The Thing About Today – February 26

February 26, 2020
Day 57 of 366


February 26th is the fifty-seventh day of the year. It is Liberation Day in Kuwait.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Pistachio Day and National Tell a Fairy Tale Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1616, Galileo Galilei was formally banned by the Roman Catholic Church for teaching and defending his view that the Earth orbits the sun.
  • In 1802, Victor Hugo was born. He was the French author, poet, and playwright, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables (1862) and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831).
  • In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba.
  • In 1829, Levi Strauss was born. The German-American fashion designer founded Levi Strauss & Co.
  • In 1908, animator, producer, and voice actor Tex Avery was born.
  • In 1909, Kinemacolor was debuted to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London. It was the first successful color motion picture process.
  • In 1916, comedian Jackie Gleason was born.
  • In 1918, author, critic, and Star Trek alum Theodore Sturgeon was born.
  • In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed an act of Congress to establish the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
  • In 1928, singer-songwriter and pianist Fats Domino was born.
  • In 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed an executive order to establish the 96,000 acre Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
  • In 1932, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor Johnny Cash was born.
  • In 1963, actress, singer, and activist Chase Masterson was born.
  • In 1966, AS-201 was launched. It was the first uncrewed test flight of an entire production Block I Apollo command and service module and the Saturn IB launch vehicle.
  • In 1993, a truck bomb parked below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City exploded, killing six and injuring over a thousand people.


This year, February 26th is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season of penitence in the liturgical year. I’m not a member of a religion that observes the season, but I have several friends that are and I have been interested in what it means. There is obviously so much more to it than I can write in this short segment.

It is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting, traditionally observed by Western Christians including Anglicans, Latin Rite Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Moravians, Nazarenes, Independent Catholics, and many from the Reformed faith. The name derives from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants, often to the dictum, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Those ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.

The First Council of Nicæa spoke of Lent as a period of fasting for forty days, in preparation for Eastertide. In some denominations, the holiday is observed though observed fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance as the observer contemplates their transgressions. The United Methodist Church states that the fast comes from a biblical basis since Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation in their Gospels, fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness.

The abstinence from mammal and fowl meat is observed on every Friday of the Lenten period, which this year runs until Thursday, April 9th.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – February 25

February 25, 2020
Day 56 of 366


February 25th is the fifty-sixth day of the year. It is Armed Forces Day in the Dominican Republic.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Covered Nut Day, National Clam Chowder Day, and World Spay Day. The last one is typically observed on the last Tuesday in February.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels was sworn into the United States Senate. He was a Republican from Mississippi and the first African American ever to sit in the United States Congress.
  • In 1901, J. P. Morgan incorporated the United States Steel Corporation.
  • In 1913, German actor Gert Fröbe was born. He played the titular character in 1964’s Goldfinger.
  • In 1919, Oregon became the first U.S. state to levy a gasoline tax with one cent per gallon of fuel dispensed.
  • In 1928, Charles Jenkins Laboratories of Washington, D.C. became the first holder of a broadcast license for television from the Federal Radio Commission.
  • Also in 1928, Larry Gelbart was born. He created the television series M*A*S*H.
  • In 1933, The USS Ranger (CV-4) was launched. It was the first US Navy ship to be designed from the start of construction as an aircraft carrier.
  • In 1943, George Harrison of The Beatles was born.
  • In 1949, wrestler Ric Flair was born. Wooooo!
  • In 1966, Téa Leoni was born.
  • In 1971, Sean Astin was born.
  • In 1973, Anson Mount was born.
  • In 1986, Jameela Jamil was born.
  • Also in 1986, James and Oliver Phelps were born. They were the Weasley Twins in the Harry Potter film franchise.


This year, February 25th is Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pączki Day, and Fastnacht Day, all of which immediately precede Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season in the liturgical year.

It is the last day of Carnival, a period of celebration during the Shrovetide. Shrove Tuesday takes its name from the term shrive, which means “to absolve”. The day is one of “fat eating” and gorging before the 40-day fast of Lent, and offers a last chance for self-examination before beginning the period of spiritual growth and sacrifice.

Mardi Gras (literally translated to Fat Tuesday), Pączki Day, and Fastnacht Day all focus on this last day of consumption, through pancakes and doughnuts (designed to empty the larder before the fast) for the latter two and general revelry and partying for well-known celebration in New Orleans.

