Saturday, October 4, 2014

10-4, good buddy -- it's National CB Day

Hula hoops were for kids.

Coonskin caps were for kids.

More recently, Cabbage Patch Kids were for kids. Tickle Me Elmo was for kids.

As a kid, I wanted all sorts of fleeting, ephemeral things, some of which my parents got for me and most of which I don't remember.

But it was my dad who wanted the CB radio.

He already had a police scanner. He listened to it at night... he slept with it on all night... the better to keep up with what me and my idiot friends were up to, he told me.

CB radios are the one fad I can think of from my childhood that was for the grown-ups, not the kids. My dad sent into the FCC for a license to use it. Later, no license was required. But, originally, there was a license issued, albeit without any particular exam or credential.

The CB craze swept the country in the mid to late 70s, spawning movies (Smokey and the Bandit, for example... Sally Field... sigh... oh, and Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason, too) and a top hit song ("Convoy" by C.W. McCall), and adding 10-codes into the popular vocabulary ("that's a big 10-4, there, good buddy"). It is that once-ubiquitous phrase, 10-4, that makes today, October 4, National CB Day.

I never saw my father actually use the CB radio; I suppose he must have. He wasn't the sort to buy something and not use it. He did have it on, sometimes, when I was in the car with him. A local intersection that was always under construction was, I learned in this way, called "The Barrels." It took me awhile to figure out why.

In the law, we call that an admission against interest.

I have no idea if he had a "handle" when he was driving on his own. I can't imagine what it would have been.

Friday, June 6, 2014

June 6: D-Day + 70 years: Success was no sure thing

The success of the Allied invasion of Normandy was not guaranteed.

Every effort had been made to keep the actual landing sites secret and, you may remember, to fool the Germans into believing the attack would come at Calais.

Enormous stockpiles of men, machines, and materiel had been assembled for the invasion effort. But the ability to get everything into France depended on whether the Mulberry harbors -- artificial harbors specially designed for the landings -- would work. No one knew. No one could know.

What the Germans knew was that an invasion was coming. And tidal cycles greatly narrowed the possibilities for possible invasion dates. Rommel was dispatched to build the Atlantic Wall to keep the Allies from securing beachheads. The Germans, by this time already under extreme pressure on the Eastern Front from the Soviets, had already been forced to divert increasingly scarce resources into Italy to slow the Allied advance after the Italians deserted the Axis and surrendered. The German military hierarchy, if not the the increasingly-delusional Hitler himself, understood that, if the Allies made it ashore safely in France, their so-called Thousand Year Reich's days were numbered. So the Germans were desperate, too.

There were so many ways for the invasion to fail. The landings might be rebuffed at the shore, with no beachheads established. If the artificial harbors didn't work, the Allies might not be able to muster enough force to breakout of those beachheads.

The weather cooperated. The Germans knew that June 5-6, 1944 were possible invasion dates, but the weather had been so terrible that the Germans concluded no crossing would be attempted. Rommel even went home for the weekend. Eisenhower did postpone the invasion for 24 hours and almost postponed it again because of the weather, but the weather cleared, just enough and just in time, for the great crusade to be launched.

"Crusade" was not a dirty word in 1944. Crusade in Europe was the title of Eisenhower's 1948 memoir. And, in his message to the invasion forces, Eisenhower wrote, in part,
You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Images in this post from
the National Archives
But no one knew better than Eisenhower that the invaders might be repulsed. He scratched out a note on the evening of June 5 (it is dated July 5, but we can forgive the man under the stress of the moment), just in case. The note read,
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Today, 70 years later, it is easy to conclude that the D-Day landings were destined to be successful. Hindsight is always 20/20. The men who launched the invasion could not be sure. But we can be so grateful that they overcame their doubts and reservations and went ahead despite them.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feburary 3: The Day the Music Died

Anybody who was old enough to listen to the radio in the early 1970s probably still knows all the words to Don McLean's "American Pie." It was played to death on the radio. Deejays would host 'specials' to analyze the lyrics, trying to parse out all the references to performers or events in McLean's words. (You can still find some of these analyses on line, such as this one, posted on Yahoo! Music in July 2012.)

While some interpretations conflicted, all agreed on this point: "The Day the Music Died" was a reference to the airplane crash on February 3, 1959, outside Clear Lake, Iowa, which killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. A young and not-yet-famous Waylon Jennings was part of Holly's backup band on that tour, and he was supposed to be on that plane, but he gave up his seat at the request of J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, who'd been recovering from the flu and wanted to avoid the bus trip to the tour's next stop in Minnesota.

