The Thing About Today – February 14

February 14, 2020
Day 45 of 366


February 14th is the forty-fifth day of the year. It is Statehood Day in both Arizona and Oregon. It is also Valentine’s Day.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day, National Ferris Wheel Day, National Organ Donor Day, and No One Eats Alone Day. That last one changes days every year but is typically observed on a Friday in February.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1349, the Strasbourg Massacre occurred in France. As part of the ongoing Black Death persecutions, several hundred Jews were burned to death by mobs while the remaining Jews were forcibly removed. It was one of the first and worst pogroms in pre-modern history.
  • In 1778, the United States flag was formally recognized by a foreign naval vessel for the first time. French Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte rendered a nine gun salute to USS Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones.
  • In 1838, Margaret E. Knight was born. Among other things, she invented the flat-bottomed paper bag.
  • In 1847, Anna Howard Shaw was born. She was a physician and one of the first ordained female Methodist ministers in the United States. She was also a leader in the American women’s suffrage movement.
  • In 1849, James Knox Polk became the first serving President of the United States to have his photograph taken. The event occurred in New York City.
  • In 1859, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. was born. An American engineer, he was the inventor of the Ferris wheel. Hence, National Ferris Wheel Day.
  • In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray both applied for a patent for the telephone.
  • In 1899, voting machines were approved by the United States Congress for use in federal elections.
  • In 1903, the United States Department of Commerce and Labor was established. It was later split into the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor.
  • In 1912, The United States Navy commissioned the E-class submarine, its first class of diesel-powered submarines.
  • In 1921, journalist, game show host, and producer Hugh Downs was born.
  • In 1927, Lois Maxwell was born. She portrayed Miss Moneypenny in the first fourteen Eon-produced James Bond films.
  • In 1929, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred. Seven people, six of them gangster rivals of Al Capone’s gang, were murdered in Chicago.
  • In 1931, Dracula starring Bela Lugosi was released.
  • In 1942, Andrew Robinson was born. He played Garak in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • In 1944, journalist Carl Bernstein was born. Along with Bob Woodward, he did much of the original reporting on the Watergate scandal.
  • In 1951, journalist and radio host Terry Gross was born.
  • In 1961, Lawrencium, element 103 on the periodic table, was first synthesized at the University of California. It was later named in honor of Ernest Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron, a device that was used to discover many artificial radioactive elements.
  • In 1963, actor Zach Galligan was born.
  • In 1970, actor Simon Pegg was born.
  • In 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft took the famous Pale Blue Dot photo at a record distance of six billion kilometers.
  • In 1991, Silence of the Lambs was released.
  • In 2005, YouTube was launched by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, each former employees of PayPal. The service was eventually sold to Google for $1.65 billion.


February 14th is Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus. Today it is recognized more as a cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love.

There are many martyrdom stories that connect various Valentines to February 14. One account is that of Saint Valentine of Rome, who was imprisoned for performing forbidden weddings for soldiers and ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to the legend, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge, and he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before execution. In his honor as a martyr, the Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14.

Another is Valentine of Terni, a bishop of Interamna, supposedly martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian in 273.

Romantic love entered the picture courtesy of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, a period of courtly love by tradition. In honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, Chaucer wrote of love birds in Parlement of Foules (1382):

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

The earliest description of February 14 as an annual celebration of love appears in the Charter of the Court of Love. The charter, allegedly issued by Charles VI of France in 1400, describes lavish festivities attended by members of the royal court, including a feast, amorous song, poetry competitions, jousting, and dancing.

Shakespeare mentioned Valentine’s Day in Hamlet (Act IV, Scene 5), circa 1600:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.

John Donne was inspired by the legend of the marriage of the birds when he wrote his epithalamion – a poem for the bride as she heads to her marital chamber – celebrating the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England, and Frederick V, Elector Palatine.

Hayle Bishop Valentine whose day this is

All the Ayre is thy Diocese
And all the chirping Queristers
And other birds ar thy parishioners
Thou marryest every yeare
The Lyrick Lark, and the graue whispering Doue,
The Sparrow that neglects his life for loue,
The houshold bird with the redd stomacher
Thou makst the Blackbird speede as soone,
As doth the Goldfinch, or the Halcyon
The Husband Cock lookes out and soone is spedd
And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.
This day more cheerfully than ever shine

This day which might inflame thy selfe old Valentine.

The roses are red cliché has two strong historical anchors. First, The Faerie Queene (1590) by Edmund Spenser:

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

Second, Gammer Gurton’s Garland (1784) by Joseph Ritson:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,

The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,

And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

In 18th-century England, the day grew into expressions of love by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (giving birth to the term “valentines”). Handwritten valentines evolved into mass-produced greeting cards.

