The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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On December 2, 1804, in a startling departure from tradition, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French. Happy birthday Nicolaas Samuelszoon Kruik (1678), Jean-Charles Chapais (1811),Georges Seurat (1859), Charles Ringling (1863), George Minot (1885), Louis Freeman (1893), Sir John Barbirolli (1899), Ray Walston (1914), Maria Callas (1923), Al Haig (1924), Ed Meese (1931), William Wegman (1943), T. C. Boyle (1948), George Bachrach (1951), Ann Patchett (1963), and Nate Mendel (1968). Happy and Blessed New Year to Gregorian Calendar Christians, and חנוכה שמח also.

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At the risk of appearing to count angels dancing on the head of a pin, I have been wondering whether it is possible for God, being omniscient, to have opinions. Perhaps it is necessary here to distinguish between opinions of the speculative sort and those of the preferential kind. Ah well, I am just another finite being struggling to comprehend the Infinite.

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The Big Bang (with apology to T.S. Eliot)

This is the way the world starts

This is the way the world starts

This is the way the world starts

Not with a whimper but a bang.

On December 3, 1967, Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first human-to-human heart transplant. Although the receiving patient only lived 18 days due to immunosuppressive complications, the successof the transplant opened a whole new avenue in surgery. In 1992, the first text message, “Merry Christmas,” was sent to a cell phone in England. Happy birthday Charles VI, le Bien-Aimé (1368),Gilbert Stuart (1755), Rowland Hill (1795), George McClellan (1826), Cleveland Abbe and Octavia Hill (both 1838), Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards and Charles Alfred Pillsbury (both 1842), Joseph Conrad (1857), Bernhard Lichtenberg (1875), Anna Freud (1895), Dana Suesse (1909), Robert Arthur Hughes (1910), Irving Fine (1914), John Backus (1924), Andy Williams (1927), Jean-Luc Godard (1930), Ozzy Osbourne (1948), Heather Menzies and Mickey Thomas (both 1949), Greg and John Rice (1951), Terri Schiavo (1963), Andrew Stanton and Katarina Witt (both 1965), Brendan Fraser (1968), Joseph McManners (1992), and  Sverre Magnus of Norway (2005).

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On December 4, 1942, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz, two Catholic women,founded Żegota, the Council to Aid Jews, assisting 4,000 Polish Jews in Warsaw, Kraków, Wilno (Vilnius) and Lwów (L’viv) to escape annihilation. Kossak-Szczucka was sent to Auschwitz, but both survived until 1968.Happy birthday to John Cotton (1585), Jean Chapelain (1595), Thomas Carlyle (1795), Samuel Butler (1835), Rainer Maria Rilke (1875), Claude Renoir (1913), Deanna Durbin (1921), Freddie Cannon (1936), Max Baer Jr. (1937), Chris Hillman and Dennis Wilson (both 1944), Terry Wood (1947), Southside Johnny Lyon (1948), Jeff Bridges (1949), BoDietl (1950), Marisa Tomei (1964), Tyra Banks (1973), and Big Pokey (1977).

On December 5, 1933, the 21stAmendment to the United States Constitution came into effect when it was approved by the Utah legislature, the 36th state to do so, repealing the 18th Amendment, and restoring legal status to the production, importation, and consumption of alcohol. Now, as we experience the first attenuated foretaste of the bleak mid-winter, happy birthday to Christina Rossetti (1830), Clyde Vernon Cessna (1879), Werner Heisenberg (1901 apparently), Otto Preminger (1905), Little Richard (1932), Joan Didion (1934), Calvin Trillin (1935), José Carreras (1946), and Frankie Muñiz (1985).  Requiescat in pace, Dave Brubeck (2012).

Today is someone’s birthday.
Werner Heisenberg has a birthday.
Could today be Werner Heisenberg’s birthday?
Can we both detect and celebrate it at once?

First there is a birthday;
then there is no birthday;
then there is.

On December 6, 1865, the 13thamendment, outlawing slavery in all territory under the jurisdiction of the United States, went into effect when Georgia became the 27th state to ratify it. Happy birthday to Ferdinand IV, King of Castile, León, and Galicia (1285), Sir Edmund Andros (1637), Governor of New England, John Eberhard Faber (1822), Fred Duesenberg (1876), Joyce Kilmer (1886), Ira Gershwin (1896), Alfred Eisenstaedt and Gunnar Myrdal (both 1898), Agnes Moorehead (1900), Dave Brubeck (1920), Wally Cox (1924), Steven Wright (1955), and Elian Gonzalez (1993).

On December 7, 1941, at 7:48 a.m. local time, the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Service attacked the U. S. Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory without warning or declaration of war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it “a date which will live in infamy.” In 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I lifted the mutual excommunications that had been levied 911 years earlier. Happy birthday to Saint Columba (521), Dom Joseph Pothier (1835), Solomon Schechter (1847), Richard Warren Sears (1863), Willa Cather (1873), Gerard Kuiper (1905), Eli Wallach (1915), Jean Carignan (1916), Ted Knight (1923), Victor Kiam (1926), Tom Waits (1949), Larry Bird (1956), and Peter Laviolette (1964).

On December 8, 1914, the British Royal Navy, under the command of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Frederick Charles Doveton Sturdee, 1st Baronet GCB, KCMG, CVO, destroyed Admiral von Spee’s German Naval Squadron in the Battle of the Falkland Islands. Happy birthday to Horace (65BC), Mary, Queen of Scots (1542), Eli Whitney (1765), James Thurber (1894), Lee J. Cobb (1911), Sammy Davis Jr. (1925), Maximilian Schell (1930), Flip Wilson (1933), James Galway (1939), Jim Morrison (1943), Gregg Allman (1947), Mary Gordon (1949), and Dominic Monaghan (1976).

On December 9, 1990, Lech Wałęsa was elected president of Poland. Happy birthday Martin de Porres (1579), John Milton (1608), Joel Chandler Harris (1848), Clarence Birdseye (1886), Jean de Brunhoff and Léonie Fuller Adams (both 1899), Margaret Hamilton (1902), Dalton Trumbo (1905), Grace Hopper (1906), Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (1909), Broderick Crawford (1911), Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. (1912), Kirk Douglas (1916), James Angleton (1917), Redd Foxx (1922), Buck Henry (1930), Dame Judi Dench and Amos (Junior) Wells (both 1934), Dan Hicks (1941), Joan Armatrading (1950), and Tré Cool (1972).

On December 10, 1869, women gained the right to vote in Wyoming. Happy birthday to Thomas Gallaudet (1787), William Lloyd Garrison (1805), Ada Baron, Countess Lovelace (1815), Emily Dickinson (1830), Melvil Dewey (1851), Walter Zinn (1906), Olivier Messiaen (1908), Chet Huntley (1911), Phil Hart (1912), Dorothy Lamour (1914), Agnes Nixon (1927), Dan Blocker (1928), Tommy Rettig, Kyu Sakamoto, and Chad Stuart, (all 1941), and Walter Orange (1946).

