The Thing About Today – October 24

October 24, 2020
Day 298 of 366

October 24th is the 298th day of the year. It is United Nations Day, commemorating the date in 1945 when the United Nations officially came into existence.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Food Day, National Bologna Day, and National Make A Difference Day (typically observed on the fourth Saturday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1851, William Lassell discovered the moons Umbriel and Ariel orbiting Uranus.
  • In 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph line across the United States was completed.
  • In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
  • In 1915, author and illustrator Bob Kane was born. With Bill Finger, he co-created the character of Batman.
  • In 1926, Harry Houdini’s last performance took place at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit.
  • In 1929, “Black Thursday” occurred on the New York Stock Exchange. The market lost 11 percent of its value at the opening bell on very heavy trading. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ended shortly thereafter, signaling the beginning of the Great Depression.
  • In 1931, the George Washington Bridge opened to public traffic over the Hudson River.
  • In 1939, actor F. Murray Abraham was born.
  • In 1946, a camera on board the V-2 No. 13 rocket took the first photograph of earth from outer space.
  • In 1949, the cornerstone of the United Nations Headquarters was laid.
  • In 1960, actor B.D. Wong was born.
  • In 1962, The Manchurian Candidate premiered.
  • In 1989, actress Eliza Taylor was born.
  • In 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays became the first Major League Baseball team based outside the United States to win the World Series.
  • In 1998, Deep Space 1 was launched to explore the asteroid belt and test new spacecraft technologies.
  • In 2003, Concorde made its last commercial flight.
  • In 2007, Chang’e 1, the first satellite in the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

In 1914, Jonas Salk was born. He was the virologist and medical researcher who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines.

In 1947, Salk accepted a professorship in the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, he undertook a project to determine the number of different types of poliovirus, starting in 1948 with funding from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. He saw an opportunity to extend this project towards developing a vaccine against polio, and he gathered a research team and devoted himself to this work for the next seven years.

The field trials were called the the most elaborate program of its kind in history. They included 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers. Over 1.8 million schoolchildren took part in the trials.

Before the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955, polio was considered one of the most serious public health problems in the world, and epidemics were increasingly devastating in the post-war United States. The 1952 epidemic in the United States killed 3,145 people and left 21,269 with some form of paralysis. Known as the worst polio outbreak in the nation’s history, most of its victims were children.

After news of the vaccine’s success was first made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was immediately hailed as a “miracle worker”, but he chose to not patent the vaccine or seek any profit from it in order to maximize its global distribution. Less than 25 years later, domestic transmission of polio had been completely eliminated in the United States.

October 24th is known as World Polio Day to commemorate Salk’s birth and his work in defeating the polio virus.

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 – Quarantine Con, Episodes XX-XXI

Culture on My Mind
October 23, 2020

The folks at the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics have started up the quarantine panels once again, and I have two to offer you this week.

The twentieth panel in this series comes ready to discuss favorite Frankensteins (or monsters thereof).

Panel #21, in typical track tradition, kept it strange by comparing famous cereal mascots to actual serial killers.

Gary and Joe have a lot more fun discussions planned in the Dragon Con off-season, if anything because these are so much fun to do. Stay tuned to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook.


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 – October 23

October 23, 2020
Day 297 of 366

October 23rd is the 297th day of the year. It is Paris Peace Agreement Day in Cambodia, commemorating the Paris Peace Agreements (សន្ធិសញ្ញាសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីស in Khmer) that marked the official end of the Cambodian–Vietnamese War in 1991

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Boston Cream Pie Day, National TV Talk Show Host Day (coincides with Johnny Carson’s birthday), Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day, and iPod Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1850, the first National Women’s Rights Convention began in Worcester, Massachusetts.
  • In 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont flew an airplane in the first heavier-than-air flight in Europe.
  • In 1925, comedian and talk show host Johnny Carson was born.
  • In 1941, Walt Disney’s Dumbo premiered.
  • In 1942, author, director, producer, and screenwriter Michael Crichton was born.
  • In 1954, Taiwanese-American director, producer, and screenwriter Ang Lee was born.
  • In 1956, the first video recording on magnetic tape was televised coast-to-coast.
  • In 1958, the Smurfs debuted on television in the story “Johan and Pirlouit” by Belgium cartoonist Peyo.
  • In 1959, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Sam Raimi was born.
  • Also in 1959, singer-songwriter, comedian, and actor “Weird Al” Yankovic was born.
  • In 1970, Gary Gabelich set a land speed record in a rocket-powered automobile called the Blue Flame which was fueled with natural gas.
  • Also in 1970, television presenter and engineer Grant Imahara was born.
  • In 1976, Canadian-American actor and producer Ryan Reynolds was born.
  • In 1986, English actress Emilia Clarke was born.
  • In 1995, Yolanda Saldívar was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of popular Latin singer Selena.
  • In 2012, the twenty-third James Bond film, Skyfall, premiered.