Today, symbols include heart-shaped outlines, doves, and Cupid. In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers as romantic symbols and invitations to unlock the giver’s heart, as well as to children to ward off epilepsy, which is called Saint Valentine’s Malady.

Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is celebrated on July 6th and July 30th, the former date in honor of Saint Valentine, and the latter in honor of the Bishop of Interamna.

It is currently celebrated in various means and traditions around the world.


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 13

February 13, 2020
Day 44 of 366


February 13th is the forty-fourth day of the year. It is World Radio Day.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Break Up With Your Carrier Day, National Cheddar Day, National Tortellini Day, and National Giving Hearts Day. The last one is typically observed on the second Thursday in February.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1880, Thomas Edison first observed Thermionic emission. In simpler terms, that is the liberation of electrons from an electrode by virtue of its temperature, such as light emitted by the filament in a light bulb.
  • In 1910, William Shockley Jr. was born. He was the manager of a research group at Bell Labs that included John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. The three scientists were jointly awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for research on semiconductors and the discovery of the transistor effect.
  • In 1932, actress Susan Oliver was born. She was Vina in the first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage”.
  • In 1933, actress Caroline Blakiston was born. She was Mon Mothma in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
  • In 1935, a jury in Flemington, New Jersey found Bruno Hauptmann guilty of the 1932 kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son.
  • In 1944, actress Stockard Channing was born.
  • In 1950, English singer-songwriter and musician Peter Gabriel was born.
  • In 1958, actress Pernilla August was born. She portrayed Shmi Skywalker in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
  • In 1960, black college students staged the first of the Nashville sit-ins at three lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • In 1966, actor and producer Neal McDonough was born.
  • In 1990, an agreement was reached on a two-stage plan to reunite Germany.
  • In 2004, the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery of the universe’s largest known diamond. It was white dwarf star BPM 37093, christened “Lucy” after “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles.
  • In 2011, the American Indian Umatilla tribe were able to hunt and harvest a bison just outside Yellowstone National Park. This event, the first of its kind in more than 100 years, restored a centuries-old tradition guaranteed by a treaty signed in 1855.


In 1923, Chuck Yeager was born. He was the first test pilot to break the sound barrier.

A native of Myra, West Virginia, Yeager enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) on September 12, 1941. He was not eligible for flight training due to his age and education, but he served as an aircraft mechanic at George Air Force Base in California. After the attack at Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II, the USAAF changed its recruiting standards and Yeager was accepted for flight training.

He received his wings at Luke Field in Arizona. His initial fighter pilot training was on Bell P-39 Airacobras, and he later flew P-51 Mustangs in combat with the 363d Fighter Squadron out of RAF Leiston. He was shot down on March 5, 1944 and escaped to Spain with help from the Maquis French resistance. He was later awarded a Bronze Star for helping B-24 navigator “Pat” Patterson during the escape attempt.

He continued to fly during World War II, being promoted to captain before the end of his tour. He was assigned to Wright Field with his wife where he served as a test pilot. He later transferred to Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) where he broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the X-1 Glamorous Glennis. That plane is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

After breaking several other speed and altitude records, Yeager continued his career, eventually promoting to brigadier general and retiring in 1975. He continued to fly on occasion for the United States Air Force and NASA as a consultant. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973 and has several other awards and honors to his name. His legacy in aviation is unmistakable.

His wife Glennis, after whom he named his plane as a good luck charm, died of ovarian cancer in 1990. They had four children together.


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 #TW24: Adrift

Torchwood: Adrift
(1 episode, s02e11, 2008)


The Rift taketh and the Rift giveth away.

A young man is walking home from football practice along the Cardiff Bay Barrage when he vanishes in bright light and a gust of wind. Seven months later, Gwen and PC Andy Davidson are investigating the case. They catch up about the wedding and their relationship, and Davidson tells Gwen that this case is personal for him.

He shows her CCTV footage, hinting at the type of thing that Torchwood pays attention to. Gwen is intrigued when Jack appears on the footage as well. She checks with Tosh, discovers that the Rift was quiet, and gets nothing from Jack about the incident.

Andy is unimpressed with the effort.

Gwen visits Jonah Bevan’s mother who has been scanning crowd videos for her son’s face. Nikki Bevan refuses to give up hope and she asks Gwen to come to her support group meeting. Gwen returns home and apologizes for being late in more ways than one. The next morning, she gets a lead from Tosh about a negative Rift spike during the event, which she normally considers to be aftershocks.