On December 11, 1282, Prince Llywelyn the Last died in battle with English forces in the Battle of Irfon Bridge, leaving Wales permanently under English dominion.  Happy birthday to George Mason (1725), Hector Berlioz (1803), Alfred de Musset (1810), the state of Indiana (1816), Annie Jump Cannon (1863), Fiorello LaGuardia (1882), Carlo Ponti (1912), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918), Grace Paley (1922), Big Mama Thornton (1926), Rita Moreno (1931), Brenda Lee (1944), and Darryl Jones (1961).

On December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal at Signal Hill, Saint John’s, Newfoundland, sent from Poldhu, Cornwall, England. Happy birthday to John Jay (1745), Gustave Flaubert (1821), Matthias Hohner (1833), Edvard Munch (1863), Edward G. Robinson (1893), Frank Sinatra (1915), Bob Barker (1923), Ed Koch (1924), Bill Beutel (1930), Connie Francis (1938), Dionne Warwick (1940), Neal Peart and Cathy Rigby (both 1952), Bruce Kulick (1953), and Mayim Bialik (1975).

On December 13, 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army began six weeks of mass murder and rape in the city of Nanking, China.  Historians estimate that 200,000 to 300,000 residents were killed in the massacre. Happy birthday Dartmouth College (1769), Mary Todd Lincoln (1818), Phillips Brooks (1835), Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856), Russell W. Porter (1871), Yitzhak Zuckerman (1915), Dick Van Dyke (1925), Jack Tramiel (1928), Christopher Plummer (1929), Herman Cain (1945), Ted Nugent (1948), Steve Buscemi (1957), Taylor Swift (1989), and Prince Nicolas of Belgium (2005).

On December 14, 1542, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, at theage of 6 days, acceded to the throne after the death of her father, James V. Happy birthday John Mercer Langston (1829), Paul Éluard and King George VI (both 1895), Jimmy Doolittle (1896), Margaret Chase Smith (1897), Frances Bavier (1902), Morey Amsterdam (1908), Spike Jones (1911), Shirley Jackson (1916), June Taylor (1917), Lee Remick (1935), Patty Duke (1946), Bill Buckner (1949), and Princess Olimpia Preslavska of Bulgaria (1995), and R.I.P. George Washington (1799).

December 15th is the anniversary of the effective date of the Bill of Rights, (1791), and the French victory in the WWI Battle of Verdun (1916). Happy birthday Tim Conway (1933), Cindy Birdsong (1939), Dave Clark (1942), Gustave Eiffel (1832), Charles Duryea (1861), Alan Freed (1921), Edna O’Brien (1930), Clyde McPhatter (1932), and Don Johnson (1949).

On December 16, 1653, Oliver Cromwell usurped the title of “Lord Protector.” No good would come of this. On this date in 1773, the Boston Tea Party was held; in 1893, Antonin Dvořák’s New World Symphony had its first public performance at Carnegie Hall, and in1901, the first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter appeared. Happy birthday to Catherine of Aragon (1485), George Whitefield (1714), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770), Jane Austen (1775), Ralph Adams Cram and George Santayana (both 1863), Zoltán Kodály (1882), Harold Walter Bailey and Noel Coward (both 1899), Margaret Mead (1901), Arthur C. Clarke (1917), Philip K. Dick (1928), Jimmie Lee Jackson (1938), Steven Bochco (1943), Tony Hicks (1945), Trevor Pinnock (1946), Allen Kurzweil (1960), and Anna Popplewell (1988).

On December 17th, 1777, the French government recognized American independence, and fourteen years later, on December 17, 1791, New York City designated the first one-way street. Also, in 1892, the first public performance of The Nutcracker occurred at Saint Petersburg. Finally, this is also the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first successful flight (1903). There was no waiting line for check-in. Happy birthday to John Greenleaf Whittier (1807), Ford Madox Ford (1873), William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874), Arthur Fiedler (1894), and William Safire (1929).

On December 18th, 1620, the Mayflower landed in Plymouth; in 1865, the 13th Amendment put an official end to slavery in the United States, and in 1888, Robert Moses was born, clutching plans for the West Side Highway. Happy birthday to Charles Wesley (1707), J. J. Thomson (1856), Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863), Saki (1870), Paul Klee (1879), Ty Cobb (1886), Edwin Howard Armstrong (1890), Abe Burrows (1910), General Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. (1912),Willy Brandt (1913), Betty Grable (1916), Jacques Pépin (1935), Chas Chandler (1938), Keith Richards (1943), Steve Biko and Steven Spielberg (both 1946), Crazy Eddie (1947), Leonard Maltin (1950), Ray Liotta (1954), Brad Pitt (1963), Cowboy Troy (1970), Raymond Herrera and D J Lethal (both 1972), and Katie Holmes.

On December 19, in 1732, Ben Franklin began publication of Poor Richard’s Almanack; in 1776, Thomas Paine published The American Crisis, issue #1; in 1777, General George Washington led the Continental Army to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; in 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol; in 1986 Andrei Sakharov was released from prison in the Soviet Union. Happy birthday to Fritz Reiner (1888), Ford Frick (1894), Oliver La Farge (1901), George Davis Snell and the Williamsburg Bridge (both 1903), Edith Piaf (1915), David Susskind (1920), Maurice White (1941), William C De Vries (1943), Robert Urich (1946), Kevin McHale (1957), and Jake Gyllenhaal (1980).

On December 20, in 1803, Thomas Jefferson passed papers on one of the largest real-estate deals in American history, the Louisiana Purchase; in 1860, South Carolina announced that it would rather be a country than a state; in 1889, Thomas Edison removed a future excuse for avoiding homework with his public demonstration of the incandescent light bulb; in 1928, mail delivery by dog sled began in Lewiston, Maine. Happy birthday Branch Rickey (1881), Harvey Firestone (1868), Irene Dunne (1898), Robert Van de Graaff (1901), Jean Marchand (1918), John Hillerman (1932), Dick Wolf (1946), Alan Parsons (1948), Sandra Cisneros (1954), Chris Robinson (1966), and Jethro Tull, the band, not the 18th century farmer, (1967).