If you’re celebrating today, have fun, party hard, and be safe.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – February 24

February 24, 2020
Day 55 of 366


February 24th is the fifty-fifth day of the year. It is Flag Day in Mexico.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Tortilla Chip Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1582, with the papal bull Inter gravissimas, Pope Gregory XIII announced the Gregorian calendar.
  • In 1711, Rinaldo by George Frideric Handel premiered in London. It was the first Italian opera written for the London stage.
  • In 1786, Wilhelm Grimm was born. A German anthropologist, author, and academic, he was the younger of the Brothers Grimm.
  • In 1803, the Supreme Court of the United States established the principle of judicial review through the Marbury v. Madison decision.
  • In 1822, The first Swaminarayan temple in the world, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad, was inaugurated.
  • In 1831, The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was proclaimed. It was the first removal treaty in accordance with the Indian Removal Act. The Choctaws in Mississippi ceded land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the West.
  • In 1868, Andrew Johnson became the first President of the United States to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives. He was later acquitted in the Senate.
  • In 1885, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was born. He was one of the few United States fleet admirals and was the leading naval authority on submarines.
  • In 1920, Nancy Astor became the first woman to speak in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. She was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) three months earlier.
  • In 1921, actor Abe Vigoda was born.
  • In 1947, actor and director Edward James Olmos was born.
  • In 1954, Sid Meier was born. He was the game designer who created the Civilization series.
  • In 1955, Steve Jobs was born. He co-founded both Apple Inc. and Pixar.
  • In 1980, the United States Olympic hockey team completed the “Miracle on Ice” by defeating Finland to win the gold medal.


February 24th is a wacky day with respect to calendars.

For superstitious reasons, when the Romans began to insert time into their calendar to align with the solar year, they decided not to place their extra month of Mercedonius after February but instead within it. That’s right, they put a whole month inside another one.

February 24th, which is known in the Roman calendar as “the sixth day before the Kalends [the root of calendar, meaning the first of the month] of March”, was replaced by the first day Mercedonius since it followed Terminalia, the festival of the Roman god of boundaries. After the end of Mercedonius, the rest of the days of February were observed and the new year began with the first day of March.

This process was complicated, to say the least. In fact, the overlaid religious festivals of February were so complicated that Julius Caesar chose not to change it at all during his 46 BC calendar reform. The extra day of his system’s leap years was the same as the old system, but he decided to ignore it. Instead, the sixth day before the Kalends of March was made to last for 48 hours and all the other days kept their original names.

When the extra hours were finally separated into two separate days, the leap day was still taken to be the one following the February 23rd Terminalia. Somewhere along the line, February 29th became the official Leap Day, but the Terminalia custom still exists in places around the world.

Confused yet? I know that I am. Thanks, Julius Caesar.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – February 23

February 23, 2020
Day 54 of 366


February 23rd is the fifty-fourth day of the year. In Japan, today is The Emperor’s Birthday, a celebration of the reigning emperor’s birthday. Emperor Naruhito as born on this date in 1960.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Banana Bread Day, National Dog Biscuit Day, and National Tile Day.


My favorite banana bread recipe is very simple.

  • Start with 3 or 4 bananas. The best bananas for this recipe are overripe and soft. Peel them and mash them up in a mixing bowl.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and mix thoroughly.
  • Mix in 3 eggs, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 2 cups of flour.
  • Pour the mixture into a greased loaf pan.
  • Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes.

The bread is good cold, but it’s even better warm with a pat of butter, a dab of honey, or (even better) homemade honey butter.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1455, the Gutenberg Bible was reportedly first published. This was the first Western book printed with movable type.
  • In 1820, a plot to murder all of the British cabinet ministers was exposed. It became known as the Cato Street Conspiracy.
  • In 1836, the Siege of the Alamo began in San Antonio, Texas. After thirteen days of minor skirmishes, the siege would give way to the Battle of the Alamo.
  • In 1886, Charles Martin Hall produced the first samples of aluminum from the electrolysis of aluminum oxide. He was assisted by his older sister, Julia Brainerd Hall. The element was named aluminium, based on the mineral alum, and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted the name as the international standard in 1990. In 1993, they recognized aluminum as an acceptable variant.
  • In 1889, Victor Fleming was born. He directed 1939 films The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind.
  • In 1903, Cuba leased Guantánamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity”.
  • In 1905, Chicago attorney Paul Harris and three other businessmen met for lunch. While there, they formed the Rotary Club, the world’s first service club.
  • In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge signed the bill that established the Federal Radio Commission. Later replaced by the Federal Communications Commission, the organization was created to regulate the use of radio frequencies in the United States.
  • Also in 1927, German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote to fellow physicist Wolfgang Pauli to describe his now-famous uncertainty principle for the first time. Related to quantum systems, the uncertainty principle states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be predicted from initial conditions, and vice versa.
  • In 1930, Gerry Davis was born. He was a script editor on Doctor Who, co-creator of the Cybermen with Kit Pedler, and reportedly originated the idea of the title character changing faces to accommodate replacement of the lead actor.
  • In 1940, Walt Disney’s Pinocchio was released.
  • In 1941, Plutonium was first produced and isolated by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg.
  • In 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima, a group of United States Marines and a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman from the 5th Marine Division reached the top of Mount Suribachi. Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press captured the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning image of the group raising the American flag.
  • In 1954, the first mass inoculation of children against polio using the Salk vaccine began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • In 1981, actor, producer, and screenwriter Josh Gad was born.
  • In 1983, actress Emily Blunt was born.
  • In 1997, the NBC network aired an uncensored presentation of Schindler’s List. The film was watched by 65 million viewers.
  • In 2008, a United States Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber crashed on Guam. This was the first operational loss of a B-2 since the aircraft’s maiden flight in 1989.