She wonders, though, if the Rift could take material from our world instead of only depositing it.

Gwen and Andy go to Nikki’s support group meeting and are surprised at the number of people who attend. To say that there is a lot is an understatement. Gwen is overwhelmed but inspired by the scope and asks Tosh to help process the dates of disappearance against Rift activity.

Gwen makes considerable progress, correlating walls of missing person posters with Rift spikes. Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t know how to practically stop the disappearances when they cannot predict the Rift spikes. He shuts down her research project, but Gwen isn’t ready to give up.

Unfortunately, it starts to tear at her relationship with Rhys. She returns to the Hub, interrupting an encounter between Jack and Ianto to plead her case. Jack tells her no, but Ianto leaves her a GPS unit on her desk that she takes to Andy. The coordinates lead to a facility on Flat Holm, and Gwen leaves Andy on the pier as she contracts a boat to the island.

The facility houses seventeen victims of the Rift who have been taken and returned, but in the process have been aged and (in some cases) deformed. Gwen finds that Jack knew about all of it. She also finds Jonah, who was trapped on a burning planet for forty relative years. He was rescued and witnessed the burning of a solar system.

Jack tells Gwen that he set up this facility to house the victims and that before he took over Torchwood Three, the victims were locked away in the vaults and neglected. They cannot be fixed, only cared for. Gwen promises to bring Nikki to the facility, an action with which Jack vehemently disagrees. He eventually relents.

In order to reunite Nikki with Jonah, Gwen has to tell her about Torchwood and the Rift. Nikki meets her son and doesn’t recognize him at first, but they soon share memories that only Jonah would know. Nikki calms herself and finally sees beyond the scars to her son, but the reunion is shortlived. Jonah has a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that forces him to scream for twenty hours a day after he looked into a dark star and was driven insane.

The screams are so intense, so primal, that they drive everyone away. Nikki is devastated.

One week later, Nikki makes Gwen promise that she will never do this to anyone else. She says that it would have been better to remember her son as he once was, not as he survives now. Her hope has been extinguished.

Gwen tears down her research as Nikki disposes of her life of sorrowful searching. Gwen returns home and tries to make amends with Rhys, but ends up breaking down in his arms. They mend their bridges by discussing her experience.


The exploration of the darker side to Torchwood is fascinating, particularly since Jack serves two purposes here: First, he keeps this secret from nearly everyone in his employ, and, second, he takes on the role of the custodian of these lost souls when no one else will. Just when I think I have Jack figured out…

It’s especially heartbreaking given the ignorance of the victims’ families. They think that they want answers about their missing loved ones, but the truth of what the uncontrollable Rift does with them is beyond what they can bear.

The lingering question concerns the staff at the facility. Do they about Torchwood, or are they privy to just enough information to do their jobs?



Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Fragments



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 12

February 12, 2020
Day 43 of 366


February 12th is the forty-third day of the year. It is National Freedom to Marry Day in the United States. It is also Red Hand Day, also known as the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Plum Pudding Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1502, Isabella I issued an edict outlawing Islam in the Crown of Castile in Spain. This forced virtually all of her Muslim subjects to convert to Christianity.
  • In 1809, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was born.
  • In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded.
  • In 1915, actor Lorne Greene was born.
  • In 1924, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue received its premiere in a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music”. The concert was held at Aeolian Hall in New York, with Gershwin playing the piano with Paul Whiteman and his band.
  • In 1938, author and educator Judy Blume was born.
  • In 1945, actress Maud Adams was born.
  • In 1946, African American United States Army veteran Isaac Woodard was severely beaten by a South Carolina police officer. The incident, during which Woodard lost his vision in both eyes, galvanized the civil rights movement and partially inspired the Orson Welles film Touch of Evil.
  • In 1950, actor Michael Ironside was born.
  • In 1953, actress Joanna Kerns was born.
  • In 1963, construction began on the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • In 2001, the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft touched down in the “saddle” region of 433 Eros, becoming the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid.
  • In 2004, the city of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in response to a directive from Mayor Gavin Newsom.


In 1915, the first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was placed in Washington, D.C. This occurred on the 106th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

The architect for the memorial was Henry Bacon and the designer of the interior statue was Daniel Chester French. The statue was carved by the Piccirilli Brothers and the interior murals were painted by Jules Guerin. The overall design echoed a Greek Doric temple and contains inscriptions of the Gettysburg Address and the President’s second inaugural address. It has been the site of several famous speeches, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address.