On December 20, in 1803, Thomas Jefferson passed papers on one of the largest real-estate deals in American history, the Louisiana Purchase; in 1860, South Carolina announced that it would rather be a country than a state; in 1889, Thomas Edison removed a future excuse for avoiding homework with his public demonstration of the incandescent light bulb; in 1928, mail delivery by dog sled began in Lewiston, Maine. Happy birthday Branch Rickey (1881), Harvey Firestone (1868), Irene Dunne (1898), Robert Van de Graaff (1901), Jean Marchand (1918), John Hillerman (1932), Dick Wolf (1946), Alan Parsons (1948), Sandra Cisneros (1954), Chris Robinson (1966), and Jethro Tull, the band, not the 18th century farmer, (1967).

On December 21, 1898, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered Radium; in 1913, the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opened in Los Angeles (1937). Happy birthday to Thomas à Becket (1119), Benjamin Disraeli (1804), Fred Vinson (1890), John W McCormack (1891), Werner von Trapp (1915), Harald V, King of Norway (1937), Frank Zappa (1940), Carla Thomas (1942), Michael Tilson Thomas (1944), Carl Wilson (1946), Barry Gordon and Samuel L. Jackson (both 1948), Jeffrey Katzenberg (1950), and Andy Dick (1965).

The first performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony was on December 22, 1808. Also on December 22, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe replied “nuts” to the Germans’ demand for surrender in the Battle of the Bulge (1944); Nicolae Ceausescu was forcibly retired from office (1989). Happy birthday to Giacomo Puccini (1858), Lady Bird Johnson (1912), Robin and Maurice Gibb (1949), Rick Nielsen (1950), Pat Jukovsky, Kevin McDermott, and Jeremy Chipman.

On December 23, General George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army to retire temporarily to Mount Vernon (1783). He had much more yet to do in the years to come. Also on December 23, the state of Maryland ceded land to the federal government for a national capital (1788), and the Troy (New York) Sentinel first published “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (1823). Happy birthday to Yousuf Karsh (1908), Robert Bly (1926), Chet Baker (1929), Harry Shearer (1943), Eddie Vedder (1964), and Corey Haim (1971).

On December 24, the War of 1812 officially ended (1814). The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have been at peace with each other since then; in 1871, Giuseppe Verdi’s *Aida* opened in Cairo; in 1920, Enrico Caruso gave the last performance of his career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Happy birthday John Lackland (1166), Kit Carson (1809), James Prescott Joule (1818), Matthew Arnold (1822), Émile Nelligan (1879),  Johnny Gruelle (1880), Joey Smallwood (1900), Howard Hughes (1905), I. F. Stone (1907), Ava Gardner (1922), Lee Dorsey (1924), Mary Higgins Clark (1927), Anthony Fauci (1940), Dana Gioia (1950), Ricky Martin (1971), and Louis Tomlinson (1991).

Today, December 25, is Christmass on the Gregorian calendar. It is also the anniversary of the coronation of Charlemagne (800), and of Guillaume II de Normandie, William the Conqueror, King of England (1066). Also on this day, General George Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River to confront Hessian and British military forces for a surprise attack in the Battle of Trenton (1776). In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the last president of the Soviet Union (dissolved earlier in December). Today is indeed a birthday-rich environment, including those of: Sir Isaac Newton (1642), Clara Barton (1821), Louis Chevrolet (1878), Conrad Hilton (1887), Robert Ripley (1890), Humphrey Bogart (1899), Cab Calloway (1907), Rod Serling (1924), O’Kelly Isley (1937), Jimmy Buffett and Larry Csonka (both 1946), CCH Pounder (1952), and Annie Lennox (1954).

December 26 is Saint Stephen’s Day as well as Boxing Day. On this date in 1865, James H. Mason secured a patent for the coffee percolator. Happy birthday to Thomas Gray (1716), Thomas Nelson, Jr. (1738), Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780), Charles Babbage (1791), Admiral of the Navy George Dewey (1837), Maurice Utrillo (1883), Henry Miller (1891), Jean Toomer (1894), Leopold Mannes (1899), Richard Widmark (1914), Una Mae Carlisle (1915), Rosemary Woods (1917), Steve Allen (1921), Alan King (1927), Kitty Dukakis (1936), Carlton Fisk (1947), Ira Newborn (1949), David Sedaris (1956), James Mercer (1970), Jared Leto (1971), Robert Muchamore (1972), and Chris Daughtry (1979).

On December 27, 1831, HMS Beagle set forth on its second survey expedition of South America to correct earlier nautical charts. Captain Robert FitzRoy brought 22-year old Charles Darwin, a medical student-turned-biologist, along for the journey as one of his resident scientists. In 1932, Radio City Music Hall opened for the first time; in 1968, Apollo 8 returned from its orbit around the moon. Happy birthday to Johannes Kepler (1571), Jacob Bernoulli (O.S. 1654), Louis Pasteur (1822), Sydney Greenstreet and Bunk Johnson (both 1879), Cyrus Eaton (1883), Marlene Dietrich (1901), Oscar Levant (1906), Michael Pinder (1941), Gérard Depardieu (1948), David Knopfler (1952), and Sarah Vowell (1969).

On December 28, Iowa was admitted to the Union as a state (1846); Cyrano de Bergerac opened in Paris (1897). Happy birthday Westminster Abbey (1065), Antoine Furetière (1619), John Molson (1763), Calixa Lavallée (1842), Mortimer Adler (1902), Earl “Fatha” Hines (1903), Lew Ayres (1908), Sam Levenson (1911), Johnny Otis (1921), Stan Lee (1922), Nichelle Nichols (1932), Dwight Bement (1945), Nigel Kennedy (1956), Ray Bourque (1960), and Denzel Washington (1954).

On December 29, Thomas à Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral (1170); the first YMCA in America opened in Boston (1851); A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is published in book form (1916), and Václav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia (1989). Today, we wish happy birthday to Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour (1721), Charles Macintosh (1766), Charles Goodyear (1800), Andrew Johnson (1808), William Gladstone (1809), Pablo Casals (1876), Clyde McCoy (1903), Mary Tyler Moore (1936), Jon Voight (1938), Ray Thomas (1941), Jude Law (1972), and Theo Epstein (1973).

On December 30, happy birthday to Rudyard Kipling (1865), Stephen Leacock (1869), Al Smith (1873), Bert Parks (1914), Jack Lord (1920), Bo Diddley (1928), Skeeter Davis (1931), John Hillerman (1932), Del Shannon (1934), Sandy Koufax (1935), the Arroyo Seco Parkway (1940), Vladimir Bukovsky and Michael Nesmith (both 1942), Davy Jones (1945), Sean Hannity (1961), Jay Kay (1969), Tiger Woods (1975), Laila Ali (1977), LeBron James (1984), and Ryan Sheckler (1989).

