Beware the Ides of March

March 15, 44 BC

How Diarrhea Changed the World

On this day in 44 BC Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a cadre of Senators who called themselves “the Liberators.”

During Caesar’s reign the Roman Empire achieved an unprecedented amount of power and land area, stretching from Britain to Africa to the Middle East. Caesar conquered Gaul and led the first Roman invasion of Britain.

The Roman Civil War of 50 BC divided the Romans between Caesar and Pompey. Caesar emerged victorious and became the undisputed ruler of the Roman Empire.

It was theorized by Cassius Dio that the main reason behind the conspiracy to murder Caesar was that he refused to rise, as was the custom, when he met with a delegation of Senators who informed Caesar of the honors they had bestowed upon him. And that the reason he did not rise, was not out of a lack of appreciation for the Senate, but of a severe case of diarrhea.

The doom associated with the Ides of March acquired new potency in 1939 when Adolf Hitler strode into Czechoslovakia without firing a shot, thanks to Western leaders, and proclaimed “Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist.”

February 9

On this day in 1878 Harper’s Weekly published the following cartoon protesting the renewal of the Federal income tax. The tax had been levied during the Civil War, and abolished in 1872.

Harper's Cartoon

Proponents of re-establishing the tax assured the public that only the rich would be taxed. Harper’s editor George Curtis corrected them: only the honest would be taxed, and the rich would find a way to get around it.

February 4

February 4

“It is estimated that over 40% of all cancer can be prevented.”

Today is World Cancer Day:

In a world where our ability to combat and prevent disease has never been better, cancer rates are still on the rise. According to the World Health Organization cancer is “a leading cause of death globally.” 7.6 million people died of cancer in 2005. 84 million people are projected to die from cancer in the next decade.

Birthdays: February 4

Rosa Parks in 1913. Her decision to be arrested rather than give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus led to a year-long boycott and sparked the Civil Rights movement in 1955.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1906. As a German pastor he opposed the Nazi government. He was executed in 1945 for his involvement in a plot to kill Hitler.

(Bonhoeffer documentary)

Blue Monday, Saddest Day of the Year

3rd Monday in January


Misery is expected to peak today, the third Monday in January being the “most depressing day” of the year.

[Note: you can say things like “is expected to” if one person expects it to be true.]

That one person is Cliff Arnalls of Wales, who created the formula to determine the worst day of the year.

[Note: if I can find someone who agrees with him, I can write: “Researchers agree…”]

The equation is:

[W + (D-d)] x TQ
divided by
M x NA


D = debt

d = amount of January pay check

T = time since Christmas

Q = amount time since failure to quit bad habit

M = motivational levels

NA = the need to take action

(The BBC describes Cliff as a part-time tutor at University of Cardiff in Wales, although one week later MSNBC promoted him to Dr. Arnall, a psychologist specializing in seasonal disorders. Apparently American educational standards are more lax.)

Even though the shortest day of the year is December 21st, the weather continues getting colder throughout the month of January. In fact, in ancient Rome the calendar year originally started in March and ended in December. The months of January and February were just one big amorphous clump of days, as the calendar was used mainly for agricultural purposes and was based on lunar cycles rather than solar.  In the 700s BC January and February were “created” to fill in the gap.

By a couple weeks into the new year the energy of the holidays has long dissipated, folks have failed all or most of their resolutions, and their bank accounts are still empty.

The airlines, however, recognize the date as the time when people are most likely to book a vacation.

“People feel bleak when they have nothing planned, but once they book a holiday they have a goal, they work toward having time off and a relaxing period,” — spokesperson for Porter Novelli, the PR agency for Sky Travel.

I’m buying into the vacation-booking theory, since my folks just booked their vacation last night.

Tips for making it through Blue Monday:

“Have a party and celebrate” – Jack Gilbert, Ontario, Canada

“Exercise and bibliotherapy” — Dr. Alan Cohen, Royal College of General Practioners

“Watch the film ‘The Sound of Music'” — Ketan Shah, Harrow, England

“Move to New Zealand…It’s summer!” – Oliver, Auckland, New Zealand

Thank you, New Zealand, for rubbing that in.

George Washington’s Christmas Gift

December 23

Washington resigns as General

On this day in 1783, the most powerful man in the Western Hemisphere, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United States who had achieved independence from Britain, the world’s strongest superpower, voluntarily surrendered his sword and his title to the Continental Congress in Annapolis, Maryland. He returned to his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, expecting to live a quiet farm life.

His plans were derailed a few years later when he was elected to serve as President of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

Maryland to Unveil Washington’s Resignation Speech
George Washington’s Resignation Speech – 7MB file

Holidays for April 21

April 21

What April 20 lacks in holidays, April 21 more than makes up for.

In the Bahai calendar, it marks the beginning of Rivdan, the feast that celebrates Bahá’u’lláh’s pilgrimage from Baghdad to the Garden of Najibiyyih. Bahá’u’lláh is the Bahai Faith’s greatest prophet, and the date essentially marks the beginning of the Bahai religion as distinct from the earlier movement known as Babism.

In Indonesia it’s Kartini Day — in honor of the birthday of Raden Ajeng Kartini, the young woman who came to symbolize the struggle for women’s rights and equal education in the early 20th century.

Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentes, being hanged, April 21, 1792

In Brazil April 21 is called Tiradentes, also known as “Day of the Indian”. It “commemorates the 1792 execution of Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, also known as Tiradentes (Tooth Puller), the leader of the first organized movement against Portuguese rule in Brazil.” (Today’s Zaman – Every Day is Special)

The are over half a dozen Christian feasts celebrated on April 21, including

  • Conrad of Parzham
  • Wolbodo,
  • Beuno
  • and the Infant of Good Health.

It’s Grounation Day in the Rastafarian movement, celebrating the day Emperor Haile Selassie I visited the island of the Jamaica.

Texans celebrate the Battle of San Jacinto today.

It’s the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II of England, one of the longest reigning monarchs in European history.

It’s Kindergarten Day in Germany.

In the U.S. it’s the birthday of John Muir.

Today is also the original Roman holiday. April 21 marks the birth of Rome. Traditionally, the city-state was said to have been founded by Romulus, one of two brothers raised by a she-wolf. Historians don’t know the year—sometime in the 8th century BC—but most agree on the date: April 21. Don’t ask how.

So you have your pick of holidays to celebrate, and if you run out, don’t forget to mark your calendar for the holiday formerly known as Secretary’s Day — Administrative Professionals Day. You can thank New York publicist Harry F. Klemfuss for that. Reminds me, I’ve got to have my assistant send him a card…