Just about all the Usual Suspects set aside February 3, therefore, to commemorate The Day the Music Died.

The Iowa crash site was documented in a number of photos by investigators; these are collected at a site called The Day the Music Died: Crash Site Photo Archive. Here's one:

The crash victims had not been removed when these photos were taken.

Today, February 3, is also Four Chaplains Day, remembering the heroic sacrifice of four U.S. Army chaplains, the "Immortal Chaplains," who gave up their life belts and their places in the rescue boats because there weren't enough to go around. The four clergymen were on the USAT Dorchester on February 3, 1943, when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat. They were Methodist minister the Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Roman Catholic priest the Reverend John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling. As the linked Wikipedia article relates, "The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven score and 10 years ago today....

Seven score and 10 years ago today the President of the United States spoke at the dedication of a military cemetery in Pennsylvania.

He wasn't the featured speaker; he was asked to make a few "appropriate remarks," perhaps only because his acceptance of an invitation to the event took the organizers by surprise.

The fellow pictured at right was the main attraction at the dedication ceremony. Former Massachusetts Gov. and Senator Edward Everett was a distinguished orator who had also served as the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James (i.e., as Ambassador to Britain) and as American Secretary of State.

As was the fashion at the time, Everett spoke for over two hours at the dedication. When he was done, the President rose to give his little talk.

"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here," the President said, and the press was inclined to agree, at least with regard to the President's remarks. Almost all the reporters present hated his speech. His remarks were not only too short, in the prevailing view, they were trivial, even silly.

One listener, at least, disagreed. Edward Everett wrote to the President stating, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

And the reputation of the President's speech on that occasion has improved considerably since the initial reviews.

The cemetery was at Gettysburg, and the President was Abraham Lincoln.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15 is National Grouch Day

And in honor of this well-credentialed event, we present Oscar the Grouch himself, from the 1985 movie, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird.

Sing along with Oscar now: "Don't let the sunshine spoil your rain/ Just stand up and complain/ Just stand up and complain."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Think big and take another look on September 3

Chicago's Tribune Tower.
Tuesday, September 3 is Skyscraper Day.

Skyscrapers are the trees of the urban forest. As Paul Simon once sang, one man's ceiling is another man's floor. In a skyscraper, even the proverbial little guy can go up in the world.

We could go on in this vein, but you've got the idea.

Tuesday is also Another Look Unlimited Day, the idea being that you should take another look around your house (or your office in the skyscraper) and see what you can discard. Don't throw it out -- give it to charity or repurpose it. Taking another look may help avoid filling landfills prematurely.

Tuesday is also Welsh Rarebit Day. Usual Suspect advises that Welsh rarebit is a snack made with cheese on toast.

Cartoonist Mort Walker turns 90 on Tuesday. Actress Valerie Perrine turns 70 on Tuesday. And TV's enfant terrible Charlie Sheen will be 48 on September 3.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

You already know Monday is Labor Day

You might even remember that September 2 is Victory over Japan Day.

It was on September 2, 1945 that a Japanese delegation boarded the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the Instrument of Surrender. Thus, September 2 officially became Victory over Japan Day according to President Harry Truman -- even though, by this point, America had been celebrating since August 14 (August 15 in Japan) when Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender over the radio.

V-J Day is a legal holiday (called Victory Day) in the State of Rhode Island.

Salma Hayek
Those are pretty substantial observances. What's left over is rather, well, meager, even by the low standards of microminiholidayettes. There is some support for Monday being National Blueberry Popsicle Day and National Beheading Day. Beheading? Really?

Musician Billy Preston was born on September 2, 1946 (he passed away in 2006). Teacher-turned-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, who was killed in the 1986 Challenger disaster, was born on September 2, 1948.

Actor Mark Harmon turns 62 on Monday. Tennis legend Jimmy Connors will be 61. Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw will be 65 on Monday. Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek turns 47 on Monday.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On September 1, 1878, Emma M. Nutt became the first female telephone operator. Thus, today is Emma M. Nutt Day.

Interestingly enough, particularly for those of you who remember Rowan & Martin's Laugh In, Sunday is also the birthday of Lily Tomlin. (She turns 74 Sunday.)

Among the memorable characters created by Ms. Tomlin for Laugh In was Ernestine, the telephone operator.

Coincidence? We think not.