December 31 is the anniversary of: Queen Victoria’s choice of Ottawa as Canada’s national capital (1857); the first public demonstration of Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb (1879); Brooklyn’s last day as an independent city (1897); the opening of the Manhattan Bridge to traffic (1909). Guy Lombardo’s first performance of “Auld Lang Syne” for New Year’s Eve (1929); the first public performances by the Cars (1976) and Bauhaus (1978). Happy birthday to Callixtus III (1378), Jacques Cartier (1491), Bonnie Prince Charlie (1722), Pierre-Charles Villeneuve (1763), George Gordon Meade (1815), Robert Grant Aitken (1864), Henri Matisse (1869), Elizabeth Arden (1878), George C. Marshall (1880), Simon Wiesenthal (1908), Odetta (1930), Anthony Hopkins (1937), Andy Summers (1942), Ben Kingsley (1943), Burton Cummings (1947), Joe Dallesandro  and Donna Summer (both 1948), Val Kilmer  and Paul Westerberg (both 1959). Thus endeth the birthday year.

On January 1, happy new year, and happy birthday to New York City in its current geographic extent (1898); the Commonwealth of Australia, formed from six former colonies (1901). Happy birthday also to Lorenzo de Medici (1449), Henry, Duke of Cornwall (1511), Edmund Burke (1729 O.S.), Paul Revere (1735 N.S.), Betsy Ross (1752), Tim Keefe (1857), Alfred Stieglitz (1864), E. M. Forster and William Fox (both 1879), Charles Bickford (1891), Hubert Jozef van Doorne and Xavier Cugat (both 1900), Dana Andrews (1909), Hank Greenberg (1911), Colonel Patrick Anthony Porteous VC (1918), J.D. Salinger (1919), Fred Wiseman (1930), B. Kliban (1935), Country Joe McDonald (1942), Shelby Steele (1946), and Grandmaster Flash (1958).

On January 2, happy birthday to Philip Freneau (1752), Charles Russell Lowell Jr. (1835), Mendele Mocher Sforim and Queen Emma of Hawaii (both 1836), Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux (1873), Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1886), Lawrence James Wackett KBE, DFC, AFC (1896), Dan Keating (1902), Barry Goldwater (1909), Isaac Asimov (1920), Larry Harmon (1925), Julius La Rosa (1930), Dabney Coleman (1932), Roger Miller (1936), Naoki Urasawa (1960), Cuba Gooding Jr. and Anky van Grunsven (both 1968), and Doug Robb (1975).

On January 3, 1959, Alaska was admitted as the 49th state of the union. Happy birthday to Cicero (106 B.C.), William Tucker (1624), Lucretia Mott (1793), Charles Pelham Villiers (1802), Douglas William Jerrold (1803), Charles Piazzi Smyth FRSE FRS FRAS FRSSA (1819), Saint Damien of Molokai SS. CC. (1840), Josephine Hull (1877), Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge (1879), Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS (1883), J. R. R. Tolkien (1892), ZaSu Pitts (1894), Ray Milland (1907), Victor Borge (1909), Earl Muntz  (1914), Maxene Andrews and Betty Furness (both 1916), Roger W. Straus and Vernon A. Walters (both 1917), George Martin (1926), Sergio Leone (1929), Marcel Dubé OC OQ (1930), Bobby Hull (1939), Van Dyke Parks (1943), Stephen Stills (1945), John Paul Jones, musician (1946), Mel Gibson (1956), Victoria Principal (1950), Matt Ross (1970), Rob Arnold (1980), and Eli Manning (1981).

On January 4, 1896, Utah was admitted as the 45th state. Happy birthday to Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710), Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785), Louis Braille (1809), Sir Isaac Pitman (1813), Frederic T. Greenhalge (1842), Leroy Grumman (1895), Everett Dirksen (1896), William Egan Colby (1920), Doris Kearns Goodwin (1943), Arthur Conley (1946), Bernard Sumner (1956), Michael Stipe (1960), and Cait O’Riordan (1965).

On January 5, 1477, René II, Duke of Lorraine, and his Swiss confederates defeated Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy at the Battle of Nancy. Happy birthday to Richard, High Sheriff of Berkshire, High Sheriff of Cornwall, 1st Earl of Cornwall, Count of Poitou, King of Germany, King of the Romans (1209), Stephen Decatur, Jr. and Zebulon Pike (both 1779), King Gillette (1855), Frederick Shepherd Converse (1871), Konrad Adenauer (1876), Arthur H. Robinson (1915), Jane Wyman (1917), Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921), Sam Phillips (1923), Richard Hayes (1930), Robert Duvall (1931), Umberto Eco (1932), Juan Carlos of Spain and Leo Avery, abbot of Quarr (both 1938), Athol Guy (1940), Grady Thomas (1941), Diane Keaton (1946), Chris Stein (1950), Bryan Hitt (1954), and Bradley Cooper (1975).

On January 6, blessed Epiphany for those of us on the Western calendar; blessed Christmas to Eastern Christians; everyone else, have a great day! Happy birthday to Jeanne d’Arc (1412), John Smith (1580), Jacob Bernoulli (1655 N.S.), Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745), Charles Sumner (1811), Heinrich Schliemann (1822), Gustave Doré (1832), Sherlock Holmes (1854), William Russell (1857), Samuel Alexander (1859), Thomas Robert Dewar (1864), Alexander Scriabin (1872), Carl Sandburg (1878), Tom Mix (1880), Sam Rayburn (1882), A. N. Pritzker (1896), Maurice Abravanel (1903), Jacques Ellul (1912), Loretta Young (1913), Danny Thomas (1914), Earl Scruggs (1924), John DeLorean (1925), E. L. Doctorow (1931), Pepe Le Pew (1945), Syd Barrett (1946), Ian Frazer (1953), and Rowan Atkinson (1955). Today is also the wedding anniversary of George and Martha Washington (1759), George and Barbara Bush (1945), and Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (1540). Two out of the three were good. The third marriage ended very badly.

On January 7, 1789, American voters chose electors for the first presidential election. The electors eventually chose George Washington as the first president. In 1800, President Millard Fillmore was born. In 1955, Marian Anderson sang at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for the first time. Happy birthday to Pope Gregory XIII (1502), General Israel Putnam (1718), Zora Neale Hurston (1891), Saint Bernadette Soubirous (1844), Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858), Émile Borel (1871), Adolph Zukor (1873), Sir Wilmot Hudson Fysh (1895), Tommy Johnson (1896), Al Bowlly (1898), Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc (1899), Charles Addams (1912), Jean-Pierre [Louis] Rampal (1922), Kenny Davern (1935), Paul Revere, musician (1938), Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark (1939), Tony Conigliaro (1945), David Caruso (1956), Rand Paul (1963), and Nicolas Cage (1964).