October 23rd is Mole Day.

No, it’s not about the underground rodent. Instead, it’s all about chemistry.

Mole Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated among chemists, chemistry students, and chemistry enthusiasts on October 23rd, between 6:02 a.m. and 6:02 p.m. making the date 6:02 10/23 in the American style of writing dates.

The time and date are derived from Avogadro’s number, which is approximately 6.02×1023, defining the number of particles (atoms or molecules) in one mole (mol) of substance. It is one of the seven base SI units.

Mole Day originated in an article in The Science Teacher in the early 1980s. Then-high school chemistry teacher Maurice Oehler founded the National Mole Day Foundation (NMDF) on May 15, 1991. Many high schools around the world celebrate Mole Day as a way to get their students interested in chemistry, with various activities often related to chemistry. In fact, the American Chemical Society sponsors National Chemistry Week, which occurs from the Sunday through Saturday during which October 23rd falls. Thus, Mole Day is an integral part of National Chemistry Week.

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 – October 22

October 22, 2020
Day 296 of 366

October 22nd is the 296th day of the year. It is Wombat Day in Australia, despite the fact that they are considered to be nuisances by farmers.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Make a Dog’s Day, National Nut Day, and National Color Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1746, the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton University) received its charter.
  • In 1811, Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt was born.
  • In 1938, English actor Derek Jacobi was born.
  • Also in 1938, actor, comedian and producer Christopher Lloyd was born.
  • In 1844, followers of Baptist preacher William Miller, known as Millerites, anticipated the end of the world in conjunction with the Second Advent of Christ. The following day became known as the Great Disappointment. After his proclamation of the Second Coming did not occur as expected, new heirs of his message emerged, including the Advent Christians (1860), the Seventh-day Adventists (1863), and other Adventist movements.
  • In 1879, Thomas Edison tested the first practical electric incandescent light bulb using a filament of carbonized thread. It lasted 13​12 hours before burning out.
  • In 1883, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City opened with a performance of Gounod’s Faust.
  • In 1910, Hawley Harvey Crippen was convicted of poisoning his wife. He was the first felon to be arrested with the help of radio.
  • In 1942, actress and singer Annette Funicello was born. She was one of the most popular Mouseketeers on the original Mickey Mouse Club.
  • In 1943, actress Catherine Deneuve was born.
  • In 1952, actor and producer Jeff Goldblum was born.
  • In 1959, film and Broadway composer Marc Shaiman was born.
  • In 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, but turned down the honor.
  • Also in 1964, an all-party Parliamentary Committee selected the design which would become the new official flag of Canada.
  • In 1966, The Supremes became the first all-female music group to attain a #1 selling album with The Supremes A’ Go-Go.
  • Also in 1966, the Soviet Union launched Luna 12.
  • In 1968, Apollo 7 safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after orbiting the Earth 163 times.
  • In 1975, the Soviet unmanned space mission Venera 9 landed on Venus.
  • In 1976, Red Dye No. 4 was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration after it was discovered to causes tumors in the bladders of dogs.
  • In 1983, two correctional officers were killed by inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, thus inspiring the Supermax model of prisons.
  • In 2008, India launched its first unmanned lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1.
  • In 2013, the Australian Capital Territory became the first Australian jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage with the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013.
  • Also in 2013, Thor: The Dark World premiered.
  • In 2019, Same-sex marriage was legalized and abortion was decriminalized in Northern Ireland. This was as a result of the Northern Ireland Assembly not being restored.

October 22nd is International Stuttering Awareness Day.

Also known as International Stammering Awareness Day in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the day is intended to raise public awareness of the issues faced by millions of people – one percent of the world’s population – who stutter, or stammer.

Every year, stuttering communities and associations worldwide host events and campaign to highlight how certain aspects of society can be difficult for people who stammer. They challenge negative attitudes and discrimination, and they debunk myths that people who stammer are nervous or less intelligent.