Now repeat after us: "One ringy-dingy... two ringy-dingies...."

Sunday is also National No Rhyme (Nor Reason) Day. There's no rhyme nor reason why this should be so. September 1 is also Building and Code Staff Appreciation Day, but we're not sure if this is a microminiholidayette for persons who dream up (and impose) building codes, for building inspectors, or whether this day is intended for building maintenance staff (usually called "building engineers" in these parts). Take your pick.

We are sure that, in addition to Lily Tomlin, Sunday is the birthday of singers Gloria Estefan (she turns 56) and Archie Bell (of Archie Bell and the Drells -- "we don't only sing, but we dance just as good as we want"). Archie Bell turns 69 Sunday.

Sunday is also the the anniversary of the birth of author Edgar Rice Burroughs (born September 1, 1875). You may not immediately recognize the name, even when we give you the hint that he provided inspiration for some of our most revered science fiction authors, such as Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, and Philip José Farmer. Perhaps you'll remember John Carter, Warlord of Mars? (Or as Burroughs named it, Barsoom?) Still not registering?

Well, alright, we'll give you the reason why Burroughs' name seems vaguely familiar: He invented a character called Tarzan. Even the horrible Bo Derek movie, Tarzan the Ape Man, couldn't destroy Tarzan's place in popular culture.

Friday, August 30, 2013

We love LItigating Lawyers Day for August 31, but there are alternatives

Hey, this guy was a litigating lawyer -- and he's
proved quite popular down through the years.
Of course, he had to get shot first.
A number of the Usual Suspects proclaim Saturday, August 31 to be Love Litigating Lawyers Day. You can stop right there, as far as we're concerned.

Actually, despite the negative press lawyers receive, most people like their own lawyers: Lawyers are respected in the first person -- my lawyer, our lawyer; they are only hated, loathed and despised in the second and third persons -- your lawyer, his lawyer, her lawyer, their lawyer. (And, of course, even "my lawyer" loses some of his or her luster when his or her bill arrives....)

Still, Love Litigating Lawyers Day represents a chance to turn those negative feelings around.

Saturday is also Eat Outside Day, which certainly seems an appropriate thing to do on the Labor Day weekend. We don't know why August 31 should also be National Trail Mix Day, but it is.

The Roman Emperor Caligula was born on August 31, A.D. 12. Caligula was an insane, murderous psychopath, even by the standards of his own time. Initially a popular choice after the death of Tiberius (who was himself pretty darn crazy), Caligula so alienated everyone in Rome that he would be murdered by his own guard at the tender age of 28, not quite four years into his reign.

Lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner (of the songwriting team of Lerner and Loewe -- Brigadoon and My Fair Lady, for example) was born on August 31, 1918. Comedian Buddy Hackett was born August 31, 1924.

Irish musician and songwriter Van Morrison turns 68 on Saturday. Actor Richard Gere turns 64. And baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson will celebrate his 78th birthday on August 31.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Friday: 50th Anniversary of the "Hotline"

Carter Era Red Phone, displayed at the Carter
Library and Museum. Photo from Wikipedia by Pistorius.
Friday, August 30 is Hotline Day, the anniversary of the date, in 1963, when the "hotline" from Washington to Moscow was first placed in service.

The second link in the preceding sentence is to a Wikipedia entry on the subject. According to that article, the first acknowledged use of the Hotline did not take place until 1967, during the Israeli-Egyptian Six Day War, when American and Soviet leaders used the Hotline to inform "each other of military moves which might have been provocative or ambiguous."

But, however frequently or infrequently it has been used in real life (there still is a hotline to Moscow, Wikipedia says, but now it's a dedicated computer network that can be used for chat and email), the "Red Phone" has been a vital prop in political thrillers ever since it was established. And the fact that the Hotline helped reduce the chances that American and Soviet leaders would accidentally start World War III is surely worth celebrating.

However, the illustration here notwithstanding, Wikipedia insists that there never was a red phone: "Although in popular culture known as the 'red telephone', the hotline was never a telephone line, and no red phones were used."

Usual Suspect American Greetings says Friday is National Geek Day but the weight of Internet authority is against it: Most sites suggest Geek Day is really May 25. There may be areas in which the Internet is not yet authoritative, but surely it must be considered so when it comes to all things geeky.

Friday is also National Toasted Marshmallow Day, College Colors Day, and International Whale Shark Day. It will also be the 83rd birthday of gazillionaire Warren Buffett and the 41st birthday of actress Cameron Diaz.