On January 8, 1790, George Washington delivered the first State of the Union address; on the same date in 1835, the United States government (briefly) had zero national debt. Happy birthday Most Reverend John Carroll (1735), Nicholas Biddle (1786), Fannie Jackson Coppin (1837), Frank Nelson Doubleday (1862), Saint Maximilian Kolbe (1894),  Carl Rogers (1902), Evelyn Wood (1909), José Ferrer (1912), Soupy Sales (1926), Bill Graham (1931), Charles Osgood (1933), Elvis Presley (1935), Graham Chapman  and Little Anthony Gourdine (both 1941), Stephen Hawking and Yvette Mimieux (both 1942), Robby Krieger (1946), and David Bowie and Terry Sylvester (both 1947).

On January 9, 1776, Thomas Paine published “Common Sense,” his argument for American independence from Britain; Connecticut joined the United States of America (1788); Mississippi left the United States (1861); the London Underground opened (1863); the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company installed the first battery-powered switchboard in Lexington, Massachusetts (1894).  Happy birthday Jennie Jerome, Lady Randolph Churchill of Brooklyn and Blenheim, (1854), Carrie Chapman Catt (1859), Joseph Baermann Strauss (1870), Karel Čapek (1890), Dame Gracie Fields, DBE and Wally Stiefel Broderdorp McBride Baker (both 1898), Richard Halliburton (1900), Sir Rudolph Bing (1902), Simone-Lucie-Ernestine-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (1908), Domenico Modugno (1928), Bob Denver (1935), Jimmy Page OBE (1944), Bill Cowsill (1948), Crystal Gayle (1951), Steven Harwell and Dave Matthews (both 1967), and Kate Middleton (1982).

On January 10, 49 B.C., Julius Cæsar and his army crossed the Rubicon River from Gaul to the Roman Republic. Five years of civil war followed. In 1645, William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, was beheaded pursuant to a bill of attainder passed by the Puritan parliament, despite a royal pardon from Charles I who suffered a similar death in 1649. In 1861, Florida followed South Carolina and Mississippi to become the third state to declare secession from the United States. In 1863, the London Underground opened. In 1967, Ed Brooke (R.-Mass.), the first popularly-elected African-American United States Senator, assumed office. Happy birthday St. Isaac Jogues, S.J. (1607), Ethan Allen (1737 O.S.), Lord Acton (1834), Louis Nazaire Cardinal Bégin (1840), Frederick Gardner Cottrell (1877), Francis X. Bushman (1883), Robinson Jeffers (1887),  Ray Bolger (1904), Claude Gallimard (1914), Max Roach (1924), Gisele MacKenzie (1927), Philip Levine (1928), Tintin (1929), Stephen Ambrose (1936), Sal Mineo (1939), Jim Croce (1943), Rod Stewart (1945), Aynsley Dunbar and Bob Lang (both 1946), George Foreman (1949), Pat Benatar and Mike Stern (both 1953), and Michael Schenker (1955).

On January 11, Michigan was organized as a United States territory (1805); Surgeon General Luther Terry issued the first report from the federal government warning that smoking cigarettes may be a health hazard (1964). Happy birthday Emperor Theodosius I (347), Duchess Michelle de Valois (1395), Alexander Hamilton (1755), Joseph Jackson Lister (1786), Ezra Cornell (1807), John A. Macdonald (1815), William James (1842), Harry Selfridge (1858), Alice Paul (1885), Aldo Leopold (1887), Maurice Duruflé (1902), Alan Paton (1903), Carroll Shelby (1923), Jean Chrétien PC OM CC QC (1934), and Mary J. Blige (1971).

On January 12, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I died (1519); Berry Gordy, Jr. started Tamla (later Motown) Records (1959); Led Zeppelin released the eponymous “Led Zeppelin” album (1969). Happy birthday John Winthrop (1587), Charles Perrault (1628), Edmund Burke (1729 NS), Ferdinando I, King of the two Sicilies (1751), Ferdinando (II) Carlo, King of the two Sicilies (1810),  Zealous Bates Tower (1819), John Singer Sargent (1856), Jack London (1876), David Wechsler (1896), Tex Ritter (1905), Patsy Kelly (1910), James Farmer (1920), Ira Hayes (1923), Tim Horton and Glenn Yarborough (both 1930), Joe Frazier (1944), Maggie Bell (1945), Kirstie Alley and Chris Bell (both 1951), Jeff Bezos (1964), Rob Zombie (1965), Jason Freese (1975), and Zayn Malik (1993).

On January 13, Pope Honorius II extended official recognition to the Knights Templar (1128); fifteen Rhode Island militiamen under the command of Captain Joseph Knight repelled a British invasion of Prudence Island (1776); James Joyce died (1941); the Costa Concordia ran aground and flipped near Isola del Giglio, leaving 32 people dead (2012). Happy birthday Saint Colette of the Poor Clares (1381), Mark Alexander Boyd (1563), Governor John Davis (1787), Salmon P. Chase (1808), Horatio Alger (1832), Princess Marie d’Orléans (1865), Alfred Fuller (1885), Sophie Tucker (1887), Sabine Zlatin (1907), Danny Barker (1909), Robert Stack (1919), Charles Nelson Reilly (1931), Cabu (1938), Brandon Tartikoff (1949), Trevor Rabin (1954), Fred White (1955),  James Lomenzo (1959), Patrick Dempsey (1966), Orlando Bloom (1977), and Liam Hemsworth (1990).

On January 14, 1639 (O.S.), the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, effectively establishing the new colony’s system of self-governance, were adopted with the permission of the Massachusetts General Court and Governor  John Winthrop. In 1882, The Country Club was founded in Brookline. My membership invitation is lost in the mail. Happy birthday Marc Antony (83 BC), Valdemar I of Denmark (1131), Ludwig Alois Friedrich Ritter von Köchel (1800), Thornton Waldo Burgess (1874), Albert Schweitzer (1875), Hugh Lofting (1886), Martin Niemöller and Hal Roach Sr. (both 1892), John Francis Young VC (1893), John Dos Passos (1896), William Bendix (1906), Tillie Olsen (1912), Mark Goodson (1915), Andy Rooney (1919), Murray Bookchin (1921), Shlomo Carlebach (1925), Allen Toussaint (1938), Julian Bond (1940), Faye Dunaway (1941), Mark Egan (1951), Maureen Dowd (1952), Ellis Paul (1965), L. L. Cool J (1968), Dave Grohl (1969), and Jordy Lemoine (1988). R.I.P. Lewis Carroll (1898).

