WEEKEND BRIEFINGWeekend Potpourri
Oct. 22 - [UPDATE: As some readers have pointed out, and some authoritative websites have confirmed (and had indeed informed me before I even wrote today's Almanac), we don't set our clocks back until next week. So don't go tampering with your clocks this weekend. Or do—but don't blame me when you get to work an hour early. Or would it be an hour late? Damn these headaches, I can't manage any abstract thinking at all...]
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Earlier this week I wrote that after the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, it would be cataclysmic to New England if the undefeated Patriots were to lose to the undefeated New York Jets on Sunday. Since the Red Sox did the unthinkable and came back from a three-game deficit to knock the Bronx Bombers out of contention, the shoe appears to be on the other foot: a Jets loss on Sunday would be cataclysmic to the sports fans of greater New York.
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I've been getting very bad sinus headaches lately. It seems to happen to me every spring and every fall. Usually they come and go for about two weeks then disappear altogether. There's not much I can do for them—antihistamines, Tylenol, camomille tea, steam treatments—and they completely disrupt my life. They usually come on just when I'm getting ready for bed and prevent me from sleeping for several hours. Then I often wake up to the same pain in the morning. I see a doctor for it just about every other season, and they almost always tell me the same thing: take antihistamines, Tylenol, camomille tea, steam treatments, and so on, and the headaches ought to fade as they always do. And they usually do. But one in every four seasons, roughly, it ends up being a sinus infection, which requires antibiotics. (Isn't this exciting?)
If anyone else suffers from seasonal sinus issues and has found a way to relieve the unspeakable agony of those headaches, please, please drop me a line!
But I'm not holding my breath. . . I've already searched the web, and the only thing I've found that I haven't tried yet is alternating hot- and cold-compresses. There are so many "solutions," in fact, that I have to wonder: since the peak strength of these headaches only lasts 90 minutes or so, maybe the purpose of these remedies isn't to actually relieve the headache, but to keep you busy.
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We fall back this weekend. At 2am Sunday morning here in Denmark it will suddenly become 3am, meaning we'll be seven hours ahead of Eastern time until it's 2am in New York (9am in Denmark)—which will suddenly become 3am, while Denmark sits tight at 9am.
It's a shame the transition doesn't come later in the day... I'd love to know the results of the Pats-Jets game an hour before my friends in the states!
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I'm trying to install a new message board system on the website, and will do my best to have it up and running by Monday. (The existing forum is terrible and needs to be deleted anyway. To give you an idea of just how bad it is, it's on my own site, I'm mentioning it, and I'm not even linking to it.)
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Nelson Ascher's the kind of blogger I'd like to be if I grow up: he doesn't really blog so much as essay, and he obviously puts a lot of thought into each post. So it's interesting to see why he won't be voting for George Bush on Election Day.
Hot Air Man
Once upon a time in the eighteenth century, a man named J.P. Blanchard threw a dog wearing a crude parachute out of a hot-air balloon. History is silent on the outcome of this experiment. Mr. Blanchard may simply have been a disgruntled cat person.
At about the same time there lived a swindler by the name of Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who travelled around France offering—for a fee from his spectators—to ascend into the sky in a hot-air balloon and leap to the earth in a parachute. Strangely enough, his balloon never managed to get off the ground. Refunds were never offered.
One day an angry spectator brought Garnerin's con to the attention of the local authorities, who promptly arrested him. He was given a choice: he could either get his balloon to fly and make the promised jump or he could go directly to jail.
And so, 207 years ago Friday (i.e, on October 22, 1797), Garnerin's balloon rose 2200 feet into the evening air above Paris&mdahs;and exploded.
Fortunately, Garnerin was already in his parachute and survived the landing. The suddenly successful showman didn't die his inevitable horrible aviation-related death for a full quarter-century.
Houston, We Have a Republic
On October 22, 1836, Sam Houston was sworn in as the first president of the Republic of Texas. Texas had become sovereign after winning its independence from Mexico and would not be incorporated into the United States as a state until 1845. There are some who insist to this day that Texas was never properly admitted into the Union because, like everything else, its admission had been Unconstitutional. (There are also people who insist that extraterrestrial poodles have been fixing the Super Bowl.)