The event also celebrates the many notable figures who stammer who have made a mark on the world now and throughout history in the fields of science, politics, philosophy, art, cinema and music.

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 #SJA18: Mona Lisa’s Revenge

Sarah Jane Adventures: Mona Lisa’s Revenge
(2 episodes, s03e05, 2009)

Timestamp SJA18 Mona Lisa Revenge

The art is so lifelike.

The Bannerman Road Gang is enjoying a moment in class while Clyde sketches K9. Mr. Chandra comes in with an important announcement, revealing that Clyde has won a chance to see the Mona Lisa at the National Gallery. Clyde never entered the competition, but Luke did it for him secretly. Clyde doesn’t mind given the occasion.

At the gallery, Lionel Harding and Phyllis Trupp examine the newly arrived painting. Phyllis longs for Harding, but as he ignores her overtures, the panting comes to life.

Luke arrives home to a furious Sarah Jane. She’s upset about the state of his room, and Luke is upset because she expects perfection just like the Bane did.

The next day, the class arrives at the gallery. Per the rules, they turn in their phones before perusing the facility. Luke confides his troubles in his friends and they start the tour. Luke picks up a Chinese mystery box and Clyde chastises him for handling the exhibits. They’re soon introduced to Harding and Trupp. Phyllis finishes preparing the exhibit hall and, upon confessing her feelings to the painting, is attacked by the Mona Lisa.

Clyde finds his own work in the gallery and his classmates celebrate. Harding praises his work, which Clyde later admits to his friends is inspired by their adventures. When the class is taken to see the Mona Lisa, they find Phyllis in the picture instead. After the class is ushered out of the exhibit, the gang sneaks back in to investigate.

Back at Bannerman Road, Mr. Smith checks in with Sarah Jane and her distracted state. She’s feeling depressed because Luke is growing up so quickly and that she’ll be alone again. Mr. Smith notifies her that the Mona Lisa has been stolen, and despite a lack of obvious alien activity, she decides to investigate because the kids are involved and the circumstances are so weird.

On their way to the exhibit, Rani notices that one of the guns is missing from Clyde’s painting. Hardin arrives to retrieve the kids and  Mona Lisa emerges from the shadows, armed with a Sontaran blaster. After a brief discussion with her hostages, she declares that she wants to have fun and opens fire, sending the gang running.

They find the police officers and museum staff trapped in the museum’s paintings. Meanwhile, Mona Lisa remembers Harding from his multiple trips to the Louvre and requests his help to free her brother from a painting of her same vintage. It so happens that the painting is in the museum.

The gang spots Sarah Jane’s car in the parking lot. While they look for her, Sarah Jane finds her way to the Mona Lisa exhibit gallery and hides as Harding and Mona Lisa arrive. Sarah Jane is taken hostage by Mona Lisa, who recognizes her from Luke’s discussion with his friends. Mona Lisa nearly shoots Sarah Jane, but stops when she hears a grumbling from her brother.

Mona Lisa puts Sarah Jane in a picture, drawing the gang to the gallery. They demand that Sarah Jane be released, but Mona Lisa refuses. Luke tackles Mona Lisa and the gang runs with Sarah Jane’s painting, so Mona Lisa releases William Bonneville’s Dark Rider from the painting of the same name.

And the chase commences. Mona Lisa and Harding continue their search while the Dark Rider pursues the gang with unlimited ammunition.

During their search, Mona Lisa sees a window and asks to go outside. When she reaches beyond the building, her arm reverts to its painted form. Furious that she’s trapped in the museum, she storms into a unfinished section. Clyde overhears as Mona Lisa details her plan to release her brother and conquer the world, but he is soon captured by the Dark Rider.

Clyde is forced to join the hunt for The Abomination, a painting by Giuseppe di Cattivo crafted from paint derived from sentient rocks that fell to Earth. The same paint was used to craft the Mona Lisa. The painting drove the artist insane and he crafted a puzzle box to make sure no one ever saw the painting again. Luke and Rani find this same information in a book from the gift shop.

The quest takes Mona Lisa and her group to the museum’s vaults. They find the painting, but the case is locked and the puzzle box is missing. In the gallery above, Luke realizes that the puzzle box he examined earlier is the key, but Mona Lisa arrives moments later to retrieve it. Harding tries to stand up against her, but after he smashes the box, Luke saves his life by promising an alternate method of opening the lock.

