The Thing About Today – February 29

February 29, 2020
Day 60 of 366

 

February 29th is the sixtieth day of the year. Happy Leap Day!

It is Bachelor’s Day in Ireland, an old tradition on Leap Day where women take the lead in initiating dances and proposing marriage. If the proposal was refused the man was expected to buy the woman a silk gown, a fur coat, or (in the United Kingdom) a new pair of gloves on Easter Day. The tradition supposedly originates from a deal that Saint Bridget struck with Saint Patrick.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Time Refund Day and Rare Disease Day. That last one is typically observed on the last day of February.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1720, Ulrika Eleonora, Queen of Sweden abdicated in favor of her husband, who became King Frederick I less than a month later.
  • In 1796, the Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain began ten years of peaceful trade between the two nations.
  • In 1892, St. Petersburg, Florida was incorporated.
  • In 1904, bandleader Jimmy Dorsey was born.
  • In 1916, South Carolina raised the minimum working age for factory, mill, and mine workers from twelve to fourteen years old.
  • Also in 1916, singer and actress Dinah Shore was born.
  • In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award. It was for her role as “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind.
  • In 1964, Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser set a new world record in the 100-meter freestyle swimming competition of 58.9 seconds.
  • In 1968, author and illustrator Howard Tayler was born.
  • In 1996, the Seige of Sarajevo ended. It was the longest siege of a capital city in history, spanning three years, 10 months, three weeks and three days. That’s three times longer than the Battle of Stalingrad and more than a year longer than the Siege of Leningrad.

 

Leap Day is added to solar calendars in most years that are divisible by four. In the Gregorian calendar, years that are divisible by 100, but not by 400, do not contain a leap day.

Lunisolar calendars, whose months are based on the phases of the Moon, use leap (intercalary) month instead. In the Chinese calendar, this day will only occur in years of the monkey, dragon, and rat.

The purpose of the leap day is to compensate for the Earth’s period of orbital revolution around the Sun. We use the shorthand of one year equating to 365 days, but the orbital period is really 365 days and six hours long. The leap compensates for this lag since otherwise, seasons would occur later than intended in the calendar year.

The Julian calendar added a leap day every four years, but because of how that calendar was structured, that added too many days. This addition of approximately 3 days every 400 years shifted equinoxes and solstices shift to earlier dates. The Gregorian calendar was introduced both to shift these dates back by omitting several days, and to reduce the number of leap years via the “century rule” to keep the equinoxes more or less fixed and the date of Easter consistently close to the vernal equinox.

 

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 – Staying Curious

Culture on My Mind
February 28, 2020

This week’s “can’t let it go” is in memory of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.

“You see, if you lose your curiosity, then you stop learning.”

From Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson

 

Katherine Johnson, NASA

Katherine Johnson slipped the surly bonds of Earth on February 24th at the age of 101. She was critical to the success of manned spaceflight in this country during her 35 years at NASA, including calculations of trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths for Project Mercury. She worked on the Apollo Program, the Space Shuttle Program, and plans for a Mars mission. She was also a co-author on 26 scientific papers.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015.

You can learn more about her in her autobiography and the 2016 biopic Hidden Figures (based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly).

Her ethos is one of the reasons that I do what I do. I’m not in it for money or fame. I just want to have fun, stay curious, and keep learning.

 

 

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 28

February 28, 2020
Day 59 of 366

 

February 28th is the fifty-ninth day of the year. It is National Science Day in India.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Souffle Day, National Floral Design Day, National Public Sleeping Day, Tartar Sauce Day, National Tooth Fairy Day, and Skip the Straw Day. That last one is typically observed on the fourth Friday in February.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1700, February 28 was followed by March 1, thus creating the Swedish Calendar. It was used only by Sweden until February 30, 1712, when it was abandoned for a return to the Julian calendar. Sweden transitioned to the Gregorian calendar in 1753, one year after England and its colonies.
  • In 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was incorporated, becoming the first railroad in America offering commercial transportation of both people and freight.
  • In 1849, regular steamship service from the east to the west coast of the United States began with the arrival of the SS California in San Francisco Bay, four months and 22 days after leaving New York Harbor.
  • In 1850, the University of Utah was established. It was originally called the University of Deseret, as established by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret. It closed in 1853, reopened in 1867, and gained its current name in 1892.
  • In 1867, seventy years of Holy See-United States relations are ended by a Congressional ban on federal funding of diplomatic envoys to the Vatican. The ban was not lifted until January 10, 1984.
  • In 1893, the USS Indiana (BB-1) was launched. She was the lead ship of her class and the first battleship in the United States Navy comparable to foreign battleships of the time.
  • In 1935, DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invented nylon.
  • In 1940, the Andretti brothers were born. Aldo and Mario were both famous in the car racing industry, though Aldo quit racing due to severe accidents. Mario had a long career, from 1968 to 1982, with 109 wins on major circuits.
  • In 1944, actress and dancer Kelly Bishop was born.
  • In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick announced to a gathering of friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. A formal announcement was made on April 25th following the April 2nd publication in Nature.
  • In 1954, the first color television sets using the NTSC standard were offered for sale to the general public.
  • In 1955, comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried was born.
  • In 1969, actor Robert Sean Leonard was born.
  • In 1976, actress Ali Larter was born.
  • In 1991, the first Gulf War ended. The nearly seven months that included Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm was a very tense time period in my household since it kept my father, then a United States Air Force reservist, on packed bags and ready to deploy.
  • In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raided the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas with a warrant to arrest the group’s leader David Koresh. The initial altercation killed four ATF agents and six Davidians before starting a 51-day standoff.
  • In 1997, a highly luminous flash of gamma rays classified as GRB 970228 struck the Earth for 80 seconds. This provided early evidence that gamma-ray bursts occur well beyond the Milky Way.