Hmmmm. Warren Buffett or Cameron Diaz.... It was difficult trying to decide whose picture to run with this post. But we eventually were able to make a decision.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Take Thursday without a grain of salt? August 29 is More Herbs, Less Salt Day

According to a number of the Usual Suspects, Thursday, August 29 is More Herbs, Less Salt Day.

Usual Suspect Holiday Insights suggests that today was chosen for this observance because, in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, the harvest of garden herbs may be at its peak.

We stress, therefore, that "herb" is here used in the sense of a food additive and not in any other, er, colloquial sense.

There's some support for today being Chop Suey Day, and that could be entertaining: One hour after you celebrate, you may feel like celebrating all over again.

As mentioned here previously, Thursday is also the observance of the Beheading of John the Baptist. John had only one head to lose but, according to Wikipedia, that head has been found in many places:
  • Roman Catholic tradition holds that the head on display in San Silvestro in Capite in Rome is that of John the Baptist, discovered for the second time, as also maintained by Pope Benedict XVI in August 2012.
  • Islamic tradition maintains that the head of Saint John the Baptist was interred in the once-called Basilica of Saint John the Baptist in Damascus. Pope John Paul II visited the tomb of John the Baptist at the Umayyad Mosque during his visit to Syria in April, 2001. Consequently, Muslims also believe that Jesus Christ will return to this location in the Second Coming.
  • n medieval times, it was rumored that the Knights Templar had possession of the head, and multiple records from their Inquisition in the early 14th century make reference to some form of head veneration.
  • Amiens Cathedral claims the head as a relic brought from Constantinople by Wallon de Sarton as he was returning from the Fourth Crusade.
  • Some believe that it is buried in Turkish Antioch, or southern France.
  • It is believed that a piece of his skull is held at the Romanian skete Prodromos on Mount Athos.
  • A reliquary at The Residenz in Munich, Germany is labeled as containing the skull of John the Baptist.
Heady stuff, indeed.

Sir Richard Attenborough turns 90 on Thursday. And you can send champagne wishes and caviar dreams to Robin Leach Thursday as well; he turns 72.

Every male of a certain age remembers Rebecca De Mornay from Risky Business and, in particular, a certain ride on the CTA 'el.' (There is a wistful pause, perhaps a sigh.) Ms. De Mornay turns 54 on August 29.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 28: From Cherry Turnovers to Chickenman, from cubicle games to St. Augustine

A number of the Usual Suspects proclaim Wednesday, August 28 to be National Cherry Turnover Day. Even if you like cherries, this barely qualifies as even a minor microminiholidayette.

Office workers may find Race Your Mouse Around the Icons Day to be a more palatable alternative for Wednesday. Rearrange the icons on your computer desktop to set up a challenging course -- and see how fast you can navigate it while you're sitting on hold.

The IT department probably won't beef if you race your mouse around your screen, but you may draw more flak if you celebrate Crackers Over the Keyboard Day in the manner suggested by the name of the observance. The Blog of Days is not responsible for any discipline imposed against the denizen of any cubicle who chooses to crumble crackers over his or her keyboard.

St. Augustine after his wayward youth.
Usual Suspect suggests that Wednesday is Radio Commercials Day. Well, we can appreciate any microminiholidayette that reminds us of the great Dick Orkin. In addition to all the radio commercials he's done over the years, Orkin was also the White Winged Warrior, The Most Fantastic Crimefighter The World Has Ever Known: Chickenman (he's everywhere, he's everywhere!), back in the 1960s.

If you're looking for something more substantive to celebrate on Wednesday, Usual Suspect suggests that Wednesday will be the Feast of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo and Doctor of the Catholic Church, who died on August 28, 430. St. Augustine became rather a somber figure, but he had sowed quite a few wild oats in his youth. You may remember his famous prayer from his younger days, "God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now."

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"

Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford may be best remembered today for this phrase.

But, as Wikipedia documents, Hungerford was quite a prolific and successful author in the late 1800s.

In the United States, Hungerford's works were issued under the pen name "The Duchess."

Thus, as several of the Usual Suspects attest, Tuesday, August 27 is The Duchess Who Wasn't Day -- because Mrs. Hungerford wasn't actually a duchess. Get it?

We are unable to advise why Tuesday should be The Duchess Who Wasn't Day. There were some online sources that suggested that this was the anniversary of Mrs. Hungerford's birth, but Wikipedia demurs. Wikipedia says Hungerford was born on April 27.