Everyone is unhappily reunited in the vaults. Luke asks Clyde to draw a new puzzle box so Mona Lisa can manifest it in the physical world. When she tries to, however, she also manifests K9 from Clyde’s sketchbook. When Mona Lisa opens the lock, K9 blasts the Abomination and destroys the alien pigment. This breaks Mona Lisa’s link on the physical, forcing all of her manifestations to revert to their true forms.

The world is saved once again.

The gang reunites with Sarah Jane and Luke makes amends while Sarah Jane praises his ingenuity. Meanwhile, Harding reunites with Trupp, but Trupp wants nothing to do with him after his dalliance with Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa is not a stranger to Doctor Who, having appeared before in City of Death alongside a Chinese puzzle box. There’s also another link with faces and time: An artist in City of Death painted Romana’s face as a clock, and one of the paintings in this story’s classroom setting was titled Face of Time.

That classic callback aside, this story was not particularly engaging. The villain had simple motivations, but the acting and thin plot were not compelling. The character moments with Sarah Jane and Luke felt forced for the story and didn’t seem to naturally evolve.

On the plus side, it was good to see Clyde happy about his craft. His joy was palpable, both in seeing his work in an actual museum and in his friend secretly submitting him for consideration.

I also like how he adores K9. I do too.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars


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 – October 21

October 21, 2020
Day 295 of 366

October 21st is the 295th day of the year. It is National Nurses’ Day in Thailand.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, National Reptile Awareness Day, BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) Day, Hagfish Day, and Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce. The last three are typically observed on the third Wednesday in October.

It is also Medical Assistants Recognition Day, which is typically observed on the Wednesday of the third business week in October.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan discovered the strait now known as the Strait of Magellan.
  • In 1797, in Boston Harbor, the 44-gun United States Navy frigate USS Constitution was launched.
  • In 1833, Alfred Nobel was born. The Swedish chemist and engineer invented dynamite and founded the Nobel Prize.
  • In 1867, the Medicine Lodge Treaty is signed by southern Great Plains Indian leaders, which required Native American Plains tribes to relocate to a reservation in western Oklahoma.
  • In 1879, Thomas Edison applied for a patent for his design for an incandescent light bulb.
  • In 1911, actor Peter Graves was born.
  • In 1921, President Warren G. Harding delivered the first speech by a sitting United States President against lynching in the deep South.
  • In 1929, author and critic Ursula K. Le Guin was born.
  • In 1940, the first edition of the Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls was published.
  • In 1941, Wonder Woman made her premiere in All Star Comics #8.
  • In 1950, astronaut Ronald McNair was born.
  • In 1956, actress and screenwriter Carrie Fisher was born.

I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

—Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking
  • In 1959, in New York City, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opened to the public.
  • Also in 1959, Japanese actor and producer Ken Watanabe was born.
  • Also in 1959, President Eisenhower approved the transfer of all US Army space-related activities to NASA, including most of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.
  • In 1964, My Fair Lady premiered.
  • In 1983, the meter was defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.
  • In 2005, images of the dwarf planet Eris were taken and subsequently used in documenting its discovery.

October 21st is Apple Day in the United Kingdom.

Apple Day is an annual celebration of apples and orchards. It traditionally falls on October 21st, the date of the first event in 1990, but events are also held throughout the month.

Common Ground, the organization responsible for the first Apple Day, describes the day as a way of celebrating and demonstrating that variety and richness matter to a locality and that it is possible to effect change in your place. They use the apple as a symbol of physical, cultural, and genetic diversity, and they hope that linking particular apples with their place of origin will allow orchards to be recognized and conserved for their contribution to local distinctiveness, including the rich diversity of wildlife they support.

Apple Day events can be large or small, from apple games in a garden to large village fairs with cookery demonstrations, games, apple identification, juice and cider, gardening advice, and the sale of many hundreds of apple varieties.

