Dr. Hurlbutt's Highly Peculiar Online Calendar

November 201

(Aviation History Month)

November 1: In 1755 a catastrophic earthquake, followed by a tsunami and a widespread fire, destroyed the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, killing anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 people. Its horrifying devastation would have a powerful impact on Enlightenment thought.

November 2: Haile Selassie I was crowned emperor of Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in 1930, taking the title "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God."

November 3: The SS Economic and Administrative Main Office issued a circular to the commandants of the Nazi concentration camps in 1943, informing them that:

Effective immediately until January 1, 1944, the Commissioner for Canine Affairs has issued an order prohibiting copulation by the [camp guard] dogs. Until that date, no reports concerning dogs in heat are to be submitted. I will hold the commandants personally responsible for seeing that supervision of the canine units is performed in such a rigorous manner that unauthorized acts of copulation by the dogs are impossible.

November 4: Militant Islamist students seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran in 1979. The occupiers demanded the return of the former Shah of Iran, then undergoing medical treatment in New York, for trial. The hostage crisis that ensued all but wrecked the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

November 5: Although in public then Vice President George H. W. Bush would consistently maintain that he had been "out of the loop" regarding the Iran-Contra affair, he noted to the contrary in his private diary on this day in 1986: "I'm one of the few people that know fully the details." Bush's diary entry was not disclosed until five days before he left office as president in 1993, by which time he had pardoned many of the major figures in the Iran-Contra scandal.

November 8: The French revolutionary government converted the Louvre palace into a museum, which opened on this day in 1793.

November 10: The fortieth anniversary of the opening of the Great Wall of China to international tourism in 1970.

November 11: Veterans' Day (U.S.), Remembrance Day (Canada), Armistice Day (France, Belgium). Marking the end of the First World War on this day in 1918, Armistice Day became a U.S. federal holiday in 1938. The name was changed to Veterans' Day in 1954, making it an occasion to honor U.S. military veterans in general. The Monday Holiday Law of 1968 changed the date to the fourth Monday in October beginning in 1971, but this alteration was ill received, and the holiday reverted to November 11 in 1978. In Canada, Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day in 1931. It is a federal holiday there, as well, serving a purpose analogous to the U.S. Memorial Day. In the United Kingdom, Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day) is not a public holiday, but poppies are traditionally worn as a symbol of remembrance, and two minutes of silence are observed at 11:00 a.m., more elaborate commemorations being held on Remembrance Sunday, observed on the second Sunday of November. In France and Belgium, Armistice Day are public holidays under the original name.

November 13 (November 14, local time): Total eclipse of the sun. From sunrise to sunset, the moon's umbral path will sweep in a narrow band from northern Australia out over the open ocean of the South Pacific, ending a few hundred miles before it reaches the Chilean coast. At its maximum extent, totality will last 4 minutes and 2 seconds.

November 15: In 1581, in a fit of violent prudery, Ivan the Terrible assaulted his pregnant daughter-in-law for affecting immodest attire. As a result, she miscarried. Confronted the following day by his reproachful son, the enraged tsar struck the young man a fatal blow to the head. This killing left Ivan's feeble-minded second son, Fedor, next in line to the throne.

November 17: Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (Czech Republic, Slovakia). Commemorates demonstrations in Prague that began the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989, as well as demonstrations in Prague against the Nazi German occupation in 1939.

November 21: Birth of Voltaire (François Marie Arouet), the great French writer and satirist, in 1694.

I advise you to go on living solely to enrage those who are paying your annuities. - Voltaire

November 22: The Second International Radio Telegraphic Convention in Berlin adopted the "SOS" distress signal in 1906. A previous distress call, "CQD," nevertheless continued in use for some time. Contrary to popular belief, the letters "SOS" do not stand for words. They were chosen because the Morse code combination of three dots, three dashes, and three dots was easy to transmit and difficult to mistake. The "SOS" code was officially retired in 1999.

Cartoon of gigantic, menacing turkey confronting man with axe

November 24: Thanksgiving (U.S.). As we prepare to consume vast quantities of turkey, it may be of interest to note that attacks by wild turkeys upon people have increased sharply in recent years, as the wild turkey population has soared from an estimated 30,000 in the 1930s to perhaps seven million today. Aggressive tom turkeys often conclude that people are at the low end of the avian pecking order, and attack them to assert dominance. Experts advise against turning one's back on an aggressive turkey and suggest poking him gently but firmly with an umbrella or walking stick to disabuse him of his hierarchical misconceptions.

November 25: In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the frenzied Christmas shopping season. It is known as "Black Friday" among retailers, because it is the day when many of them first move into the black, financially, for the year.

November 29: At a Pentagon briefing in 2005, two and a half years into the Iraq War, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that he had experienced "an epiphany" over the Thanksgiving weekend: he had realized that the enemy should not be called insurgents because the term "gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit." He therefore proposed calling them "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government" instead. In the intervening years, this suggestion has had little noticeable impact on American discourse, and still less on the actual fighting.

November 30: Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born in 1835.

I found that my ribbons and gew-gaws were dragging me down to Hell, and so I took them off and gave them to my sister. - Attributed by Mark Twain to 'a pious girl.' Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform. - Mark Twain.

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