Maybe we should say Tuesday is The Duchess Who Wasn't Day just because. Usual Suspect Holiday Insights offers Just Because Day for your consideration Tuesday. Do something Tuesday for no particular reason -- but just because you want to. That could include celebrating Banana Lovers Day. Usual Suspect says that's what August 27 will be.

Usual Suspect mentions National Petroleum Day as an occasion for celebration Tuesday. But is this a day to celebrate the miracles wrought by the internal combustion engine or to contemplate how we may break free of the chains of gasoline? Our research was inconclusive; you are apparently free to decide for yourself.

Barbara Bach from the movie Caveman.
Did you seriously think we'd go with
a picture of Charles G. Dawes?
Is an oil refinery a beautiful thing? How about a oil shale mine? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but a future free of gasoline sounds more beautiful to us.

Actress Barbara Bach -- Mrs. Ringo Starr if we're being formal -- turns 66 on Tuesday.

Before LeBron James appropriated them, the initials LBJ belonged to President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson was born on August 27, 1908.

Former Vice President Charles G. Dawes was born on August 27, 1865. Dawes served as Vice President under Calvin Coolidge. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 and, although he died in 1951, Dawes is credited with a number one hit record that charted in 1958.

No, seriously.

Dawes wrote the melody to Tommy Edwards' big hit, "It's All in the Game," in 1911 or 1912. Dawes originally used the catchy title, "Melody in A Major," but the song enjoyed some popularity even so. Lyrics -- the ones you may remember -- were added by Carl Sigman in 1951. Dawes, according to the linked Wikipedia bio, is the only Vice President of the United States or Nobel Peace Prize winner ever to have a record hit the top of the charts. He was also the last national office holder from the Chicago area until President Barack Obama (the first, and only other, was Adlai Stevenson I).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

These may be, in general, the Dog Days of Summer, but Monday really is National Dog Day

The Animal Miracle Network and darn near all of the Usual Suspects agree that Monday, August 26 is National Dog Day. Visit the Dog Day website for 50 ways to celebrate the occasion.

And, as we mentioned yesterday, Monday is also Women's Equality Day. Wikipedia tells us that Women's Equality Day was established by Congressional resolution in 1971, August 26 being selected because the U.S. government proclaimed the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution effective as of August 26, 1920. That's the Amendment that gave women the vote.

We don't know why August 26 may have been selected for Toilet Paper Day, but Usual Suspect American Greetings says it is. According to Wikipedia, the earliest documented use of toilet paper goes back to 6th Century China. (The Romans used a sponge on a stick. History isn't always pretty.)

Actress and comedian Melissa McCarthy turns 43 on Monday. Former Congressman Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman nominated for a national ticket by a major political party, was born on Women's Equality Day 1935. Mother Teresa was also born on August 26, in 1910. Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003, Mother Teresa's feast day is September 5, the anniversary of her death.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sunday is Go Topless Day, Kiss and Make Up Day

The last Sunday in August is designated as Go Topless Day. This microminiholidayette has its own website (which explains that Go Topless Day always falls on the Sunday closest to Women's Equality Day -- Monday, if you're making plans).

But you don't care about whether this observance is legit or not, do you? You're probably just here looking for salacious pictures.

We know that's what our crack research staff wanted to post, but we had to remind them -- again -- that The Blog of Days is located in the Family Section of the Intertubes.

Anyway, Sunday, August 25 is also Kiss-and-Make-Up Day. We're not certain why this should be the one and only Kiss and Make Up Day. If you screw up Wednesday or a week from Tuesday with your significant other, will your significant be willing to wait until next August 25 to kiss and make up? We don't think so either.

We think the better rule would be, if you're in the doghouse, any day can be Kiss and Make Up Day... and it darn well better be.

Other Monday observances include National Second-Hand Wardrobe Day. You'll recall that we just observed Thrift Store Day (on August 17). This sounds like and instance where two microminiholidayettes might both benefit from consolidation.

Sunday is also National Banana Split Day. Our crack research staff advises that this microminiholidayette pertains to the dessert item and not to the late 1960s television show.

But the theme song got in your head anyway, didn't it?

Such a catchy lyric, too: Tra-la-la, tra-la-la-la....

OK, OK. Conductor Leonard Bernstein did not include the Banana Splits theme in his repertoire at the New York Philharmonic. We bring him up because Bernstein was born on August 25, 1918. Cartoonist Walt Kelly (Pogo) was born on August 25, 1913. Actor Van Johnson was born on August 25, 1916.

