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Friday Fun: Commentary On The Absurd, The Serious, And The Useless In History Trivia

January 18, 2008

On this day in…

1778, “James Cook is the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he names the ‘Sandwich Islands.'” … One of my Patrick O’Brian books, the The Truelove (number fifteen of the Aubrey/Maturin series), covers the Sandwich Islands in detail. One of the remarkable aspects of that series is the vicarious, historical world traveling one gets to do. Anyway, The Truelove‘s plot involves native rivalries on the island of Oahu, as well as competition among the British and French as colonial players.

1896, “The X-ray machine is exhibited for the first time.” … Curious. Nothing about January 18, 1896 is in this Wikipedia article on the X-ray’s history. Does this implicate the veracity of the article ~or~ the trivia writer? Then again, it’s Wikipedia so both might be bumpkis. [Sub-trivia aside: I tried looking up the spelling and definition of “bumpkis” in my Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. No dice.]

1903, “Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, sends a radio message to King Edward VII: the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States.” … I wonder what old Teddy said: (a) Tag, you’re it! (b) Don’t send your anarchists over here! or (c) Say hello to the Kaiser for me!

1916, “A 611 gram chondrite type meteorite strikes a house near the village of Baxter in Stone County, Missouri.” … Useless information of the day. But it does give me the opportunity to talk up, yet again, the oddities of my state of birth. Stone County is in the far south/southwest corner of the state. Hillbilly country.

1936, “Author Rudyard Kipling [right] died in Burwash, England, at age 70.” … Thus relieving the world of the burden of clipping the bushy eyebrows of one more white man.

1993, “The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was observed in all 50 states for the first time.” … It seems to me that I received a day off in high school, in the late 1980s, for MLK day. I just confirmed that memory by reading this under the MLK Day entry at Wikipedia:

“At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.”

The same Wikipedia entry contains an informative subsection on “reluctance” to celebrate the day, thus explaining the need for the particular NYT trivia entry first cited.

…Happy Friday! – TL

[Sources: Chicago Tribune, NYT, Wikipedia]

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