March 14, 2015

It Happened on March 14th

Have a piece of Pi Pie.

Pi Day
It's Pi Day because it's 3.14, get it? 
Pi Day has been around since 1989, when Larry Shaw, of the San Francisco Exploratorium, created it. The first celebration consisted of parades (around circular areas, of course) and the eating of pie. That's my kind of holiday! 

Here are a few of the things you can do to celebrate Pi Day:
1. Memorize Pi. The world record-holder is Akira Haraguchi, who knows it to 100,000 digits.
2. March around in a circle. Try to calculate the circumference while you do so.
3. Eat pie. And calculate its area.
4. Sing the Pi Song.
5. Write a Pi Ku

On the other hand, if you're a more laid-back kind of individual, you can always celebrate Pi Approximation Day -- on July 22nd. (Pi is approximately the fraction 22/7.) 

Einstein in 1947
Albert Einstein's Birthday, 1879
Most of us know two things about Albert Einstein. First that he was really, really smart. Second -- mumble, mumble, mumble, something about relativity. 

I'm not going to try to expound about relativity -- I'll leave that to people who actually know what they're talking about. Suffice it to say that Einstein was a remarkable presence in theoretical physics. 

As for being really smart, it's a wide-spread belief that Einstein did poorly in school, and may have actually been dyslexic. As it turns out, this probably isn't true.
While it's true that Einstein failed his entrance exam to the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, there were mitigating circumstances.  He was taking the exam in an effort to enter the school two years early, at the age of 16. (And he did get excellent scores in the math and physics portions of the test.) He had not particularly studied for the test, and may have had mixed feelings about whether or not he wanted to pass it. (His father wanted him to pursue a technical field, and Einstein was more interested in the theoretical.) And, the test was given in French, a language with which he was not especially skilled.

White Day, Japan and South Korea
This is a holiday I can really get behind -- it's all about More Chocolate!
It seems that in Japan, the custom on Valentines day is for women and girls to present the men in their lives with chocolate -- either hand-made or store-bought. On White Day, the gentlemen return the favor. The reciprocal gifts can be either chocolate (preferably white), or other items such as marshmallows, white lingerie, jewelry, or cookies. The gentlemen's gifts are also supposed to be more expensive. The rule is sanbai gaeshi, "triple the return." 

In South Korea, the custom seems to be to repay the favor with candy, as opposed to chocolate. (Kind of a let down, as far as I'm concerned.) If you're sadly single, you can get together with your single friends on Black Day (April 14th) and eat jajangmyeon -- white noodles with black bean sauce. 

Three Little Maids from School
First Performance of The Mikado, 1885 
The Mikado opened at the Savoy Theater in London on this date in 1885. It's one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular comic operas, and it was a hit from the start. Its run at the Savoy lasted for 672 performances -- the second longest run for any piece of musical theater at that time, and a good long run for any type of theater. 

Today it remains one of the most popular, and most often-performed, works of musical theater all over the world. Some of the better-known songs from the work are "Three Little Maids from School," "A Wand'ring Minstrel I," and "The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring (Tra La)." 

Death of Sir Thomas Malory, 1471
This date depends on Thomas Malory being who we think he is. There were at least six Thomas Malorys alive when Le Morte d'Arthur was written. The one that we think wrote the famous work was Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel -- and he was quite a rogue. He was a professional soldier who apparently turned to robbery, assault, kidnapping and rape. Quite a life for someone who wrote the ultimate book about chivalry!

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