In 1932, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was born.

Before she began her quintessential run in the Star Trek franchise, she had some success with stage, film, and television, including comedy training from Lucille Ball. She started with Star Trek with The Cage, the rejected first pilot in which she played first officer Number One. She was romantically involved with series creator Gene Roddenberry and made the transition to the series as Nurse Christine Chapel, a role that carried into the motion pictures as well.

She provided several voices for Star Trek: The Animated Series and breathed life into the outrageous and iconoclastic Lwaxana Troi. She was also the regular voice for computers on Federation starships for every live-action series through Star Trek: Enterprise and most of the films through 2009’s reboot, a role that inspired the Amazon Alexa.

She appeared in several other non-Trek acting roles, but her status as First Lady of Star Trek was the backbone of her legacy. After Gene Roddenberry’s death, she brought two of his ideas to life with Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda. She was also the creative director for the Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe comic book series.

Her final role was as the Enterprise computer in 2009’s Star Trek. She died from leukemia at the age of 76 on December 18, 2008.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Thing About Today – February 22

February 22, 2020
Day 53 of 366


February 22nd is the fifty-third day of the year. It marks Independence Day in Saint Lucia after separating from the United Kingdom in 1979.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National California Day, National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, and National Margarita Day. Get all three by cooking a sweet potato while drinking a margarita in California.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1632, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, received the first printed copy of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The Grand Duke was the dedicatee of the book that compared the Copernican system (the orbital model that shows the Sun as the center of the solar system) with the more traditional Ptolemaic system (the orbital model in which everything revolves around the Earth).
  • In 1732, George Washington was born. He was a general in the American Revolution and the first President of the United States.
  • In 1819, Spain sold Florida to the United States for five million U.S. dollars under the Adams–Onís Treaty.
  • In 1862, Jefferson Davis was officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia. He was previously inaugurated as a provisional president on February 18, 1861.
  • In 1878, Frank Woolworth opens the first of many of five-and-dime Woolworth stores. The first store was located in Utica, New York.
  • In 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington as U.S. states.
  • In 1909, the sixteen battleships of the Great White Fleet, led by USS Connecticut, returned to the United States after a voyage around the world.
  • In 1915, the Imperial German Navy instituted unrestricted submarine warfare.
  • In 1924, United States President Calvin Coolidge becomes the first President to deliver a radio address from the White House.
  • In 1950, basketball star and sportscaster Julius “Dr. J” Erving was born.
  • In 1959, Kyle MacLachlan was born.
  • In 1962, zoologist and television host Steve Irwin was born.
  • In 1968, actress Jeri Ryan was born.
  • In 1975, Drew Barrymore was born.
  • In 1980, the “Miracle on Ice” occurred at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York when the United States hockey team defeated the Soviet Union hockey team by a 4-3 score.


In 1857, Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, was born. In 1889, Lady Olave Baden-Powell, GBE was born. Together, along with Robert’s sister Agnes, they founded the Scouting and Guiding movements.

Robert Baden-Powell was a British Army officer who wrote several military books. Using them as a guide, he wrote Scouting for Boys in 1908 and formed The Boy Scouts Association in 1910 after retiring from the army as a lieutenant general. In 1909, Baden-Powell attended a rally of Scouts, many of whom had joined and spontaneously formed troops, at Crystal Palace in London. There he met with some of the first Girl Scouts, and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell formed the Girl Guides soon after.

The movement soon became an international phenomenon, leading the formation of the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA.

In 1912, Robert Baden-Powell met Olave St Clair Soames while en route to New York on a Scouting World Tour. They were married later that same year, and she became the first Chief Guide for Britain and World Chief Guide in 1930 for her major contributions to the development of the movement.

Robert Baden-Powell died on January 8, 1941, and was buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Nyeri, Kenya. Olave Baden-Powell, who was 32 years younger than her husband, died on June 25, 1977. Her ashes were taken to the same gravesite, which has now become a national monument.

