Saturday 26 October 2019


best in breed: national banks in Turkmenistan under presidential decree to fund efforts to enhance the pedigree of the country’s Alabay dog

call of the wild: scientist record the mating sounds of the Amazonian bellbird, which can exceed the noise-level of a chainsaw at very close-range

zodiac killer: a treasury of Persian demons

not the doral: Number One Daughter celebrates her tenth wedding anniversary at Camp David

yip yip: a couple’s admirably coordinated costumes

major arcana: Salvador Dalรญ’s tarot deck re-issued

augmented roman: a truly phonetic-spelling reform measure for the English language, bringing the alphabet up to forty-three distinct letters

roaming costs: researchers tracking migrating Russian eagles are hit with hefty data tariffs once the birds cross borders, via Slashdot

Sunday 11 August 2019

clair obscur

Passing away this day in 1253 after enduring a long bout of illness that left her bedridden, Chiara Offreduccio of Assisi, inspired by the example of Saint Francis went on to found the Order of the Poor Clares, is honoured with a Feast Day. Centuries later, the media savvy Pope Pius XII the year after the publication of his 1957 encyclical Miranda Prorsus on motion pictures, radio and the media, declared that television be added to her patronage (goldsmithy, laundry-quartermasters, pleasant weather), expanding on one anecdote told of her devotion to church services and how even though confined to her room during her final days, she was still able to hear and watch the mass as it appeared on her wall.

Thursday 1 August 2019


While we may have missed US National Tattoo Day, commemorated on 17 July annually (sharing the spotlight of the date with another form of expression), we can nonetheless appreciate these fine literary tattoos and the stories behind them, as found at the circulation desk of Miss Cellania, shared by the employees of  New York‘s Public Library System. We especially liked the ankle branding of one branch‘s services assistant of the emblem of the secret society VFD from Daniel Handler‘s Series of Unfortunate Events.


Inspired by the Federal Charter dated to early August of 1291 when three Alpine cantons committed to a pact of allegiance, the Old Swiss Confederacy, something semi-legendary and romantically depicted in Friedrich Schiller’s William Tell—since 1891 and codified as a public holiday in 1994 Switzerland has set aside this day (Schweizer Bundesfeiertag, Fรชte nationale suisse, Festa nazionale svizzera, Fiasta naziunala svizra) to recognise its founding.  The Rheinfall waterfall is illuminated for the observance and the Rรผtli meadow on the shores of Lake Lucerne where the oath is traditionally believed to have been sworn hosts an organised celebration as do municipalities across the land.

Wednesday 17 July 2019


Founded by entrepreneur, computer historian and member of the Unicode Emoji steering committee Jeremy Burge in 2014—a year after starting the reference site Emojipedia—today has been set aside as World Emoji Day.
The date was chosen in deference to the default date already displayed in the calendar application software of Apple systems (iCal) between 2002 and 2007, itself in reference to the debut of the cross-platform scheduling and sychronising assistant at the Mac World Expo that summer. Though now apps are dynamic and display the actual date, this design artefact is retained and reflected in modern parlance and used in most operating system emoji vernacular. How do you plan to celebrate?

Tuesday 16 July 2019


Polish graphic designer Jacek Walesiak invites us to celebrate some of the modern, more off-kilter holidays and observances through a special, commemorative run of postage stamps that also fรชte the country’s rich op art heritage.  The collection includes sheets that mark International Day of Vegetarianism (1 October), International Sock Day (4 December), Towel Day (25 May), Trolley Drivers’ Day (see also) and International Day of Caps Lock (observed semi-annually on 28 June and 22 October).  

Sunday 7 July 2019

evening of the seventh

Japan, ascribed to the Gregorian calendar, will mark Tanbata (meaning above, ใŸใชใฐใŸ orไธƒๅค•) on this night. Common to several countries in the region that keep this star festival in their own ways, the celebration marks the reunion of two star-crossed deities called Orihime and Hikoboshi—represented by Vega and Altair (ฮฑ Aquilรฆ and ฮฑ Lyrรฆ, which form a bright asterism during the high summer in the Northern Hemisphere)—whom are kept asunder by the gulf of the Milky Way and only allowed together on the seventh day of the seventh month.
Originally introduced to Japan in the mid-eighth century under the more utilitarian label of “The Festival to Plead for Skills” and included customarily the opportunities for girls to wish for better sewing and crafting skills and for boys to wish for better penmanship. The ceremony was conflated with the folklore tale “The Cowherd [Hikoboshi] and the Weaver Girl [Orihime],” a hapless couple whose passion for one another caused each to shirk their duties and allow their talents to atrophy. In order to restore balance to the Cosmos, the two were only permitted visitation once a year, the magpies forming a bridge that crossed the expanse. Contemporary festivities include composing wishes—in verse—on small strips of paper and hanging them from a bamboo wish tree, which are then burnt as votive offerings or released down a watercourse to bare the postulants’ prayers aloft.