January 15 is the anniversary date of the Molasses Disaster (1919). A 15-foot wave of molasses swept over the North and West Ends of Boston when warming temperatures expanded the contents of a vat that had been constructed of questionable steel. 21 people were killed; 150 people were injured, and 25 horses were killed also. The smell of the sticky molasses lingered on the streets for many years.  It is also the day that Vermont declared its independence from New York and Britain, thus establishing itself as an independent nation (1777). Happy birthday Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) (1622), Philip Livingston (1716), Cornelia Connelly (1809), Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby KG GCB GCVO PC (1841), Saint Mary Helen Mackillop RSJ (1842), Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850), Giovanni Segantini (1858), Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864), Pierre S. duPont (1870), Paul Dever (1903), Edward Teller (1908), Jean Bugatti and Gene Krupa (both 1909), Lloyd Bridges (1913), Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929), Thomas Hoving (1931), Robert Silverberg (1935), Captain Beefheart (1941), and Chad Lowe (1968).

On January 16, Ivan the Terrible was crowned (1547); the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution (Prohibition), the only one to be repealed outright, took effect (1920); General Dwight David Eisenhower, later President, assumed command of the Allied Expeditionary Force (1944). Happy birthday to René d’Anjou (1409), Johannes Schöner (1477), François de Beaufort, duc de Vendôme (1616), Francesco Mancini (1672), Samuel McIntire (1757), Franz Clemens Honoratus Hermann Brentano (1838), André Michelin (1853), Robert W. Service (1874), Irving Mills (1894), Irving Rapper (1898), Frank Zamboni (1901), Ethel Merman (1908), Dizzy Dean and David McCampbell (both 1910), Anthony Hecht (1923), William Kennedy (1928), Norman Podhoretz (1930), Dian Fossey (1932), Susan Sontag (1933), Marilyn Horne (1934), Sade (1959), and Jason DeCorse (1974).

On January 17, 1950, thieves in Boston robbed a Brink’s armored truck, at the time, the biggest robbery in American history; in 1953, General Motors unveiled the first Chevrolet Corvette; in 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell address to the nation. Happy birthday Philippe le Hardi (1342), Ben Franklin (1706 N.S.), John Stanley (1712 O.S.), David Lloyd-George (1863), Mack Sennett (1880), Noah Beery, Sr. (1882), Nevil Shute (1899), Betty White and Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach (both 1922), Robert Cormier (1925), Newton Minow (1926), Dr. Tom Dooley and Eartha Kitt (both 1927), James Earl Jones (1931), Shari Lewis (1933), Françoise Hardy (1943), and Mick Taylor (1949).

January 18 is the date on which Captain James Cook reached Hawaii (1778); the first English settlers arrived in Australia (1788); the first airplane landed on a ship, the U. S. S. Pennsylvania, in San Francisco Harbor (1911). Happy birthday Antoine Houdar de la Motte (1672), Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689), Peter Roget (1779), Daniel Webster (1782), William Henry Havergal (1793), Sir Edward Frankland, KCB, FRS FRSE (1825), Thomas A Watson (1854), Paul Léautaud (1872), Gaston Gallimard (1881), A.A. Milne (1882), Arthur Ransome (1884), Oliver Hardy (1892), Cary Grant (1904), Danny Kaye (1911), David Bellamy, John Boorman, and Ray Dolby (all 1933), John Hughes (1950), Tom Bailey (1956), D. J. Quik (1970), Jonathan Davis (1971), and Jason Segel (1980).

Happy Saint Wulfstan’s Day! On January 19, 1861, Georgia left the Union; in 2006, NASA sent a spacecraft to Pluto. Plutonians might be seen staging protests against the reclassification of their home by the International Astronomical Union. Stay tuned for further developments. Happy birthday François II de Valois-Angoulême (1544), James Watt (1736), Isaiah Thomas, publisher (1749), Robert E. Lee (1807), Lysander Spooner (1808), Edgar Allan Poe (1809), Henry Bessemer (1813), Paul Cézanne (1839), Alice Eastwood (1859), Oveta Culp Hobby (1905), Ish Kabibble (1908), Jean Stapleton (1923), Tippi Hedren (1930), Phil Everly (1939), Janis Joplin (1943), Shelley Fabares and Peter Lynch (both 1944), Dolly Parton (1946), Thomas Kinkade (1958), Frank Caliendo (1974), and Logan Lerman (1992).

On January 20, John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of The United States (1801). Donald Trump was the tenth president to be sworn in on this date. Happy birthday Eleanor of Aragon, Queen of Castile (1358), Jean-Jacques Barthélemy (1716), Richard Henry Lee (1732), André-Marie Ampère (1775), Anson Jones (1798), Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806), Anne Jemima Clough (1820), George D. Robinson (1834), Lead Belly (1889), Harold Lincoln Gray (1894), George Burns and Rolfe Sedan (both 1896), Joy Adamson and Abram Hill (both 1910), Federico Fellini and DeForest Kelley (both 1920), Slim Whitman (1923), Patricia Neal (1926), Buzz Aldrin (1930), Dorothy Provine (1935), Paul Coverdell (1939), Eric Stewart (1945), David Lynch and Malcolm McLaren (both 1946), Natan Sharansky (1948), Ian Hill (1951), Paul Stanley (1952), and Queen Mathilde of Belgium (1973).

On January 21, the first atomic-powered submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, was launched at Groton, Connecticut (1955); the SST Concorde began service in Britain and France (1976). Happy birthday Ethan Allen (1738), John Fitch (1743), J. Carrol Naish (1896), Christian Dior and Karl Wallenda (both 1905), Telly Savalas (1922), Benny Hill (1924), Placido Domingo and Richie Havens (both 1941), Chris Britton (1944), Robbie Benson and Geena Davis (both 1956), and Ken Leung (1970).

On January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria died, the longest-reigning British monarch at the time.  Queen Elizabeth II has since surpassed her record. On this date in 1905, Tsar Nicholas’s army met a group of petitioners with gunfire, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths; in 1973, Lyndon Johnson died; in 1980, Andrei Sakharov was banished to internal exile. Happy birthday Ivan III Vasilyevich (1440), Francis Bacon (1561), Philip Carteret (1639), Lord Byron (1788), Richard Upjohn (1802), Fred M Vinson (1890), Marcel Dassault (1892), Sergei Eisenstein (1898), Guido Kisch (1899), Douglas (Wrong Way) Corrigan (1907), Ann Sothern and U Thant (both 1909), Howard Moss (1922), Sam Cooke (1931), Piper Laurie (1932), Bill Bixby (1934), Joseph Wambaugh (1937), Addie “Micki” Harris and John Hurt (both 1940), Elaine Noble (1944), Andrew Rubin (1946), Tamra Davis (1962), Steven Adler and D. J. Jazzy Jeff (both 1965).