You may need a martini (shaken, not stirred) when you consider that Sean Connery turns 83 on Sunday. Glam rocker Gene Simmons (Kiss) turns 64 on Sunday. Kiss, you may have heard, recently bought an Arena League football team, the Los Angeles Kiss. So far as we know, musician Elvis Costello does not own a piece of any professional sports team. But he also has a birthday Sunday; he turns 59.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vesuvius Day, Waffles and Pluto Demoted

Maybe, for a Saturday, we should lead with Waffle Day.

According to the considered judgment of most of the Usual Suspects, Saturday, August 24 is Waffle Day. Enjoy them plain or fancy, as you prefer.

While you're in the restaurant, however, you may wish to entertain your breakfast mates with the fact that Saturday is also Vesuvius Day, commemorating the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and the destruction of the Roman cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Mt. Vesuvius viewed from the ruins of Pompeii.  Image obtained from Wikipedia.

Pliny the Elder was just the most famous victim of Vesuvius's 16,000 or so victims on this occasion. We remember Pliny the Elder because of the surviving eyewitness account of the disaster, penned by his nephew, Pliny the Younger. According to Wikipedia, in the eruption of A.D. 79, "Mount Vesuvius spawned a deadly cloud of stones, ash and fumes to a height of 20.5 miles, spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing."

Also on August 24, on August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union voted to demote Pluto from "planet" to "dwarf planet." The IAU's explanation of this decision is available online.

On August 23 we observe The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade. Saturday, August 24, happens to be the anniversary of the birth of British abolitionist William Wilberforce (born August 24, 1759). Usual Suspect therefore tells us that August 24 is Wilberforce Day.

Baseball's Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr., turns 53 on Saturday. British Actor and humorist Stephen Fry turns 56 on August 24. Among Mr. Fry's many accomplishments is that he was the definitive personification of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves.

Pete Rose was barred from baseball on August 24, 1989.

Even without taking the eruption of Vesuvius into account, August 24 is a tough day in Roman history. The Visigoths began their sack of Rome on August 24, 410. The Vandals took their turn on August 24, 455.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Friday is Hug Your Boss Day?

Well, at least in the UK, apparently, there is some push to call Friday, August 23, Hug Your Boss Day. There is no truth to the rumor that the soon-to-be-former Mayor of San Diego tried to make Hug Your Boss Day a mandatory observance in his California city.

Usual Suspect American Greetings promotes Friday as a more generic Hug Day, but the celebration thereof, without some consent or mutuality, will not insulate you against claims of harassment.

On the serious side, Friday is The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade. The most important thing to remember about slavery is that, even in America, there are still persons held in conditions of slavery... or near enough. And we're not even talking about interns; we're being serious.

There are a lot of August 23 birthdays to remember, starting with King Louis XVI of France, born on August 23, 1954.

Song and dance man Gene Kelly was born on August 23, 1912. Barbara Eden, TV's Jeannie, turns 82 on Friday. Pro football Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen turns 79 on August 23.

Actress Shelly Long, Diane Chambers on TV's Cheers turns 64 on Friday.

Silent screen legend Rudolph Valentino died on August 23, 1926. He was only 31. A number of the Usual Suspects proclaim Friday Valentino Day in his honor. On the other hand, a number of the Usual Suspects also proclaim Friday National Spongecake Day for no obvious reason whatsoever.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thursday is Be An Angel Day

Although they play an important role in all Abrahamic religious texts, in our modern culture angels have transcended any organized religion. For example, Angel Reach is a popular blog run by an British psychic and medium, Linda Preston (she gives email readings, too). Nor is Ms. Preston alone; there are many persons who wouldn't be caught dead in a church, mosque or synagogue that nevertheless find comfort believing that angels are among us and have an influence on our daily lives.

If you are so inclined, you could simply celebrate these winged wonders or haloed heroes Thursday, August 22 on Be an Angel Day -- but our crack research staff says that the idea behind Be an Angel Day, as conceived by Rev. Jayne Howard Feldman 20 years ago, in 1993, is to remember to do some service for someone, to be an angel in that person's life. It could become habit-forming.

In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln referred to the "better angels of our nature." He wasn't asking for angels with wings and white robes to swoop in and prevent the Civil War; he was asking for his fellow countrymen, North and South, to put aside their differences and see that they were truly members of a perpetual union, bound together with the mystic chords of memory "stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land." We are not all angelic, and even the best among us are not angelic all the time, but we have within each of us the capacity for good.

