On This Date:
- 1452: The Byzantium Public Library issues its final notice to Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos and warns that if he does not return his severely overdue copy of So You Think Invading The Balkans Will Make You Happy, Do You? and remit the four dollar fine they will be forced to turn the matter over to the Ottoman Collection Agency. Constantine XI would claim to have lost the book next year shortly before his execution.
- 1492: Christopher Columbus and his three ships reach the shores of the Guangdong area of China. The Chinese people, sensing trouble and a touching bit of gullibility, explain to the Admiral that he has landed in the West Indies thousands of miles east of where he wanted to be, and they will be pleasantly surprised that their idea catches on.
- 1582: Nothing happens, leaving people in Spain and Italy with a pronounced sense of unease and a desire to figure out just what's going on when they wake up the next day, but nothing happens then either.
- 1731: Saturn enters the house of Aries, only to find Aries is not present. It playfully rearranges the dishes so they and the coffee mugs are on the wrong sides of the cabinet and it leaves undetected. Aries, learning what happened by way of Venus, would not forgive Saturn for over two hundred years.
- 1805: Napoleon proposes the building of a stone-arch bridge around the entire world, which his subordinates acclaim as a bold and most challenging accomplishment. Napoleon answers that to make the project more practical it will be built as a ring just under half a kilometer from the North Pole, hundreds of kilometers farther north than anyone has ever been and much farther than any construction projects so large have ever been, and his subordinates admire his vision and daring. Napoleon then announces that since the Earth is round you can draw an axis anywhere and make a loop around any spot, so they should just build it in the suburbs of Paris, causing his subordinates to wonder if he's just putting them on. Napoleon grins inscrutably, and his subordinates are honestly relieved to hear the British are attacking again.
- 1866: Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck puts together a plan to unify the states of North and South Dakota, but is finally convinced by his wife that he is getting much too far ahead of himself.
- 1903: Automotive pioneer and racecar driver Henry Ford, using a vehicle of his own design, crosses the finish line to win the New York City-To-San Francisco Driving Competition of 1902.
- 1958: An attempt to strengthen ties between American and British communities ends in hard feelings as celebrants for that year's Tenth of December party show up nearly two months early, before the hosts have even started to get dressed, and there's not even anything to nibble on. By the end of the year matters would be resolved with a twelve-inch-wide tray of celery sticks, carrots, and blue cheese dressings.
- 1959: Argentina and Japan, after the June discovery they never formally signed a peace treaty after the Crimean War, take the chance to sign one now. The ceremonies, held in Antwerp, are dignified and pleasant and spoiled only at the end when a nosey Art Buchwald asks when were either of the nations ever involved in the Crimean War anyway. He is locked into a broom closet.
- 1978: The first otters are seated in the Italian parliament, as a result of elections that many say demonstrate a desire to check the growing influence of fish in the lower house. Their first speeches are regarded by many as being ``damp''.
- 1993: People across the world report that the day feels remarkably like a Tuesday, which it is. A dissenting group argues that it feels more like velvet, but compromise is reached when people generally agree that the day tastes like Rocky Road ice cream. Moreover, the day is found to wobble like a paperback book laid on top of a pan of fresh gelatin, and it is finally discovered to become only mildly sarcastic despite repeated provocation. What more could you want from a day?
Trivia: Christopher Columbus liked the Nina -- on which he sailed on his first two voyages to the Americas, and which was a tender on the third voyage -- enough that he bought a half-interest in the ship. Source: The Last Voyage of Columbus, Martin Dugard.
Currently Reading: King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led The World To War, Catrine Clay.