 

In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H aired. The episode premiere was seen by almost 125 million viewers, a record for the highest viewership of a season finale that still stands today.

The finale was a two-and-a-half-hour episode, closing out eleven seasons and 256 episodes of television. The series was so popular that, despite the 14 hour time difference, the United States Army set up special television sets in parking lots, auditoriums, and day rooms so that servicemembers in Korea could watch live. the episode was written by eight collaborators, including series star Alan Alda, who also directed.

“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” chronicles the final days of the Korean War at the 4077th MASH. It features the war’s effects on the individuals at the unit and closes each of their stories. As the ceasefire goes into effect, the members of the 4077th throw a party before taking down the camp for the last time. Tear-filled goodbyes lead to each of the main characters going their separate ways.

Interest was unprecedented for the time, inspiring the CBS network to sell commercial airtime for $450,000 per 30-second block. That equates to nearly $1.2 million dollars today, and was more expensive than that year’s Super Bowl. It is still ranked as one of the most unforgettable television finales of all time, including the final iconic scene. Interesting bits of trivia include that it wasn’t the final episode filmed – the final scene was the time capsule gathering in “As Time Goes By” – and that it wasn’t originally included in the syndication package. It finally entered syndication on its tenth anniversary.

 

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 27

February 27, 2020
Day 58 of 366

 

February 27th is the fifty-eighth day of the year. It is Independence Day in the Dominican Republic.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as Anosmia Awareness DayNational Kahlua DayNational Retro DayNational Strawberry DayNational Polar Bear DayNational Chili Day, and National Toast Day.

National Chili Day is typically observed on the fourth Thursday in February, and National Toast Day is typically observed on the last Thursday of February.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 380, the Edict of Thessalonica was issued by Emperors Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II. It declared their wish that all Roman citizens convert to trinitarian Christianity.
  • In 1782, the House of Commons of Great Britain votes against further war during the American Revolutionary War.
  • In 1801, Washington, D.C. was placed under the jurisdiction of the United States Congress pursuant to the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801.
  • In 1807, poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born.
  • In 1902, journalist, author, and Nobel Prize laureate John Steinbeck was born.
  • In 1922, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in the case of Leser v. Garnett. This was a challenge to the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, allowing women the right to vote, and the Court determined that the amendment was constitutionally sound.
  • In 1932, actress and humanitarian Elizabeth Taylor was born.
  • In 1933, the Reichstag fire occurred. The Reichstag was Germany’s parliament building in Berlin, and Marinus van der Lubbe, a young Dutch Communist, claimed responsibility. The Nazis used the fire to solidify their power and eliminate the communists as political rivals.
  • In 1940, Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discovered carbon-14.
  • In 1951, The Twenty-Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. This limited United States Presidents to two terms in office.
  • In 1966, actor Donal Logue was born.
  • In 1968, CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite delivered his famous scathing editorial on America’s chances of winning the Vietnam War.
  • In 1983, actress Kate Mara was born.

 

In 1964, the Government of Italy asked for help to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa from toppling over.

The Tower of Pisa, a freestanding bell tower of Pisa’s cathedral, is the third oldest structure in the city’s Cathedral Square. It was built in three stages over 199 years from 1173 to 1372, but began to sink shortly after work had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to the foundation (only three meters thick) sinking into the weak and unstable soil. Construction was halted for nearly a century while the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence, which allowed time for the soil to settle.

In an attempt to compensate for further tilting, the engineers built the upper floors with one side taller than the other, resulting in a curved tower. Numerous attempts were made over the centuries to prevent the tower from toppling, but most of them either failed or further endangered the tower. In 1964, Italy requested help and welcomed a multinational task force of engineers, mathematicians, and historians to tackle the project. Finally, in May 2008, engineers announced that the tower was stabilized such that it has stopped moving for the first time in history. It is expected to remain stable for the next 200 years.

 

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.

 

 

Timestamp #TW26: Exit Wounds

Torchwood: Exit Wounds
(1 episode, s02e13, 2008)

 

Gray’s revenge tears Torchwood at the seams.

Picking up right where we left off, Tosh detects severe Rift activity St. Helen’s Hospital, the Cardiff Police Station, and the Central IT Server Building. With their SUV missing, the team piles into Rhys’s car and heads to their respective assignments.