Try and increase your capacity on Thursday: Do something good for someone -- and celebrate that.

Samuel Pierpont Langley was born on August 22, 1834. If there were a direct correlation between government funding and successful research, Langley would have invented the first airplane. He was the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution when, in 1898, Langley received a $50,000 grant from the War Department and a $20,000 grant from the Smithsonian to develop a manned, powered, heavier-than-air flying machine. He had some success with unmanned models, but it was the Wright Brothers who got the first manned plane into the air. Langley Field in Virginia remembers Langley's contributions to the birth of aviation.

Baseball great Carl Yastrzemski turns 74 on August 22. Yastrzemski won baseball's Triple Crown in 1967. No one led baseball in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in again until Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012. Yastrzemski was a first ballot Hall of Famer."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wednesday is Senior Citizens Day

President Ronald Reagan proclaimed Senior Citizens Day on August 21, 1988 and most of the Usual Sources seem to think that August 21 remains Senior Citizens Day in perpetuity.

All we need now is a gin mill that offers a discount when you present your AARP card.

American Greetings offers Scrape the Bugs Day as an alternative for Wednesday but we are not impressed. Scrape the Bugs? Really?

Count Basie

Wednesday is also Poet's Day. Maybe this would make more sense if we consider that all bad poetry was accounted for on Sunday. We're celebrating only good poets on Wednesday.

Bandleader Count Basie was born on August 21, 1904. Animator Friz Freleng was born on August 21, 1905.

Singer Jackie DeShannon (What the World Needs Now Is Love) turns 69 on Wednesday. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin turns 59 on Wednesday.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The NFL turns 93 on Tuesday

NFL logo obtained from Wikipedia.
The football preseason is half over; NFL rosters are taking shape. Pro football is a multi-billion dollar business, a dominant feature of the sports landscape in the fall and winter.

But it was not ever thus.

College football was the predominant variety of football on August 20, 1920 when the owners of four Ohio pro teams met at the Jordan and Hupmobile Auto Showroom in Canton, Ohio to form the American Professional Football Association. Seven more teams, including the Decatur Staleys (soon to be known as the Chicago Bears) joined the fledgling league at its second meeting, on September 17.

So George Halas really wasn't there at the very beginning -- but it was close.

The first league president was Jim Thorpe. It was hoped that his name would lend credibility to the new enterprise. Second Effort readers may recall a 2012 article on that blog about the multi-talented Thorpe.

Tuesday is also Lemonade Day, honoring the traditional summertime refreshment, and Radio Day, honoring the anniversary of the day when radio station 8MK began broadcasting in Detroit, Michigan. In one of those interesting coincidences of history, this also occurred on August 20, 1920.

For more on the birth of the NFL: Shmoop Editorial Team, "NFL History Timeline of Important Dates," Shmoop University, Inc., 11 November 2008,

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Monday is Humanitarian Day, Potato Day, Aviation Day

Monday August 19 is Humanitarian Day, Potato Day, and Aviation Day. Aviation Day remembers the birthday of Orville Wright. Monday is also Bill Clinton's birthday.

But all of that's rather... humdrum. Routine. Boring, even.

Especially when one compares these microminiholidayettes to the fact that August 19 is also the anniversary of the day, in 1951, that Eddie Gaedel went to bat for the St. Louis Browns.

All 3'7" of him.

This was not a stunt.

Well, OK, it was a stunt -- but it wasn't a gag: Eddie Gaedel had a valid contract to play baseball for the Browns (the umpire demanded to see it when Gaedel, wearing a miniature uniform, bearing number 1/8, stepped into the box to pinch hit during the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers). Gaedel took four pitches, all balls (of course -- where was there a strike zone?) and took his base -- and his place in baseball history -- whereupon a pinch runner was duly substituted.

The late Bill Veeck was then the owner of the Browns and the madman who signed Gaedel for this singular appearance. As he told the story, his one fear was that Gaedel would get ambitious and attempt to take a swing. Gaedel, after all, was a professional performer. He might have been inspired by the cheers of the crowd. Sometimes, when he told the story, Veeck claimed to have warned Gaedel that he had positioned a sniper on the roof of the stadium, ordering the sniper to kill Gaedel if the bat came off his shoulders. That probably was a bit of an embellishment.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sunday is Bad Poetry Day

Photo from the movie version of Hitchhiker's
obtained from Wikipedia.
Bad Poetry Day instantly calls to mind the late, great Douglas Adams and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Quoting now from the Hitchhiker Wiki now (there seems to be a wiki for everything these days, doesn't there?):
Vogon poetry is of course, the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their poet master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode To A Small Lump Of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning " four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived only by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos was reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his 12-book epic entitled "My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles" when his own major intestine--in a desperate attempt to save life itself--leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon poetry is mild by comparison.
Third worst or not, on no account should you let a Vogon attempt to read poetry to you on Sunday. Write your own instead.