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to attain a medical doctor’s degree in the United States; in 1968, North Korean military forces fired on, and captured, the U.S.S. Pueblo. Happy birthday John Hancock (1737), Edouard Manet (1832), Amanda Berry Smith (1837), Sir William Samuel Stephenson (1897), Randolph Scott (1898), Dan Duryea (1907), Potter Stewart (1915), Ernie Kovacs (1919), Lars-Eric Lindblad (1927), Derek Walcott (1930), Chita Rivera (1933), Anita Pointer (1948), Robin Zander (1953), Earl Falconer (1959), and Mariska Hargitay (1964).

On January 24, as the slush-plows scurry by, we recall the words of Henry Adams: “Winter was always the effort to live; summer was tropical license.”
–The Education of Henry Adams

On this date in 1935, The Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company introduced canned beer. Happy birthday Hadrian (76), Pierre de Beaumarchais (1732), Andrew Ellicott (1754), Johann Chrysostomus Drexel (1758), Louis Alexandre Andrault de Langeron (1763), Edwin Chadwick (1800), Edith Wharton (1862), Arthur Alfonso Schomburg (1874), Estelle Winwood (1883), Ernest Borgnine (1917), Marvin Kaplan (1927), Zeke Carey (1933), Aaron Neville (1941), Michael Ontkean (1946), Warren Zevon (1947), John Belushi (1949), Yakov Smirnoff (1951), and Mary Lou Retton (1968).

On January 25, Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, his second wife (1533). As his other five wives did, she would soon come to grief. In 1890, the United Mine Workers of America came into being. Also on this date, Alexander Graham Bell started transcontinental telephone service (1915), and John Dillinger was captured (1934). In 1959, American Airlines initiated scheduled transcontinental jet service. Happy birthday Edmund Campion (1540), Robert Boyle (1627), Robert Burns (1759), François-Vincent Raspail (1794), W. Somerset Maugham (1874), Virginia Woolf (1882), and Lucius E. Burch, Jr. (1912).

On January 26, 1788, British naval vessels, carrying prisoners, arrived in New South Wales, starting the settlement that would eventually grow to become modern Australia; in 1950, the constitution of India came into effect, and in 1961, President Kennedy appointed the first female, Dr. Janet Travell, as personal physician to the president.  Happy birthday Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714), General Douglas MacArthur (1880), Bessie Coleman (1892), Laurence Carbee Craigie (1902), John Cardinal Heenan and Maria von Trapp (both 1905), Stéphane Grappelli (1908),  Philip José Farmer (1918), Anne Jeffreys (1923), Paul Newman and Claude Ryan GOQ (both 1925), Jules Feiffer (1929), Bob Uecker (1934), Gene Siskel (1946), Eddie Van Halen (1955), Ellen DeGeneres (1958), Wayne Gretzky (1961), and Cameron Bright (1993).

On January 27, in the year 98, Emperor Trajan assumed the throne after the death of Emperor Nerva; in the year 672, Saint Vitalian died; in 1785, the University of Georgia was founded; in 1880, Thomas Edison was issued a patent for his incandescent lamp; in 1945, the Red Army liberated the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Happy birthday Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756), Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775), Samuel Cutler Ward (1814), Lewis Carroll (1832), Dmitri Mendeleev (1834 O.S.), Samuel Gompers (1850), Learned Hand (1872), Jerome Kern (1885), Hyman Rickover (1900), Skitch Henderson (1918), Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (1919), Donna Reed (1921), Bobby Blue Bland (1930), Mordecai Richler (1931), Troy Donahue and Samuel Ting (both 1936), Julius Lester (1939), Brian T. O’Leary (1940), Nick Mason (1944), Mikhail Baryshnikov and Kim Gardner (both 1948), Brian Downey and Seth Justman (both 1951), John Roberts (1955), Mark Owen (1972), and Clint Ford (1976).

On January 28, 1915, a German naval vessel sank an American merchant ship, the William P. Frye, on the high seas, a precursor to American involvement in World War I; on the same day, Congress voted to consolidate the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Lifesaving Service to form the United States Coast Guard; in 1916, Louis Brandeis was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court by Woodrow Wilson; in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger burned and broke up 73 seconds into its tenth voyage, killing all aboard. This is also the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Happy birthday Henry VII (1457), Clement IX (1600), John Baskerville (1706), George Sewall Boutwell (1818), William Seward Burroughs I (1855), Collette (1873), Artur Rubinstein (1887), Alan Alda (1936), Marty Fried and John Tavener (both 1944), Sarah McLachlan (1968), Mo Rocca (1969), Nick Carter (1980), and Elijah Wood (1981).

On January 29, 1820, King George III died, following years of ill health. Happy birthday Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688), Thomas Paine (1737 O.S.), Albert Gallatin (1761), Harriet Tubman (1820), William McKinley (1843), Ebenezer Howard (1850), Anton Chekhov (1860), Havergal Brian (1876), W. C. Fields (1880), Allen B. DuMont (1901), John Forsythe (1918), Paddy Chayefsky (1923), Tom Selleck (1945), Tommy Ramone (1949), Ann Jillian (1950), Oprah Winfrey (1954), Greg Louganis (1960), and Nicholas Turturro (1962).

First the bad news: On January 30, 1649, King Charles I was murdered; in 1933, Adolf Hitler took office as Chancellor of Germany; in 1948, Mohandas Gandhi was murdered. Now the good news: Happy birthday Thomas Tallis (1505), John Ireland, actor (1914), Fred Korematsu (1919), Dick Martin (1922), Gene Hackman (1930), Dick Cheney (1941), Marty Balin (1942),and Phil Collins (1951).

On January 31, 1958, Explorer I went into orbit. Many have followed since. Happy birthday, Louis de Montfort (1673), Robert Morris (1734 N.S.), Gouverneur Morris (1752), Franz Schubert (1797), Tallulah Bankhead (1902), Garry Moore and Thomas Merton (both 1915), Jackie Robinson (1919), Carol Channing (1921), Joanne Dru (1922), Jean Simmons (1929), James Franciscus (1934), Suzanne Pleshette (1937), Nick Di Paolo (1962), Minnie Driver (1970), and Justin Timberlake (1981).

On February 1, 1790, The United States Supreme Court met for the first time in New York City; in 1861, Texas voted to secede from the United States despite the objections of Governor Sam Houston; in 1887, Hollywood, California was established as a Protestant utopian community devoid of vice and demon rum; in 1896, Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème opened in Torino; in 1960, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University were refused service at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, thus beginning the sit-ins of the 1960s. Happy birthday Sir Edward Coke SL PC (1552), Charles-Joseph Sax (1790), Alphonse de Rothschild  (1827), Louis Stephen St. Laurent PC CC QC (1882), The Oxford English Dictionary (1884), Charles Nordhoff (1887), John Ford (1894), Clark Gable (1901), Langston Hughes (1902), S. J. Perelman (1904), Alan Strode Campbell Ross (1907), Renata Tebaldi  (1922), Galway Kinnell (1927),  Garrett Morris (1937), Jimmy Carl Black, and Sherman Hemsley (both 1938), Terry Jones (1942), Patrick Wilson (1969), and Harry Styles (1994).