Thursday 4 July 2019

annual reminder

Staged at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall yearly since 1965 to admonish the government and the public that gay people did not have basic civil protections and reputations and careers were precarious and subject to the caprice and prejudice of others, the final march of picketers took place on this day in 1969. After Stonewall, organisers decided to hold the subsequent parade on its anniversary, the last weekend in June, to commemorate the riots and moved the venue to New York City, holding the first Christopher Street Liberation Day in 1970.

Monday 1 July 2019

jour du dรฉmรฉnagement

Previously we had encountered a statutory day on which leases expired in old New York, obligating renters to re-locate previously but had no idea that it occurred elsewhere much less was still a tradition upheld in Quebec, courtesy of Nag on the Lake who has some personal experience with must surely be a day of collective mania, wherein up to a quarter of a million households across the province and tens of thousands in Montrรฉal alone not totally satisfied or otherwise tethered to their current accommodations lift up and change apartments.
Although formerly urban leases ran from 1 May to 30 April, like in the historic case in New York above to prevent landlords (seigneuries) from evicting tenants during the winter months, the provincial government decided to move the event to the summer, so as to be less disruptive to school children and place it on the national holiday, today—Dominion Day, Fรชte du Canada / Canada Day, so the people who chose to take part in this tradition were not sacrificing a day of work or extra time off. Movers assisting those not entirely doing it themselves were also entitled to holiday pay for their work.

Friday 28 June 2019


During the early hours of this morning fifty years ago, members of the LGBT community in Greenwich Village staged a spontaneous uprising to protest a police raid of the Stonewall Inn.
This stand along Christopher Street, between West 4th Street and Waverly Place, marked the beginning of a long and ongoing struggle for gay rights and equal treatment under the law in the US. Pride parades world wide have occurred around this anniversary. Though the relationship is not causal and to suggest otherwise would dampen rising tensions and dangers faced daily by lesbian and gay people, the night before was the funeral for the iconic Judy Garland who had passed away earlier in the week in London from “an incautious self-overdosage”—held at a chapel on Madison Avenue which remained open through the night so twenty-thousand members of the public could pay their respects. Though no one recalled it being acknowledged during the riots, that sort of turn-out surely helped mobilise at least a few mourners and fans.

Monday 24 June 2019

รด canada

Officially made the national anthem by royal assent a century later on Dominion Day, the melody, composed by Calixte Paquet dit Lavallรฉe commissioned by the lieutenant governor of Quebec, of the song was performed in public for the first time on this day in 1880 as accompaniment to a Saint-Jean-Baptiste (the Nativity of John the Baptist, his feast day often associated or conflated with the summer solstice) fรชte held in the provincial capital.
The original lyrics by barrister and poet Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier were in French and have remained unchanged. An English version, modified three times subsequently to make the language more inclusive, came in 1908—often performed bilingually with code-switching alternating verses to demonstrate the country’s diversity—and First Nations’ versions (แ† แ‘ฒแ“‡แ‘•) introduced beginning in the 1990s.

Friday 21 June 2019

smรฅ grodorna

the local’s Swedish edition has a fine run-down of the rituals associated with the June solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere with the kingdom enjoying from eighteen to twenty four hours of sunshine—otherwise known as Midsommar, officially observed on the Saturday nearest in the week but the eve is the de facto public holiday.
We’re acquainted with the tradition of att maja (maying—but probably not a German import)—that is, decorating with flowers and greenery and the standard Little Frogs, whose melody is taken from a French marching song from the Napoleonic Wars and a British (compare God Save the Queen and My Country ‘Tis of Thee, though the French original was not meant to be a serious one) mocking version that orders “Au pas, grenouilles.” In step, small frogs. There’s a performative dance that illustrates the lyrics, which you can watch at the link above. No one is sure how the custom got started.

Monday 17 June 2019

alรพing considered

A possession of the Kingdom of Norway since the dissolution of the Kalmar Union in the early sixteenth century and then of the Kingdom of Denmark owing to the Napoleonic Wars (1803 – 1815, see also), the Republic of Iceland came into existence on this day (รžjรณรฐhรกtรญรฐardagurinn) in 1944.
A near unanimous referendum held that May came into effect 17 June, independence day marked on the birthday of Jรณn Sigurรฐsson (*1811 – †1879), a prominent leader in the movement for Iceland’s autonomy, voting to end the island’s personal union with the monarchy. Effectively devolved and with home rule—except in defence and diplomatic matters, since the end of World War I, the Act of Union negotiated had a quarter of a century expiry date unless renewed, a trial period to allow Icelanders the chance to demonstrate that they could govern themselves.  Due to Nazi occupation, however, Denmark was not able to honour the 1943 deadline and Iceland, hosting Allied forces, held the plebiscite and voted to sever ties. Though many Danes were upset with Iceland declaring independence with their country under invasion, King Christian X nonetheless congratulated (with some urging on the part of his cousin, the King of Sweden) the people for forming a republic.