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 – October 20

October 20, 2020
Day 294 of 366

October 20th is the 294th day of the year. It is World Osteoporosis Day, a day that launches a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Youth Confidence Day, National Brandied Fruit Day, and National Pharmacy Technician Day (which is observed on the third Tuesday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1803, the United States Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase.
  • In 1818, the Convention of 1818 was signed between the United States and the United Kingdom. This settled the Canada-United States border on the 49th parallel for most of its length.
  • In 1882, Hungarian-American actor Bela Lugosi was born.
  • In 1932, actor and singer William Christopher was born. I know him best as Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H.
  • In 1935, actor Jerry Orbach was born.
  • In 1941, English actress Anneke Wills was born. She was companion Polly on Doctor Who.
  • In 1955, composer and conductor Thomas Newman was born.
  • In 1958, American-Danish actor and producer Viggo Mortensen was born.
  • In 1965, actor and producer William Zabka was born. He played Johnny Lawrence in the Karate Kid films and the current spinoff, Cobra Kai.
  • In 1973, the Saturday Night Massacre occurred. United States President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refused to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Cox was finally fired by Robert Bork.
  • Also in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is opened by Queen Elizabeth II after 14 years of construction.
  • In 1977, actor and musician Sam Witwer was born.
  • In 1998, comedian Richard Pryor was awarded the first ever Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

October 20th is World Statistics Day, an international day to celebrate the science of statistics. It was created by the United Nations Statistical Commission and was first celebrated on October 20, 2010. The day is unique because it is celebrated every five years.

In 2010, 103 countries celebrated a national Statistics Day, including 51 African countries that jointly celebrate African Statistics Day annually on November 18th. India celebrates a similar day on June 29th, which is also the birthday of statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis. The Royal Statistical Society in the United Kingdom also launched its getstats statistical literacy campaign on the same day at 20:10 on 20.10.2010.

Because of the quinquennial nature of the celebration, the next World Statistics Day was supposed to be celebrated today.

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.

Debrief: Pop Pop Con Con

Pop Pop Con Con
October 16 through October 18, 2020


Last weekend was Pop Pop Con Con, a free virtual convention hosted by Shaun and Laura Rosado of PopCycled Baubles.

Three days of geeky discussions helped to fill the gap of conventions cancelled by the global pandemic, and it was a really fun event overall.

All of the weekend’s panels can be found on the PopCycled Baubles YouTube channel, and the videos from the panels I participated in can be found below.

I want to thank the Rosados and all of the panelists for a great weekend, and for experimenting with the path forward for events like this in the future. The entirety of the convention was hosted and run on Streamyard, including the transitions between discussion panels, video bumpers, and scrolling chyron banners. It was very well crafted.

I keep saying that this is the way new and smaller conventions should be run. There’s no need for renting physical space with this, and it would certainly help to build an audience and get the convention on its feet in the first few years.

The New Normal – VOD


Far Beyond the Stars

D&D Tips and Tricks (Player Edition)


Sci Fi Westerns


The Thing About Today – October 19

October 19, 2020
Day 293 of 366

October 19th is the 293rd day of the year. It is Constitution Day in Niue, observed in honor of the country’s independence in the form of self-governing in free association with New Zealand starting in 1974.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Kentucky Day, National Seafood Bisque Day, National LGBT Center Awareness Day, and National Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day (typically observed on the third Monday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1386, the Universität Heidelberg held its first lecture, making it the oldest German university.
  • In 1469, Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella I of Castile. The marriage paved the way to the unification of Aragon and Castile into a single country that became Spain.
  • In 1789, John Jay was sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the United States.
  • In 1900, Max Planck discovered Planck’s Law of black-body radiation. Planck’s Law describes the spectral density of electromagnetic radiation emitted by a black body – an idealized physical body that absorbs all incident electromagnetic radiation, regardless of frequency or angle of incidence – in thermal equilibrium at a given temperature T, when there is no net flow of matter or energy between the body and its environment. I know, that’s a lot to handle. At its core, this discovery was a pioneering insight of modern physics and is of fundamental importance to quantum theory.
  • In 1940, Irish-British actor Michael Gambon was born.
  • In 1943, Streptomycin, the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis, was isolated by researchers at Rutgers University.
  • In 1945, actor John Lithgow was born.
  • In 1966, actor, director, and screenwriter Jon Favreau was born.
  • In 1973, President Nixon rejects an Appeals Court decision that he turn over the Watergate tapes.
  • In 1983, Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson was born.
  • In 1990, Dances with Wolves premiered.

As mentioned at the top of the post, today is Constitution Day in Niue. But, I asked myself, what is Niue?

Niue is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,500 miles (or 2,400 kilometers) from New Zealand. The island is about 100 square miles (260 km2) in land area and has a predominantly Polynesian population of 1,600 people.