On February 2, 1653, the city of Nieuw Amsterdam was incorporated on the southern end of Manhattan. Happy birthday James I of Aragon (1208), Curtis Guild, Jr. (1860), Solomon R Guggenheim (1861), Fritz Kreisler (1875), James Joyce (1882), Howard Johnson, restaurateur (1897), Benny Rubin (1899), Jascha Heifetz (1901), Cal Tinney (1908), Abba Eban (1915), James Dickey, Bonita Granville, and Liz Smith (all 1923), An Wang (1920), Elaine Stritch and David Abell Wood (both 1925), Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1926), Stan Getz (1927), Judith Viorst (1931), Tommy Smothers (1937), Barry Diller and Graham Nash (both 1942), Farrah Fawcett, Peter Lucia, and Jessica Beth Savitch (both 1947), Brent Spiner (1949), and Christie Brinkley (1954).

On February 3, 1809, the territory of Illinois was organized, the same day that Felix Mendelssohn was born. At 12:55 a.m., February 3, 1943, the United States Army Transport Ship Dorchester was sunk by German Unterseeboot U-223. Despite orders to sleep with their life jackets, many of those aboard did not. In the 34F water, hundreds died of hypothermia, but many were saved. Four chaplains, Methodist Rev. George L. Fox; Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; Roman Catholic Rev. John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America’s Rev. Clark V. Poling all gave up their life jackets and gloves to others, and linked arms, sang hymns, and said prayers together as they sank into the sea. Today is my parents’ wedding anniversary (1951). Happy birthday to Jeanne de Bourbon (1338), Samuel Osgood (1747), Ansel Briggs (1806), Samuel Hooper (1808), Horace Greeley (1811), Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. (1821), Cyrus Ballou Comstock (1831), Sidney Lanier (1842), Arthur Hotaling (1873), Gertrude Stein (1874), Norman Rockwell (1894), James Michener (1907), Simone Weil (1909), Joey Bishop (1918), Henry Heimlich, M.D. (1920), Shelley Berman (1925), Richard Yates (1926), Peggy Ann Garner (1932), John Handy (1933), Victor Buono (1938), Michael Cimino (1939), Dennis Edwards and Eric Haydock (both 1943), Dave Davies, and Melanie Safka (both 1947), Morgan Fairchild (1950), Lee Ranaldo (1956), Warwick Davis and Richie Kotzen (both 1970), and Sean Kingston (1970).

On February 4, 1783, at the conclusion of the American Revolution, the United Kingdom officially ceased hostilities against the United States (for about 29 years); in 1789, the electoral college elected George Washington President of the United States; in 1941, The U.S.O. was formed. Happy birthday Pierre Cardinal de Barulle (1575) Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746 O.S.), Mark Hopkins (1802), Governor Oliver Ames (1831), John Henry Wright (1852); Ludwig Prandtl (1875), E. J. Pratt (1882), Senator Cairine Reay Mackay Wilson (1885), Nigel Bruce (1895), Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Clyde William Tombaugh (both 1906), Erich Leinsdorf and Louis-Albert Cardinal Vachon (both 1912), Rosa Parks (1913), Ida Lupino (1918), The Most Reverend Derek Worlock CH (1920), Dave Ketchum (1928), David Brenner (1936), John Steel (1941), and Alice Cooper and Mark D. Devlin (both 1948). Today is also the day appointed to thank your letter-carrier.

February 5 is National Weather Forecasters’ Day. On February 5, 1869, the Welcome Stranger gold nugget, weighing 158 pounds, the largest ever found so far, was discovered in Victoria, Australia under an inch of dirt. Nice going! Happy birthday to James Otis, Jr. (1725), Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748), Sir Robert Peel (1788), John Boyd Dunlop (1840), André Citroën (1878), Adlai Stevenson II (1900), Norton Simon (1907), Charles Leblond CC GOQ FRMS FRSC FRS (1910), William Burroughs (1914), Red Buttons (1919), Andrew Greeley (1928), Hank Aaron and Don Cherry (both 1934), Stephen J. Cannell and Cory Wells (both 1941), Nolan Bushnell and Larry Tamblyn (both 1943), Al Kooper (1944), Christopher Guest and his friend, Nigel Tufnel (both 1948).

On February 6, 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, beginning the longest reign in British history. Happy birthday Queen Anne Stuart (1665), Aaron Burr (1756), Edwin Klebs (1834), Eric Partridge (1894), Robert M. La Follette Jr. and Babe Ruth (both 1895), Claudio Arrau (1903), Ronald Reagan (1911), Mary Nicol Leakey (1913), Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917), François Truffaut (1932), Mike Farrell (1939), Fabian (1943), Bob Marley (1945), Natalie Cole and Punky Meadows (both 1950), and Axl Rose (1962).

On February 7, 1962, President Kennedy instituted the trade embargo against Cuba; in 1964, the Beatles arrived in New York City for their first American visit; in 1986, Bébé-Doc Duvalier fled Haïti; in 1990, the Soviet Communist Party issued permission for opposition parties to exist; in 1992, Europe began a deep transformation with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. Happy birthday Empress Matilda (1102), Thomas More (1478), Maria Louise van Hessen-Kassel (1688), John Deere (1804), Charles Dickens (1812), Gardner Quincy Colton (1814), Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834), Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (1867), Sinclair Lewis (1885), Eubie Blake (1887), Buster Crabbe (1908), An Wang (1920), Gay Talese (1932), Jimmy Greenspoon (1948), Emo Philips and Mark St. John (both 1956), Chris Rock (1965), and Hrafnhildur Hafsteinsdóttir.

On February 8, 1910, the Boy Scouts of America came into existence. On this date, József Cardinal Mindszenty was convicted of treason by the Communist People’s Court of Hungary after decades of fighting against both Nazis and Communists. Today is Kite Flying Day, although I might be inclined to a six-month delay. Happy birthday Yaroslav II (1191), Constantine XI Dragases Palaiologos (1405), Robert Burton (1577), William Tecumseh Sherman (1820), Jules Verne (1828), Kate Chopin (1850), Martin Buber (1878), Billy Bishop (1894), Elizabeth Bishop (1911), Betty Field (1913), Lana Turner (1921), Audrey Meadows (1922), Jack Lemmon (1925), Neal Cassady (1926), James Dean (1931), and John Grisham (1955).

Having begun two months and a week ago with one reader, I think I have had a bit of a decline in readership since then. Consequently, I think it may be time to re-evaluate this enterprise.

Is anybody out there?

I don’t think so.

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