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October 17th, 2008
October 18th, 2008

Pat and I are running around a small town in the South of Portugal, where finding wi-fi is a bit of a challenge, but the food is great!

Question: Why is staying away from school called playing hooky?

Yesterday’s Question Answered below: What is a torquemada?
history for 10/17/2008
Birthdays: Arthur Miller, Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur, Montgomery Clift, Jimmy Breslin, Tom Poston, Gary Puckett, Margot Kidder, Evil Knievel, Jerry Seigel (Superman co-creator), Virgil 'Vip' Partch Disney animator, Charles Kraft the sliced cheese king, Beverly Garland- star of Attack of the Alligator People, George Wendt, Mike Judge the creator of Beavis & Butthead, Eminem

641 A.D.- ALEXANDRIA, the "Paris of the Ancient World" fell to the advancing armies of Islam. The Byzantine Greek emperors had been persecuting the native Coptic Christians as a heresy, so the Egyptians bloodlessly opened their gates to the Arab invaders. Caliph Omar ordered the remains of the Great Library of Alexandria destroyed: "If these books contain the same knowledge as the Koran they are unnecessary, If they have knowledge contrary to the Koran they are unwanted". In all fairness to old Omar the library had been burned by Julius Caesar and ravaged by Christian fanatics and barbarians for centuries anyway, but whatever was left was stuffed into the bakery ovens of the Arab army. This was also the last time anyone recalled seeing the remains of Alexander the Great, embalmed in a solid block of honey since 312BC. That’s like us being able to look upon the undecayed face of Shakespeare.

1777- BURGOYNE SURRENDERS AT SARATOGA- 'Gentleman Johnny' Burgoyne, and his British Army are surrounded in upper New York State and forced to surrender. This is seen as the turning point of the American Revolution, because the victory gave the rebels credibility in the eyes of England's traditional enemies- France, Holland and Spain. That evening General Burgoyne was invited to dinner by the American General Gates and his staff. When invited to give the first toast Burgoyne raised his glass and said:” To His Excellency George Washington!” When Burgoyne left England that spring he had wagered politician Charles Fox 50 guineas he would conquer America singlehanded and return by Christmas. Well, he did get home by Christmas...

1787- The US Constitution accepted and signed into law, U.S. Constitutional Convention adjourns.

1814- In London a large beer vat burst and drowned nine people.

1815- Napoleon is landed on his final island of exile, St.Helena, off the coast of sub equatorial Africa. The humid climate was considered by the British so unhealthy that they rotated the garrison every year. Napoleon spent the voyage learning English and became such good friends with his assigned physician Dr. O'Meara (who was Irish) that the doctor was reprimanded. Napoleon loved to poke fun at doctors, he first addressed O'Meara- "So you are a doctor ? Well I am a general. How many men have You killed? I wager more than me ! "

1904-In San Francisco Amadeo and Giovanni Giannini opened the New Bank of Italy, which in 1930 became the Bank of America. Among the 40 or so independent banks in California Gianini’s bank grew because he encouraged immigrants to put their money in, instead of in their mattresses. After the great San Francisco earthquake Gianini they buried the records and total assets of their bank in a strongbox in their garden until their building could be rebuilt. The Bank of America grew from that garden to become the largest bank in the U.S. and a major Hollywood financier.

1928- Duke Ellington recorded The Mouche.

1943- The Burma Railway was completed by Japanese forces using prisoner of war as laborers, the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai. Contrary to the David Lean movie, the bridge was never blown up and is still in use today.

1967- The controversial play “Hair” opened at the Anspacher Theatre on Broadway. Hippies, nude scenes, The “Age of Aquarius.”

1973- THE OIL WEAPON- Arab nations of OPEC declare a crude oil embargo on any nation supporting Israel. Oil went from $12 a barrel to $79. Gas rationing and long lines appeared at gas stations in the US and England. Hasbro toys had to discontinue the sale of 12inch large G.I.Joe dolls because of the price of plastic.

1989- In the late afternoon the BAY AREA EARTHQUAKE shook San Francisco and vicinity. For the first time since 1906 fires were seen in the Mission District. The epicenter was a little town called Watsonville. 67 people were killed. California was planning to relieve traffic pressure by building upper levels onto existing freeways systems. The Ventura Freeway in L.A. had plans for such a system. When one of these new double deckers, the Nimitz Freeway, collapsed in this quake crushing motorists in a grisly concrete sandwich, all such plans were abandoned. There was a world series baseball game under way in Candlestick Park, but miraculously no one was hurt. National TV audiences amazed that local fans laughed at the danger. They chanted to the TV cameras :"Welcome to California!".

2005- The Colbert Report with Steven Colbert premiered on Comedy Central. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yesterday’s Questions: What is a torquemada?

Answer Today in 1483- Tomas' de Torquemada made Grand Inquisitor of the Holy Office of the Spanish Inquisition. His zeal at punishment and torture puts him alongside Draco and Cotton Mather in the pantheon of judicial evil. Even the Borgia Pope Alexander VI tried to get Tom to chill out. Today a Torquemada is a synonym for an irrationally harsh judgement.