July 4, 2020
That odd little wannabe dictator south of us is mouthing off all day about a Memorial to Great Americans. He could do a lot worse than rename today Bob Ross Day.
Bob, who has brought happiness to more people than Trump could even conceive of, died on this day in 1995. His memory goes on.
July 1, 2020
Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent celebrating — virtually — the 153rd birthday of Canada. While I love this country and am proud to be a Canadian, it is simply nonsense to suggest — as this “birthday” suggests — that the ten thousand plus years of history of occupation of the land we call Canada somehow doesn’t exist or, perhaps even worse, is less important than the 150 years of white Canada that followed.
Most of the last 150 years have been filled with paternalistic and often violent colonialism directed at the people who lived here and created successful societies for more than ten thousand years. Even today, as we spend millions of dollars virtually patting ourselves on the back, hundreds and hundreds of First Nations’ communities are forced to survive without clean water.
We are resourceful Canadians: we can have ourselves a great time without the government expending all this treasure. We would truly have shown ourselves to be a great country if we had devoted that money (and much more) to cleaning up the mess we have created for the original peoples of this territory.
June 28, 2020
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!
June 21, 2020
He has been gone 20 years now, but I seem to speak with him more often these days than I ever did when he was alive. He was a wonderful man and, I now recognize, a marvellously supportive parent; an attribute that I was too dumb to notice far too often when I was younger.
June 17, 2020
Forty-eight 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.
Twenty-six years ago today, OJ Simpson brought the excitement of a low-speed police chase to prime time television.
Only in America, eh?
May 29, 2020
Today is the 67th anniversary of the first successful climbing of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. News of the success arrived in England the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and I remember my father, who was very excited by the news, telling me all about it. For years thereafter Edmund Hillary was the greatest hero of my young imagination.
I have one or two memories about my brother and me that pre-date May 1953, but Hillary on Everest is the earliest I can recall anything outside the family. I know from photographs that there were massive street parties I attended to celebrate the new Queen: I remember none of that. But Hillary on Everest has stuck with me all these years.
The picture is of Tensing Norgay taken by Hillary. There are no pictures of Hillary on the summit because Tensing didn’t know how to work the camera and, as Hillary said, the summit of Everest was no place to start teaching him!
May 19, 2020
Today would have been the 95th birthday of the revered Malcolm X. Murdered by adherents of the Nation of Islam (NOI), Ossie Davis called him “our shining black prince”.
After years in the NOI’s leadership, Malcolm renounced the inherent racism of that organization and the alleged financial, political, and moral corruption of Elijah Mohammed. Without ever caving to white power, and maintaining his belief in the ultimate weapon of armed struggle, he sought, through Sunni Muslim beliefs, to raise the self-esteem of blacks in America.
Malcolm X’s “Autobiography” stands with Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and Nelson Mandela’s speech on his release from prison as the most influential statements of civil rights in the twentieth century.
May 18, 2020
Forty years ago today, early on a Sunday morning, I was in North Vancouver at a friend’s house with a bunch of other folks recovering from what had been a major party the night before. My eyes hurt, my head hurt, and I was sure that the big bang I heard, and the small tremors that swept up my legs, were all part of the painful recovery process. But I wasn’t the only one to hear and feel those things, and we began to wonder.
There was no internet or 24-hour news stations then, and it was probably a while before we learned what had gone on south of us.
Mount St. Helens had blown its head off, and for hours we sat around watching KOMO or KING, gazing in awe as dust settled on towns for miles around, gazing in awe at the power of the mountain.
This was not a day to easily forget.
May 15, 2020
On Nakba Day — the day of the catastrophe — we remember the millions of Palestinians violently displaced from their homes at the creation of Israel in 1948.
May 4, 2020
Today is the 50th anniversary of Ohio National Guardsman shooting dead four unarmed students at Kent State. Eleven other kids were injured.
Although the President’s Commission on Campus Violence equivocated and blamed both Guardsmen and students, it did finally conclude that “the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”
It was murder, pure and simple, though the US justice system refused to press charges against the Guardsmen. After all, as Nixon himself said just a few days before the massacre, student protesters were just bums.
Lest we forget.
May 1, 2020
In most parts of the world, May 1st is recognized as the International Day of the Worker and we celebrate it as such. Labor Day in September is a North American tradition, encouraged by President Grover Cleveland so as to distance American labour from socialists and anarchists.
April 30, 2020
Forty-five years ago today, the US Army fled Vietnam, in helicopters, from the roof of the US Embassy in what was then called Saigon.
After the death of almost 60,000 Americans, 55,000 French, and millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians, the West’s thirty years of colonial and imperial warfare in South-east Asia — including the greatest and most vicious use of chemical and biological weapons ever seen — crashed to a bitter and humiliating end.
The victory of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese was called the end of America’s nightmare. It certainly was a bad dream for American imperialism, but the real nightmare was what the local populations had had to suffer for so many decades.
April 28, 2020
Fifty-three years ago today, heavyweight champion of the world Muhammed Ali appeared at a draft induction centre. He had previously announced that he was a conscientious objector and he was arrested after three times refusing to step forward when his name was called.
Later that afternoon, the New York boxing authorities stripped Ali of his titles, and Ali would be unable to get a boxing license in the US for several years thereafter.
Throughout this attempt at humiliation and persecution by the system, Ali’s fierce personal integrity stayed proud and loud. He was eventually vindicated and was allowed to be the great athlete that he was.
April 27, 2020
By Dylan Thomas. For my Dad.
April 25, 2020
Today my father would have been 93 years old. He has been gone 20 years now, but I seem to speak with him more often these days than I ever did when he was alive. He was a wonderful man and, I now recognize, a marvellously supportive parent; an attribute that I was too dumb to notice far too often when I was younger.
April 20, 2020
… have a great day, even though we can’t gather together!
April 12, 2020
The first hero that I remember having was Duncan Edwards, the Manchester United footballer who was killed along with many others in the team in the Munich air crash of 1958. The second was Yuri Gagarin.
Fifty-nine years ago today, Yuri Gagarin entered history as the first human being in space. A few years earlier, just before my 8th birthday, my father had taken the time to get me interested in the Soviet Union’s feat in putting Sputnik into space. I was entranced and remained an avid follower of the space race for decades. I followed the Russian dogs going up, and Gagarin’s flight was the obvious next step.
It wasn’t revealed for forty years that the cosmonaut ejected from the capsule before it crash-landed, parachuting to earth. And it was definitely sad for Gagarin that he was thereafter too valuable to put at threat and so he was never allowed to return to orbit. No matter. That first flight was a glorious triumph for mankind!