Thursday 6 June 2019


Though not a regular observance until the 1916 Stockholm Olympics and not an official holiday until 2005, Sweden’s National Day (prior to 1983, Flag Day, Svenska flaggans dag) is a day set aside for country-wide celebrations and cultural exhibitions and marks several historic occurrences that happened on this day, beginning with elevation of King Gustav Vasa—marking the end of the Kalmar Union of the Nordic countries under a single dynastic ruler. The sixth of June 1809 saw the governmental reform that established the kingdom as a parliamentary (Riksdag) constitutional democracy. In 1974, further legislation took away the monarch’s political and military leadership roles, vesting all power in the peoples’ duly-appointed representatives.

the longest day

The retreat and evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk having taken place and commemorated on the eve of the Normandy landings that would take place five years later, D-Day, codenamed Operation Neptune, was a long time in development and planning. Though failing to achieve immediate gains for the Allies battling Nazi Germany with only two beachheads linked and sustaining heavy casualties, the manoeuvre that took place on this day seventy-five years ago established a Western Front in Europe, a wedge to divide German efforts since it began its march towards Moscow with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, and began the liberation of occupied France. 

Recognising that troop strength and materiel had not yet built itself up to the level to counter the German forces (mindful of the aforementioned withdrawal), the plan was delayed for months and focus was strategically shifted to North Africa, with the Allies eventually winning that theatre in 1943. With Nazi forces weakened and demoralised, commanding generals looked again to the French coast—planning with great secrecy and deception so defences could not be marshalled and the Allies could retain an element of surprise.  The carpenters that built the wooden planning map for General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Southwick House near Portsmouth were detained from April to September to prevent accidental disclosure of the location of the landings while a local medium was imprisoned for witchcraft lest she divine the plans.   
The date was chosen due to the best possible tidal conditions and phase of the moon and any postponement would see the situation degrade quickly. May we never forget the sacrifices of that day and may they never be in vain.

Thursday 30 May 2019

thrones and dominions

Located in the closed research town of Sarov (its original name restored in 1995 by President Boris Yeltsin at the residents’ request from its designation as Arzamas-16, affectionately referred to as Los Arzamas after its sister city, Los Alamos) the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre is receiving some gentle scrutiny and rebuke for the purchase of some icons and other religious material related to native saint Seraphim (*1754 - †1833).
Although the former presence of a monastery at this location does not exactly account for the connection with the popular figure or explain while his holy relics were taken on an October 2016 Soyuz mission to the International Space Station—Joseph of Cupertino (the Italian village in Apulia and not the Apple headquarters its named after) a reported dullard of a priest however with a penchant for levitation and in general the capacity for wonder and awe is the patron of astronauts and cosmonauts (Feast Day 18 October), having met his untimely demise during preparations for another celebration involving fireworks and an accident that launched Joseph into the sky, honouring a local seems like a wise thing to do in any case. Before travelling into space, Seraphim’s mortal remains were feared destroyed in the Bolshevik Revolution until later discovered as an exhibit in a museum of superstition, saved and subsequently repatriated to Sarov.

Saturday 25 May 2019

towel day

First observed two weeks after the death of Douglas Adams (previously here and here) in 2001, this day since has been designated as such as the author’s practical advice for interstellar hitchhikers to carry a towel with them at all times, even if they are without any other gear and otherwise quite out of their element. Widespread since 2006, this day has also been set aside as Geek Pride Day and although the two came about independently (the latter probably selected in deference to the premiere of Star Wars on this day in 1977), there’s surely some shared heritage among them.

Friday 24 May 2019

croquet lawns, village greens

Reigning as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and later Empress of India from 1837 until her death in 1901, Alexandrina Victoria was born on this day in 1819. Having already declared itself to be a constitutional monarchy with more reforms to come, Victoria wielded no direct political power but was an important national figurehead and moral compass at a time of great social and technological change. Through a series of strategically arranged marriages of her issue with her consort Prince Albert (thirty four who survived into adulthood) to royal houses on the continent, Victoria earned the sobriquet of “Grandmother of Europe,” though kissing-cousins were no guarantors of peace.

Monday 20 May 2019

systรจme international d’unitรฉs

Since its inception, the metric or the SI system of weights and measures has striven to be universal for all people at all times, regardless of whether le Grand K (plus its archival cousins stored for reference around the world) was ever so slowly disintegrating.
Or whether interplanetary tradespeople were trying to reckon a payload whose gravity was a constantly changing factor, so having finally achieved shifting the definition away from some physical artefact and anchoring the weight to a natural constant is a big accomplishment.  Officially pegging the kilogram to the Planck constant—which also has redefined the meter—allows any sufficiently competent laboratory to derive the value uniformly and independently without the intervention of a governing body and occurs from today on, World Metrology Day, held on the anniversary of the signing of the Metre Convention of 1875, an international treaty with the aim of standardising measurements of length and distance.

Friday 17 May 2019


The parliamentary vote coinciding with the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, established to mark the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation struck alternative sexual orientation and identity from its register of diseases, Taiwan approved a bill that legalises same-sex marriage, becoming the first country in Asia to do so. Ceremonies will become legally recognised beginning on 24 May.