Jack returns to the Hub and finds John Hart. Hart shows his love by unloading two machine guns into Jack’s chest. Captain Harkness wakes up chained to the wall and subject to the disappointment of an apparently lonely Time Agent. Hart fires up the rift manipulator, takes his captive to a nice vantage point, and pages the rest of Torchwood Three.

Gwen and Rhys head to the police station to find PC Andy Davidson supervising bloody corpses and the Weevils that caused them. The Weevils apparently targeted the four most senior officers on the force. Convenient, that.

Ianto and Tosh arrive at the Central Server Building to find three cloaked figures wielding scythes. The menace is easily dispatched with a little gunplay.

Owen finds a Hoix at the hospital and takes care of it with a sedative and a pack of cigarettes.

When John Hart pages their comms, he orders the team to their respective roofs. Once there, they watch helplessly as Hart detonates explosives in fifteen locations around the city. Hart then whisks Jack away from Cardiff Castle into the past.

The city, meanwhile, is crippled.

Jack finds himself in 27 AD. John Hart refuses to take Jack back to the present, revealing that he is a walking bomb and that his vortex manipulator is fused to his arm. Jack’s brother Gray arrives and Jack apologizes for abandoning him. Gray doesn’t accept the apology, preferring to stab Jack in the chest with a large knife. Gray is furious that he was left to suffer unspeakable torture for years, and he wants Jack to suffer as he did.

Gray throws Jack into a grave, destined to die from asphyxiation and resurrect thousands of times over the next 2000 years. Hart protests, but relents to Gray’s wishes as he throws a ring to Jack and fills the grave. Gray travels to the Hub in the present and releases Weevils into the streets.

Gwen takes command of the local police, dispatching them into the city to deal with the crisis. Tosh and Ianto are reassigned to the Turnmill Nuclear Power Station where a potential meltdown looms, but the Weevils block their path.

When Tosh detects Gray and Hart’s arrival in the present, Gwen returns to the Hub and finds the captain. Hart explains things to Gwen, especially Gray’s story. The vortex manipulator releases from his arm as Gray promised and Hart uses that as evidence that he is telling the truth. He tells Tosh of a tracker – the ring – that he left with Jack as the only means to save him, but the signal is nowhere to be found. Tosh and Ianto return to the Hub and help wrangle the Weevils still in Torchwood HQ, but Gray traps Ianto, Hart, and Gwen in the vaults.

Meanwhile, Owen uses his status as “King of the Weevils” to navigate the streets to the nuclear plant. He finds Nira Docherty, a scientist trying to singlehandedly prevent the meltdown, and convinces her to leave with a can of Weevil repellent. Owen establishes comms with Tosh and they set to work, but Tosh is interrupted by a gunshot.

She has been fatally shot in the stomach by Gray. As he looms over her, a pounding echoes through the Hub. Gray tracks the sound leaving Tosh to drag herself to the autopsy room and inject herself with a massive load of painkillers.

The pounding was coming from the morgue. Gray finds Jack in a drawer, and Jack tells his brother that he forgives him. The Torchwood Institute team from 1901 found Jack, who has at that point crossed his own timeline, and fulfilled his request to be frozen until the present day. Jack uses chloroform to incapacitate Gray.

In the vaults, Hart rigs a recall command for the Weevils. Jack finds the captives and releases them.

Tosh re-establishes comms with Owen and walks him through the recovery process, but the core is too far gone. The only option is to vent the coolant through the containment building, for which Owen will need to set up a delay to avoid being destroyed. Unfortunately, a power surge triggers and emergency lockdown, trapping Owen in the room.

A hopeless Owen falls apart, but Tosh asks him to stop before he breaks her heart. The two talk as they each prepare to die, although Owen is unaware of Tosh’s condition and Owen realizes that he will die by watching himself dissolve. They also talk about that one time that Tosh had to cover for Owen just after he was hired… that one time with the space pig.

Owen apologizes for the two of them missing each other and never getting that date. The coolant begins to fill the room, and Owen tells Tosh that everything is okay. His last words are, “Oh, God.”

Jack, Gwen, Ianto, and Hart find Tosh. She tells them about Owen before dying in Jack’s arms.

The next morning, Rhys and Gwen watch the news. Rhys holds Gwen as she mourns. At the Hub, Jack prepares to freeze Gray, unprepared to add more death to that which has already torn at the team. John bids Jack farewell with his condolences and a kiss.

Jack and Gwen pack up Owen’s and Tosh’s belongings as Ianto logs them out of the system for the final time. The team gathers around Tosh’s terminal as a message pops up.

It’s her farewell.

She thanks Jack, admits her love for Owen, and hopes that her death meant something. As she fades from the screen, Jack resolves that they should carry on. The end is where they start from.

 

I knew it was coming and I still cried. This story does what Torchwood does best by mixing action and drama and ensuring that the stakes are kept high. Doctor Who often pulls out the last-minute save and keeps the tone (mostly) hopeful and light, but Torchwood doesn’t pull punches. Everyone there is living on borrowed time.

It’s the last time that we will see the Torchwood Three team that we met in Day One together. It’s a milestone for the series.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Series Two Summary

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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.