Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Black Friday

I hope you enjoyed watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. The first Macy's parade occurred on this date back in 1924 (since they didn't have TV's back then, you had to get their fat ass off the couch to watch it.)

As most of you know, the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year in the US. Hopefully you are still well into your cups from yesterday.

StoryCorps is still sticking with the Friday after Thanksgiving being 'a day of listening' so today is the second annual National Day of Listening.

This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives: it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year. (It's a good lie to tell yourself when you are listening to your drunk old uncle tell you for the umpteenth time how much he could by with a nickel in his day.)

Even though Hallmark has not yet put out a card totally devaluing the holiday, it still remains to be seen whether or not the event will catch on.

November 27, 1948 -
This is not a Looney Tunes I'm all that familiar with (as much as you care), Riff Raffy Daffy, premiered on this date.

I had to open my big beak!

November 27, 1967 -
The Beatles release Magical Mystery Tour on this date.

Are you really the Egg man? Coo, coo, kachoo.

While you read this today on your computer, let us ruminate upon the life of Ada Lovelace, who died on this date in 1852. Ada would have seemed to have been born into a charmed life. She was the only child of a titled lord and a very wealthy mother. Unfortunately for her, her father was the notorious, womanizing homosexual (let your mind rattle that around for a second) and not half bad poet Lord Byron. She was named after Byron's half-sister, Augusta Leigh, by whom he was rumoured to have fathered a child (oh yeah, I forgot that - he slept with his half sister). It was Augusta who encouraged Byron to marry to avoid scandal, and he reluctantly chose Annabella Milbanke (very wealthy heiress and noted stick-in-the-mud). On January 16, 1816, Annabella left Byron, taking 1-month old Ada with her. On April 21, Byron signed the Deed of Separation and left England for good a few days later. He was never allowed to see either again.

Ada lived with her mother, as is apparent in her father's correspondence concerning her. Lady Byron was also highly interested in mathematics (Lord Byron once called her "the princess of parallelograms"), which dominated her life, even after marriage. Her obsession with rooting out any of the insanity of which she accused Lord Byron was one of the reasons why Annabella taught Ada mathematics at an early age. Ada was privately home schooled in mathematics and science by William Frend, William King and Mary Somerville. One of her later tutors was Augustus De Morgan. An active member of London society, she was a member of the Bluestockings in her youth.

In 1835 she married William King, 8th Baron King, later 1st Earl of Lovelace. Her full name and title for most of her married life was The Right Honourable Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace. She is widely known in modern times simply as Ada Lovelace, or by her birth name, Ada Byron.

She knew Mary Somerville, noted researcher and scientific author of the 19th century, who introduced her in turn to Charles Babbage on June 5, 1833. Other acquaintances were Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday. She apparently ran in heady circles for her day.

During a nine-month period in 1842-1843, Ada translated Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea's memoir on Babbage's newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes which specified in complete detail a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, recognized by historians as the world's first computer program.

Lovelace's prose also acknowledged some possibilities of the machine which Babbage never published, such as speculating that "the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent."

Ada Lovelace was bled to death at the age of 36 by her physicians, who were trying to treat her uterine cancer, on this day. Thus, she perished, coincidentally, at the same age as her father and from the same cause - medicinal bloodletting. So while she considered the possible of the computer, doctors were still using leeches to cure their patients.

At her request, Lovelace was buried next to the father she never knew at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham.

Alfred Nobel signed his last will, which established the Nobel Prize on this date in 1895.

Mr Nobel is interesting because his fortune was founded in large part on the commercial success of something he invented in 1866: dynamite. Dynamite proved so lucrative for Mr Nobel that he was able to spend most of the rest of his life blowing things up in the interests of world peace. World peace was not achieved in his lifetime, however, and he therefore endowed a foundation with millions of dollars to give prizes to the men and women of future generations who helped bring the world closer to peace by blowing things up.

Sadly, in recent years the foundation appears to have forgotten its roots and has begun awarding prizes to men and women whose work for peace has resulted in things blowing up.

I encourage you all to write the Nobel Committee to take immediate corrective action, lest they continue to mislead people into thinking that Peace can be achieved by anything other than the blowing up of Evil Bastards.

November 27, 1978 -
City Supervisor Dan White enters San Francisco City Hall through an open basement window (avoiding metal detectors), walks into the office of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, and shoots him dead. Then White continues to kill Supervisor Harvey Milk .

Apparently, Mr. White consumed too many Twinkies.

28 more shopping days until Christmas, 15 more shopping days until Hanukkah. Shop til you drop. Remember, if you don't, we won't have an economy.

And so it goes.

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