The legacy of the Baden-Powell family is honored on February 22nd with Founder’s Day (for the World Organization of the Scout Movement) and World Thinking Day (for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts).

Despite all of the turmoil within the Boy Scouts of America, the Baden-Powells still hold a special place in my heart for the years of my childhood that I spent in the Scouting program. I earned my Eagle Scout award at the age of 15 and look back fondly on the experiences and friendships developed on that path.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



Culture on My Mind – The Tiger Returns

Culture on My Mind
February 21, 2020

This week’s “can’t let it go” is a slice of my childhood.


On February 19, Hasbro announced that they have plans to tap that nostalgia well one more time with the Tiger LCD handheld games.

In an attempt to break into the portable gaming market, Tiger sold very basic versions of existing video games in a liquid crystal display format powered by two AA batteries. Housing one game per unit, they had basic four-direction controls, limited actions, and simple sounds, but they were still engaging. I spent countless hours playing Double Dragon (hence the vintage commercial above) to master the proper timing to beat all four levels and rescue Marian.

Hasbro intends to launch these retro devices this autumn. The launch titles include The Little MermaidTransformers: Generation 2X-Men Project X, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Each game will retail for $14.99, and they’re up for pre-order now at GameStop.


Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The Thing About Today – February 21

February 21, 2020
Day 52 of 366


February 21st is the fifty-second day of the year. It marks the ancient Roman festival of Ferālia, a celebration of the Manes (Roman spirits of the dead, particularly the souls of deceased individuals), which fell on 21 February as recorded by Ovid in Book II of his Fasti. It’s the end of Parentalia, a nine-day festival honoring the dead ancestors.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Grain-Free Day, National Sticky Bun Day, and National Caregivers Day. That last one is typically observed on the third Friday in February.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1804, the first self-propelling steam locomotive debuted at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.
  • In 1808, Russian troops crossed the border to Sweden at Abborfors in eastern Finland, without a previous declaration of war, thus beginning the Finnish War. In the end, Sweden lost the eastern half of the country to Russia.
  • In 1828, the initial issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was published. It was the first periodical to use the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah.
  • In 1842, John Greenough was granted the first U.S. patent for the sewing machine.
  • In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto.
  • In 1866, Lucy Hobbs Taylor became the first American woman to graduate from dental school.
  • In 1885, the newly completed Washington Monument was dedicated.
  • In 1916, the Battle of Verdun began. The longest confrontation of World War I, the battle was fought from February to mid-December on the Western Front in France. It was the most costly battle in human history, totaling over 714,000 casualties in 302 days.
  • In 1925, The New Yorker published its first issue.
  • In 1927, American journalist and author Erma Bombeck was born.
  • In 1933, singer-songwriter and pianist Nina Simone was born.
  • In 1937, actor Gary Lockwood was born.
  • In 1946, actor and producer Anthony Daniels was born. He portrayed C-3PO in loads of Star Wars media.
  • Also in 1946, actor and director Alan Rickman was born.
  • Also in 1946, actress Tyne Daly was born.
  • In 1947, Edwin Land demonstrated the first “instant camera”, the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America in New York City.
  • In 1955, Kelsey Grammer was born.
  • In 1972, President Richard Nixon went to the People’s Republic of China to normalize relations between the two countries.
  • In 1987, actress Ellen Page was born.
  • In 1996, actress Sophie Turner was born.


In 1964, Mark and Scott Kelly were born. The twin brother shared similar career trajectories: They were both United States Navy captains, pilots, and astronauts.

Sons of two retired police officers, the brothers were both inspired to join the military. Mark graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy with a bachelor of science degree in marine engineering and nautical science. Scott attended the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at State University of New York Maritime College (SUNY Maritime) and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering.

Both brothers became naval aviators – Mark flew with Attack Squadron 115 (VA-115) in Atsugi, Japan while Scott was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 143 (VFA-143) in NAS Oceana, Virginia – before reuniting at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Their classmates included future astronauts Alvin Drew, Lisa Nowak, and Stephen Frick.

After being selected for the NASA Astronaut Corps, both brothers worked on the Space Shuttle program. Mark started with STS-108 (Endeavour) and Scott with STS-103 (Discovery).

Mark Kelly’s final mission was STS-134 (Endeavour), after which he retired from NASA and the Navy. His wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, survived an assassination attempt and he retired in order to help with her recovery. In February 2019, he launched his campaign for election to the Senate.

Scott Kelly’s final mission was a year-long study on the International Space Station to better understand the effects of spaceflight on the human body. His brother was used as an Earth-bound control. He retired from NASA after returning home, having retired from the Navy four years earlier.

The Kelly brothers are the only known siblings to have both traveled in space.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.