Readers interested in the curious question of Texan sovereignty are referred to TexasRepublic.org, which is either brilliant satire or terrifying sincerity. (Readers interested in the curious question of sports-fixing extraterrestrial poodles are referred to a competent behavioral healthcare provider.)
Skål to the World!
According to James Ussher, the venerable 17th century Archbishop of Armagh, and to Dr John Lightfoot of Cambridge, it was at exactly 9:00 a.m. on the chilly autumn morning of October 23, 4004 BC, that God created the world.
The question of 9:00 a.m. where didn't appear to enter into their consideration, but it strikes me as important. If the world was created at 9:00 a.m. Greenwich Time, it would have been 5:00 a.m Eastern Time, meaning the world was technically created earlier in the Old World than it was in the New. What's worse, Hawaii, the Midway Islands, Samoa, and other points west would have been created the day before.
It's conceivable, I suppose, that Ussher & Lightfoot (which sounds like either a rock group, law firm, or television action series) could have been mistaken in their calculations, but if we start questioning men of God, where will it end? Sooner or later we'll start questioning God himself, which couldn't possibly lead anywhere good. No, it's either blind obedience to God or the Hell with us all.
Just ask Osama.
Anyway, this bitch of an earth is 6008 years old on October 23. Bottoms up.
Mankind was not fully mankind until it learned how to set things on fire. That happened a long time ago and enabled such hallmarks of early civilization as cooked meat, heated homes, and flaming heretics. Only in the past few hundred years has mankind learned how to start fires quickly and easily.
In 1680, Irish scientist Robert Boyle discovered that rubbing phosphorus and sulphur together caused them to burst into flames. Such was his reward for a lifetime spent rubbing phosphorus against things to see what would happen.
In 1827, seizing upon the Irish invention with a zeal usually reserved for Irish real estate, an Englishman named John Walker (no relation) invented "sulphuretted peroxide strikeables," which were like matches except they were three feet long and as likely to explode as ignite.
A variation on this firestarter was introduced in England in 1828. It was called the Promethean, and consisted of a glass bulb of sulphuric acid. The bulb was coated with potassium chlorate, sugar, and gum, then wrapped in a paper spill. To ignite the Promethean, one broke the glass bulb against one's teeth. Dentists loved it, but the public remained wary.
Germans began manufacturing small phosphorus matches in Germany in 1832. Like so many other German inventions, however, these tended to ignite with a series of explosions that spread fire about one's feet. They also exploded when stepped on. This dampened their popularity among the arson-averse public.
Finally, on October 24, 1836, a patent was issued in the United States to Alonzo D. Phillips for the manufacture of friction matches.
On October 24, 1929, the stock market began a catastrophic collapse that ultimately led to the Great Depression. Scientists around the world desperately sought a cure for the millions of Depressed peoples on every continent. Research eventually demonstrated that the people of Germany, Italy, and Spain were Depressed because their trains didn't run on time, and fascism was invented to address this shortcoming.
Having resolved their train schedules, however, fascists discovered that many people were still unhappy. This was found to have been the result of socialism, which was incompatible with fascism, and persons who failed to become happy were subsequently shot. This caused the Spanish Civil War, which was so successful it inspired World War II, after which everyone felt much better.
Birthdays and Holidays
The 22nd is the birthday of Jeff Goldblum (1952), Catherine Deneuve (1943), Annette Funicello (1942), Tony Roberts (1939), Christopher Lloyd (1938), Timothy Leary (1920), Doris Lessing (1919), Joan Fontaine (1917), Curly Howard (1903), John Reed (1887), N.C. Wyeth (1882), Sarah Bernhardt (1844), and Franz Liszt (1811).
The 23rd is Revolution Day in Hungary and the birthday of "Weird" Al Yankovic (1959), Michael Crichton (1942), Pelé (1940), and Johnny Carson (1925). And if the Birthday of the World isn't enough to coax you into a party hat, how about this: it's also Gummo Marx's birthday and National Aviation Day in Mexico.
The 24th is Monica Lewinsky's birthday. Others blowing out candles on October 24 include Kevin Kline (1947), F. Murray Abraham (1939), David Nelson (1936), Y.A. Tittle (1926), and Moss Hart (1904). It's United Nations Day at the U.N., Suez Day in Egypt, Labor Day in Palau, and Independence Day in Zambia.
Enjoy the weekend! (And go Sox! Go Pats!)
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac