One hundred and four years ago today, on 15th January 1919, the Spartacist heroes Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were tortured and murdered by fascist Freikorps mercenaries of the German social democratic government.
Who remembers that government today? No-one. But the memory of the two heroes lives on in glory. As Luxemburg wrote on the day of her death, speaking as the embodiment of the masses: “I was. I am. I shall be!”
Today we celebrate the 121st anniversary of the very first transatlantic radio transmission, sent by Gugliemo Marconi from Cornwall to Newfoundland, proving that the curvature of the earth did not affect radio waves.
1123 — the first numbers in the Fibonacci sequence — allows us to celebrate November 23rd as Fibonacci Day. This is in honour of Italian Leonardo Bonacci of Pisa who discussed the sequence in 1202.
The Fibonacci sequence goes as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and on to infinity. Each number is the sum of the previous two. They were known in India well before Fibonacci and were called Virahanka numbers.
It might seem just like a simple mathematician’s trick, but the Fibonacci sequence is found throughout nature. For example, the petals on flowers follow the sequence — most flowers have three (like lilies and irises), five (parnassia, rose hips) or eight (cosmea), 13 (some daisies), 21 (chicory), 34, 55 or 89 (asteraceae). Spirals, such as in pine cones or conch shells, are also built up in Fibonacci sequences.
One could spend an entire Fibonacci Day finding more examples, from spiral galaxies to DNA sequences to fractal diagrams.
Fifty-nine years ago today, my mother and father and I had been visiting their closest friends, Ron and Betty, who lived a few miles from us in West London. I was in the backseat of the small black car. It smelled of leather and my parents’ cigarettes. I was sullen because I was just turned 14 years old and I had far better things to do than visit my parents’ old fogie friends to play cards.
I remember this all so clearly because, as we were driving home, the car radio broke off its normal programming and a solemn voice replaced the happy chatter. The voice announced that President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been shot and probably killed. I can still feel the gooseflesh that crawled over my skin. I remember the loud gasp as my father realized what had been said. John Kennedy was one of my father’s heroes, and he was mine too. He was our hope for the future, and now he was dead. Nothing else about that evening do I remember.
Within two years of that day, though, JFK had — in my eyes at least — fallen from the pedestal upon which his charisma, his beautiful family, and his martyrdom had placed him. He was quickly revealed as just another centre-right US politician who was happy to send the boys to war, who was happy to squander the nation’s wealth on weapons and imperialism, who had no answer to segregation but brother Bobby’s federal agents. We also learned (perhaps we always knew) he wasn’t quite such a great family man, either; that Camelot was an expensive sham.
Kennedy and his people lived in the tuxedoed world of High Society that was soon to be swept away by the real world of Soul on Ice and Revolver. We might have hated that big Texas bully who followed Kennedy, but it was Kennedy not Johnson who pushed the US into South Vietnam, and it was Johnson not Kennedy who brought forward the Civil Rights Acts. Looking back, we can now see that both Kennedy and Johnson were equal participants in the cabaret that is America the Superpower. Unfortunately for the truth, Kennedy will always have the smile, the beautiful wife, the cute John-John and Caroline, while Johnson will always be pulling the ears off those damn beagles.
Today is the 107th anniversary of the murder by the state of the great Wobbly songwriter and martyr Joe Hill.
A minute’s silence, and then back to the important work that still remains unfinished. As he said: “Don’t mourn; organize!”
Today is my birthday, which I share with Bob Ross, Joseph Goebbels, and the ballpoint pen.
I am seventy-three years old. Just saying that feels unreal. When I was born in 1949, average life expectancy for a man in the UK was about 65 years; I have somehow managed to beat that.
I am part of the generation that didn’t trust anyone over thirty, and who made terribly dangerous choices on a regular basis throughout their thirties and forties. By the 1990s, what with all the drugs and the booze and the carousing, I was certain I couldn’t possibly reach fifty, and I wasn’t all that sure I wanted to.
Now, I have kids in their late forties, grand-children in their thirties, and I am sure that great-grand-children can’t be far away.
The fact that I am still here, walking and talking and pretending (to myself at least) to be young, is astonishing, a wonder, a miracle of modern medicine, and a tribute to the Everloving who takes such good care of me.
My future keeps catching up to my present and I hope it keeps doing so for a long time. After all, I have promised myself my first ever Big Mac on my one hundredth birthday!
Forty-nine years ago, on 9/11 in 1973, the US-financed-and-organized plan to overthrow the legally elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile was put into action.
During the violent military assault, the President died (assassinated or committed suicide to avoid capture) and over the next few years of the vicious and inhuman dictatorship of US-supported Pinochet, thousands of Chileans were imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
What happened in New York on this day 28 years later was also vicious and inhuman. However, it is about time for some reconciliation and regret for the extraordinary litany of war crimes the US has committed. If any US network or major media even mentions the Chilean anniversary during what will almost certainly be today’s spasm of Trump-like breast-beating, that would be a tiny start.
“By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.”
— Helen Hunt Jackson
Thirty-six years ago today I became a Canadian citizen. perhaps the proudest and most satisfying day of my life. In about two months from now, I will have lived in Canada, in Vancouver, for forty-three years — much more than half my life.
These lengths of time seem strangely enormous to me looking back because I had had a quite long and interesting life (with wives and children and a career) in England and Europe before I ever came here. And that previous life — during the fascinating 1950s, 60s and 70s — now seems like a necessary and irreplaceable prologue to what my life became afterwards.
There were seriously important people and things that I left behind; but I don’t believe in regrets because they have no value. Even if I did, I cannot imagine that my life was anything but greatly enhanced by moving to Vancouver. I am still a proud Brit, an unreconstructed Welsh Londoner, but I am prouder still of being — by choice — a Vancouverite, of being Canadian.
Today we need to remember the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their people, utterly destroyed by atomic bombs this week in 1945.
I spent my early life in Europe during the hottest days of the Cold War, worried every single day that these scenes would be repeated in London and Berlin and Moscow.
Let us continue to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and do whatever we can to ensure that such events never happen again.
I have for many years enjoyed celebrating each 14th March as Pi Day, in honour of pi = 3.14…. However, I have been persuaded that Tau Day is at least as important if not more so.
The value of Tau = 2pi and is thus celebrated on 28th June (6.28). Why this is important is explained in this good short piece from ScienceNews.
“The simplest way to see the failure of pi is to consider angles, which in mathematics are typically measured in radians. Pi is the number of radians in half a circle, not a whole circle. That makes things confusing: For example, the angle at the tip of a slice of pizza — an eighth of a pie — isn’t π/8, but π/4. In contrast, using tau, the pizza-slice angle is simply τ/8. Put another way, tau is the number of radians in a full circle.
That factor of two is a big deal. Trigonometry — the study of the angles and lines found in shapes such as triangles — can be a confusing whirlwind for students, full of blindly plugging numbers into calculators. That’s especially true when it comes to sine and cosine, two important functions in trigonometry. Many trigonometry problems involve calculating the sine or cosine of an angle. When graphed, the two functions look like a series of wiggles, shaped a bit like an “S” on its side, that repeat the same values every 2π. That means pi covers only half of an S. Tau, on the other hand, covers the full wiggle, a more intuitive measure.”
So, Happy Tau Day to you all!
Fifty years ago today, in a “third rate burglary”, White House operatives broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex in Washington DC. It eventually caused the demise of Pres. Nixon.
Twenty-eight years ago today, OJ Simpson brought the excitement of a low-speed police chase to prime time television.
Only in America, eh?
Today we celebrate one of the great works of modern literature — James Joyce’s Ulysses which takes place on 16th June 1904.
I forgot in advance and so did not prepare my grilled kidneys for breakfast — maybe next year I’ll remember.