The island is commonly referred to as “The Rock”, which comes from the traditional name “Rock of Polynesia”, and is is one of the world’s largest coral islands. The two-level terrain is made of limestone on the upper portion and a lower coastal terrace that slopes down to the sea in small cliffs. The coral reef has one major close to the capital of Alofi on the central western coast.

As mentioned before, the state is self-governing in free association with New Zealand, giving New Zealand the power to conduct most diplomatic relations on its behalf. Since it is part of the Realm of New Zealand, Niueans are citizens of New Zealand and Queen Elizabeth II is Niue’s head of state in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand.

Between 90% and 95% of the island’s people live in New Zealand, including about 70% of the speakers of the Niuean language. Niue is a bilingual country, and 30% of the population speak both Niuean and English.

Niue is subdivided into 14 municipalities called villages. Each village has a village council that elects its chairperson, and those villages are electoral districts which send an assemblyperson to the Parliament of Niue. The state holds democratic legislative elections every three years.

The island has a tropical climate and focuses on solar power, but also has one of the highest rates of greenhouse gas production per capita in the world. Consider, of course, that their per capita is based on 1,600 people, so it’s a bit skewed.

Niue is also the world’s first dark sky country as of March 2020. The entire island maintains standards of light development and keeps light pollution limited, so visitors can enjoy guided “Astro-tours” led by trained Niuean community members.

It sounds like quite the place.

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 – October 18

October 18, 2020
Day 292 of 366

October 18th is the 292nd day of the year. It is the Independence Day in Azerbaijan as they celebrate their separation from the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Exascale Day, International Legging Day, National Chocolate Cupcake Day, and National No Beard Day.

National Exascale Day celebrates the scientists and researchers who make breakthrough discoveries in medicine, materials sciences, energy, and beyond with the help of some of the fastest supercomputers in the world. Exascale means one quintillion computations per second, written as 1018. Hence, October 18th as the day for the celebration.

Historical items of note:

  • In 320, Greek philosopher Pappus of Alexandria observed an eclipse of the Sun and wrote a commentary on The Great Astronomer (Almagest).
  • In 1648, Boston Shoemakers formed the first American labor organization.
  • In 1851, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick was first published as The Whale by Richard Bentley of London.
  • In 1867, the United States took possession of Alaska after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million. The day is celebrated annually in the state as Alaska Day.
  • In 1922, The British Broadcasting Company (later the British Broadcasting Corporation) was founded by a consortium in an effort to establish a nationwide network of radio transmitters to provide a national broadcasting service.
  • In 1926, singer-songwriter and guitarist Chuck Berry was born.
  • In 1929, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council overruled the Supreme Court of Canada in Edwards v. Canada when it declared that women are considered “Persons” under Canadian law. The anniversary is known as Persons Day.
  • In 1938, actress Dawn Wells was born.
  • In 1946, Canadian composer, conductor, and producer Howard Shore was born.
  • In 1947, actor Joe Morton was born.
  • In 1951, actress and producer Pam Dawber was born.
  • In 1952, director, producer, and screenwriter Chuck Lorre was born.
  • In 1954, Texas Instruments announced the first transistor radio.
  • In 1960, Belgian martial artist, actor, and producer, and screenwriter Jean-Claude Van Damme was born.
  • In 1961, the film adaptation of West Side Story premiered.
  • In 1963, Félicette, a black and white female Parisian stray cat became the first cat launched into space. Félicette survived the flight.
  • In 1967, the Soviet probe Venera 4 reached Venus and became the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet.
  • Also in 1967, Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book premiered.
  • In 1979, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began allowing people to have home satellite earth stations without a federal government license.
  • In 1987, actor and singer Zac Efron was born. His first role was as young Simon Tam on Firefly.
  • In 2019, NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch took part in the first all-women spacewalk when they ventured out of the International Space Station to replace a power controller.

October 18th is Necktie Day in Croatia.

The version of the necktie that spread from Europe traces its roots to Croatian mercenaries serving in France during the Thirty Years’ War which happened between 1618 and 1648. These mercenaries wore their traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs which interested Parisians. Because of the difference between the Croatian word for Croats, Hrvati, and the French word, Croates, the garment became known as the cravat (or cravate in French).

The boy-king Louis XIV began wearing a lace cravat around 1646, when he was seven, and set the fashion for French nobility. This sparked a fashion craze in Europe, inspiring both men and women to wear pieces of fabric around their necks, and the lace cravat became known as the jabot. They took a large amount of time and effort to arrange and were tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly and tied in a bow.

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.