 1875, Quimby aspired to a career on the stage, but instead became a journalist in San Francisco. In 1903, she became a staff member at Leslie's Illustrated Weekly in New York City. At Leslie's she traveled the world as a photojournalist, and wrote theater reviews. In 1906 she was taken for a high speed automobile ride, which spurred her interest in speed; she subsequently bought her own car and advised others to buy them too.

Harriet's also worked as a screenwriter: she sold several stories to silent screen director D.W. Griffith, who in turn produced five movies based on her works.

While attending the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament in Long Island, New York, in October 1910, Quimby met Matilde Moisant and her brother John, who was an American aviator and operator of a flight school with his brother Alfred. At that time the Wright Brothers schools did not teach women, and Quimby convinced Alfred to teach her and Matilde how to fly. On August 1, 1911, Quimby became the first U.S. woman to earn a pilot's license, with Matilde following close behind as the second licensee.

In her trademark purple satin flying suit with hood, Quimby became the first woman to fly at night, and she and Matilde were the first women to fly over Mexico. On April 16, 1912, Quimby departed Dover, England towards Calais, France, but instead landed in Hardelot, France, nonetheless becoming the first woman to fly the English Channel. Unfortunately, her accomplishment was lost among the stories of a major disaster—the sinking of the Titanic two days prior.

While flying her new 70-horsepower two-seat Bleriot monoplane at the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts on July 1, 1912, Harriet and her passenger William Willard—the event's organizer—experienced an unexpected pitch forward, ejecting Willard out of the plane, followed seconds later by Quimby. They plunged to their deaths in the Dorchester Bay in front of 5,000 spectators. Details of the accident appeared in the Fort Wayne Sentinel.

About March 2008

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

February 2008 is the previous archive.

April 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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