It wasn’t the first public memorial to President Lincoln. That honor goes to a statue by Lot Flannery erected in front of the District of Columbia City Hall in 1968, three years after Lincoln’s assassination. Public demand for a fitting national memorial, ranging back to the time of Lincoln’s death, finally got traction when Congress took action in 1867. Courtesy of congressional chicanery, the project eventually settled on design and location by 1913.

The location was dedicated on February 12, 1914, and was completed on schedule. The memorial itself was dedicated on May 30, 1922, by William H. Taft, then Chief Justice of the United States, and presented to President Warren Harding. Lincoln’s only surviving son, 78-year-old Robert Todd Lincoln, was in attendance.

The Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It is open to the public 24 hours a day and is visited by over seven million people per year.


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 11

February 11, 2020
Day 41 of 366


February 11th is the forty-second day of the year. It is National Foundation Day in Japan, commemorating the 660 BC foundation by Emperor Jimmu.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, National Inventors’ Day, National Make a Friend Day, National Peppermint Patty Day, National Shut-In Visitation Day, and National White Shirt Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1790, The Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, petitioned the United States Congress for the abolition of slavery.
  • In 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry was accused of unfair practices after signing a bill that created a partisan Boston district in the shape of a salamander. Thus, the term gerrymandering was born.
  • In 1847, Thomas Edison was born. He developed the lightbulb and the phonograph.
  • In 1936, actor Burt Reynolds was born.
  • In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower denied all appeals for clemency for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the couple convicted of spying on the United States for the Soviet Union.
  • In 1961, actress Carey Lowell was born.
  • In 1969, actress and producer Jennifer Aniston was born.
  • In 1982, actress Natalie Dormer was born.
  • In 1983, “Weird Al” Yankovic completed recording of his first studio album.
  • Also in 1983, actress Nicki Clyne was born.
  • In 2001, a Dutch programmer launched the Anna Kournikova virus. Millions of emails were infected thanks to a trick photo of the tennis star.


In 1938, BBC Television produced a thirty-five-minute adaptation of a section of the play R.U.R., making it the world’s first-ever science fiction television program.

R.U.R., sometimes subtitled Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti or “Rossum’s Universal Robots”, was written by Karel Čapek. When it premiered on January 25, 1921, it introduced the word “robot” to the English language and the science fiction genre. In Czech, robota means forced labor, such as that of a serf on a master’s land. It is derived from rab, which translates to slave.

The play partly takes place in a factory that makes artificial people called roboti. These robots are manufactured from synthetic organic matter and are living creatures of artificial flesh and blood rather than the mechanical constructs we consider robots in the modern era. In fact, the roboti are closer to our modern definition of androids or replicants, can easily be mistaken for humans, and can think for themselves. They seem happy to work for humans at first, but a robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race.

Čapek later wrote in the same theme with War with the Newts, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society.

The parallels between Čapek’s work and both versions of Battlestar Galactica are striking.

The play quickly became influential and had been translated into thirty languages by 1923. It was later adapted into a radio play with Patrick Troughton for the BBC in 1941 and had several other adaptations over the years. Its legacy has also spawned several references in popular culture.

In the United States, the original manuscript is in the public domain and has been transcribed for Project Gutenberg.


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 10

February 10, 2020
Day 41 of 366


February 10th is the forty-first day of the year. It is National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe in Italy. This year, it also coincides with the Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Cream Cheese Brownie Day, National Home Warranty Day, National Umbrella Day, and National Clean Out Your Computer Day. The last one is typically observed on the second Monday in February.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1939, John Ford’s Stagecoach premiered in Miami.
  • Also in 1939, Peter Purves was born. He played Steven Taylor in Doctor Who.
  • In 1940, Tom and Jerry debuted with the make their debut with the short Puss Gets the Boot.
  • In 1967, the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. It deals with issues related to Presidential succession.
  • Also in 1967, actress, director, and producer Laura Dern was born.
  • In 1974, actress and director Elizabeth Banks was born.
  • In 1996, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in chess for the first time.


In 1929, composer and conductor Jerry Goldsmith was born.

As a child, he studied under Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, who also tutored composers and musicians like Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Herman Stein, André Previn, Marty Paich, and John Williams. At the age of sixteen, Goldsmith saw Spellbound in theaters and was inspired by the music of Miklós Rózsa.

After graduating from the University of Southern California, he started his career at CBS as a clerk typist in the music department. He wrote scores for radio programs like CBS Radio WorkshopFrontier Gentleman, and Romance, later progressing to Climax!, Playhouse 90, and several episodes of the iconic anthology series The Twilight Zone. He also worked on Dr. Kildare and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

He made his film debut on 1957’s Black Patch, and gained widespread recognition after scoring 1962’s Lonely Are the Brave, which came after a recommendation from Alfred Newman.

During the 1960s, Goldsmith nearly fifty titles, including Our Man FlintStagecoachIn Like FlintPlanet of the Apes, and The Blue Max. His score for The Blue Max is considered one of the best in his catalog, possibly inspiring later flight music like SupergirlStar Trek: The Motion PictureAir Force One, and Tora! Tora! Tora!

The 1970s brought Goldsmith to Patton, which used an echoplex to loop “call to war” triplets on the trumpet to reflect the famous general’s belief in reincarnation. The score earned Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score. During the decade, he also scored PapillonChinatownThe Wind and the LionThe Omen (and two sequels), Logan’s RunIslands in the StreamComaCapricorn OneThe Great Train Robbery, and The Boys from Brazil.

He also scored 1979’s Alien, using the orchestra and atypical instruments to invoke unease and terror. He also was responsible for establishing the musical path forward in the Star Trek franchise with the juggernaut’s first motion picture. This score introduced the thematic title theme that would carry forward from that point, as well as debuting Craig Huxley’s Blaster Beam instrument as a motif for the V’Ger entity. Goldsmith would return to Star Trek for four more films and the title theme for Star Trek: Voyager.

The 1980s continued Goldsmith’s success with Outland, The Secret of NIMHTwilight Zone: The MoviePoltergeist (and its sequel), the first three Rambo films, GremlinsSupergirlLegendHoosiersInnerspaceLeviathan, and The ‘Burbs. The 1990s added The Russia HouseTotal RecallGremlins 2: The New BatchSleeping with the EnemyForever YoungThe VanishingBasic InstinctRudyThe River WildCongoPowderMulan, and so much more.

He also composed a new theme for the Universal Studios opening logos, which debuted with The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

The 2000s brought Goldsmith’s illustrious career to a close with Hollow ManAlong Came a SpiderThe Sum of All Fears, and the Soarin’ attractions at the Disney theme parks. His final cinematic score was Looney Tunes: Back in Action, directed by his long-time collaborator Joe Dante.

Jerry Goldsmith has often been considered one of film music history’s most innovative and influential composers, receiving eighteen total Academy Award nominations. Despite being one the most nominated composers in Oscars history, he only won once. That was for The Omen from 1976.

He died in his home on July 21, 2004, from colon cancer at the age of 75.


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 9

February 9, 2020
Day 40 of 366


February 9th is the fortieth day of the year. It is St. Maroun’s Day in Lebanon.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Bagel and Lox Day, National Pizza Day, and National Toothache Day. One of these things is not like the other…


Historical items of note:

  • In 1825, the United States House of Representatives elected John Qunicy Adams as the sixth President of the United States. This step was taken after no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in the US presidential election of 1824.
  • In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant established the U.S. Weather Bureau by signing a joint resolution of Congress.
  • In 1895, William G. Morgan created a game called Mintonette. It was later renamed as volleyball.
  • In 1964, The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing before a record audience of 73 million viewers.
  • In 1981, actor Tom Hiddleston was born.
  • In 1997, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” aired during the eighth season of The Simpsons. It was the show’s 167th episode and marked The Simpsons surpassing The Flintstones for the most episodes produced for a prime-time animated series.


In 1986, Halley’s Comet completed its most recent appearance in the inner solar system.

Comet Halley, officially 1P/Halley, has been observed and recorded since at least 240BC. Halley’s Comet was the first to be recognized as periodic, also known as short-period comets, which means that their orbital periods around the sun are less than 200 years. Halley’s Comet has a period of approximately 75 years.

This period was calculated in 1705 by Edmond Halley – friend, editor, and publisher to Sir Isaac Newton, who could not reconcile the physics of comets during his 1687 publication of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica – who used twenty-four cometary observations to determine that multiple sightings over time were really the same comet. He had personally observed the comet in September 1862 but was unable to verify the comet’s return since he died in 1742, sixteen years before the event in 1758.

During the 1986 orbit through the inner solar system, Halley’s Comet became the first comet to be observed in detail by spacecraft. This provided the first observational data on the structure, including the comet’s nucleus and how the coma and tail functioned. Due to the 75-year period between perihelion events, the return was a large pop culture event. I personally have a memento in a commemorative Matchbox Mercury Police Car.

The next predicted perihelion of Halley’s Comet is July 28, 2061.


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.