On this day in 1960, the United States launched the Transit 1-B, the world's first operational satellite navigation system. Made obsolete by the more advanced Global Positioning System, Transit ceased navigation service in 1996 - but its contributions to solve the never ending question of WTHAI (Where the Hell am I?) pronounced (what-the-hey?) were already made.
When Garmin and Tom Tom were introduced, I wondered what the big fuss about sliced bread was all about. Having been born with no directional skills, GPS was my savior. I now have a copilot (who seems to know where every saloon in the city is) to lead me step by step to anywhere I ask, for free! By free I mean my cell phone and Google Maps/Navigation.
Thank you Transit, thank you GPS, thank you Google, thank you Android.
Today is also Friday the 13th. What should that mean to you? Nothing. IMHO we have vague notions about an unlucky number while no one can account the actual reasons why. Just because there aren't 13th floors in hotels? No gate 13 at airports? No number 13 race cars? Poppycock.
Taylor Swift was born on December 13th and considers 13 her lucky number due to some very lucky events happening to her when that number appears. She also wears the number written on her hand at her concerts. Taylor Swift as the AntiChrist - you heard it here first.
The Mayans knew the world was ending in 2012 two thousand years ago, does that mean 12 is unlucky? In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness (see twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve days of Christmas, twelve eggs in a carton).
Someone says twelve to me, I am afraid, very afraid.
By comparison, in Asian cultures 13 is a very lucky number.
If you are in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos or Myanmar (Burma) I would like to wish you a Happy New Year!
Known as the Songkran festival, it is a time of cleansing and renewal. Buddha statues (inside homes as well as at monasteries) cleansed by gently pouring a fragrant water mixture over them to bring good luck and prosperity in the New Year.
In many cities, the Buddha statues from large monasteries are paraded through the streets on decorated floats. Water captured after the cleasing of the Buddha is used to pour onto family members to pay respect to elders and to bring good fortune. Of course this lead to pouring more and more water onto people and eventually the Songkran turns into a giant water fight for everyone on the streets.
The Historical Inebriant: Champagne
In honor of the New Year, GPS and lucky 13, pour yourself a flute of your favorite Champagne and enjoy!
Also, please raise your glass to wish a Happy New Year to Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel Prize winner was recently elected to Parliament after serving 15 under house arrest as a political prisoner by the militarily controlled government in Myanmar.
"April is the cruelest month" states Shakespere. Galileo Galilei would find this out and more - for on this day in 1633 the formal inquest by the Spanish Inquisition would begin against him.
The printing of Galileo's book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (see the Feb 22 post of this blog), caused Galileo to be found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition and was sent to his home near Florence where he would remain under house arrest for the rest of his life.
As you all know (now), April is National Poetry Month (it's also the cruelest month but we'll leave that for another day) so fair warning about my breaking out the beret and the turtleneck. But fear not, drinking and poetry do mix.
On this day in 1934 the Canadian-born poet Mark Strand was born. Strand is the writer of one of my favorite lighthearted poems (apologies to librarians everywhere) so take a moment to read it here:
On this day in 1925, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was first published. The characters in it were endlessly partying and endlessly drunk and perhaps still the most quoted Fitzgerald line remains "First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."
F. Scott Fitzgerald's struggle with alcohol was widely documented, with none better than his own short story "The Crack Up" in which I believe contains some of the best opening lines of any short story written. You can view it here: http://www.esquire.com/features/the-crack-up
On this day in 1682 – Robert Cavelier de La Salle, whose exploration of the new world began in Montreal, discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River and claimed it and the entire Mississippi river basin for France, naming it La Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV.
La Louisiane remains alive and well today in the cities of Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans as well as the smaller towns up and down the Mississippi River. The rich heritage of language, cuisine and music (April is Jazz Appreciation Month) has been enjoyed by generations of Americans (I think the French are still holding a grudge).
Combine liquid ingredents in a shaker with cracked ice and shake like hell for half a minute, until very cold and very frothy. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and top with some grated nutmeg.
On a side note:
On this day in 1860, Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville makes the oldest known recording of an audible human voice on his phonautograph machine. The countdown to YouTube had begun.