Sunday is also National Soft Ice Cream Day and the anniversary of the day, in 1868, when French astronomer Pierre Janssen discovered helium and immediately became a hit at all children's birthday parties in the neighborhood.

Martin Mull turns 70 on Sunday; Denis Leary turns 56.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What is Saturday, August 17? Well, that may depend on the meaning of 'is'....

You will find some support online for Saturday being 'Is' Day or The Meaning of 'Is' Day.

It was on August 17, 1998 that President Bill Clinton's testimony to a grand jury included these amazing sentences: "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the—if he—if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not—that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement." Rumor has it that two grammarians in Britain and fully 10 in the United States went stark raving mad attempting to diagram those sentences.

The Blog of Days, being squarely located in the Family Section of the Internet, will not go into details about the Monica Lewinsky matter. It is enough to recount that Mr. Clinton said on January 26, 1998, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false." However, on the evening of August 17, 1998, after his grand jury testimony, a few weeks after the infamous blue dress was turned over to the special prosecutor's office, Mr. Clinton was back again on TV, acknowledging (quoting now the linked Wikipedia article) that his "relationship with Lewinsky which was 'not appropriate.'"

While there is therefore some support for calling Saturday 'Is' Day, the whole thing strikes us as rather tacky and not a thing to be celebrated.

Saturday is also Thrift Store Day. We know people who used to say they shopped at a store called "Sally's" -- trying to obscure by this that they were actually shopping at a Salvation Army Thrift Store. These days, however, resale shops have become almost trendy. If this sends a mixed message -- at least -- about the state of the modern American economy, well, so be it.

The Woodstock Music Festival ended on August 17, 1969. Nearly half a million people made the trip to Yasgur's Farm in Bethel, New York (about 50 miles from the town of Woodstock proper, according to the linked article on Usual Suspect Nearly 10 times that number claim to have been there.

Maureen O'Hara turns 93 on August 17. Robert De Niro marks his 70th birthday on Saturday.

Davy Crockett was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee on August 17, 1786. The linked Wikipedia article takes no position on whether he kilt him a b'ar when he was only three, but it puts that song right in your head, doesn't it? Some of the Usual Suspects designate Saturday as Davy Crockett Day in honor of Mr. Crockett's natal day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Elvis Presley and Joe Miller both died on August 16

For all you ever wanted to know about this meeting, click here.
Elvis left us on August 16, 1977.

The King should therefore be in heavy rotation on your iPod or other music machine Friday.

And Friday will also mark the anniversary of the death of Joe Miller. Miller, a renowned English actor in his day, died on August 16, 1738.

In 1739, after Miller's death, another Englishman brought out a book entitled Joe Miller's Jests, or the Wit's Vade-Mecum. The joke book sold well, capitalizing on the late actor's fame, and it was followed by other editions and books, all employing Miller's name in one way or another, to the point where "a Joe Miller" or "Millerism" entered the language as a synonym for joke. Thus, according to Wikipedia, in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens has Ebeneezer Scrooge exclaim, on Christmas morning, when he sends the lad to buy the fat turkey, "Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending [the turkey] to Bob's will be!"

Eventually a Millerism came to mean a particular kind of time-worn joke, namely, one so old that even Milton Berle wouldn't steal it.

And, accordingly, you may never heard of Joe Miller. You are not alone. Thus, most of the Usual Suspects tell us that Friday is simply National Tell a Joke Day. But keeps the flame alive, insisting that today is Joe Miller's Joke Day. We give Brownielocks props on this.

Frank Gifford and Kathie Lee Gifford have his and her birthdays on Friday. Frank turns 83. Kathie Lee will be 60. Madonna Louise Ciccone was born on August 15, 1958. She only uses one of those names these days. Madonna turns 55 on Friday.

Friday is also Bratwurst Day, National Men's Grooming Day, and (our favorite) National Rum Day. Enjoy Cuba Libres tomorrow after work.