Sunday, December 19, 2004

First/Last Deaths

US Civil War
First Death: Private Daniel Hough---killed during the salute of the flag during the surrender of Ft Sumter when an ember fell into a powder keg 14 April, 1861.
Last Death: Private John J. Williams of Company B, 34th Indiana---killed during the Battle of Palmetto Ranch, Texas 13 May, 1865.

Capital Punishment in England
First: John Storey was the first killed---he was hung, drawn, and quartered---at the "Triple Tree," which was introduced as a permanent gallows at Tyburn, 1 June, 1571.
Last: Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans---real name, John Robson Walby ---on 13 August 1964. Ruth Ellis was the last woman to hang,13 July, 1955.

Capital Punishment in US
First: George Kendall for spying/espionage, in Virginia, 1608.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Three Magi

Caspar (or Gaspar), Melkior, Balthasar are traditionally held to be the three Magi who visted Christ after his birth. However, their names and number are disputed---depending on to whose translation you subscribe. Some sources ascribe them as being kings, others as magi---a sect of Zororastrian priests.

Bede supposedly wrote:
The magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard... who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, Caspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned... honored Him as God by his gift of [frank]incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, named Balthasar ... by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die.
The author goes on to claim that Melchior was the king of Arabia, Balthasar the king of Saba (Ethiopia or Yemen), and Caspar the king of Tarsus (in Turkey).

The Magi arrived in Bethlehem on January 6, Epiphany, which is the twelfth day of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

History of Thanksgiving

While the most widely know first occasion of Thanksgiving was the 1621 Plymouth, Massachusetts celebration, some claim that the December 4, 1619 celebration in Berkeley, Virginia was, in fact, the first Thanksgiving.

During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress decreed one or more celebrations of thanks per year; a tradition that Washington, Adams, and Madison continued as President. Various state governors decreed their own Thanksgivings all through the first half of the 19th century.

It was, however, Lincoln -- prompted by editorials by Sara Josephea Hale -- who decreed the first official Thanksgiving in 1863; Lincoln further decreed that this nation holidy should be continued and held on the last Thursday of November.

In 1939, Roosevelt bowed to pressures from retailers to move Thanksgiving back a week to allow for more sales before Christmas; his recommendation, however, was not required, and many states did not adopt it -- creating multiple celebrations, even within the same state. This split holiday -- with Roosevelt's choice being dubbed "Franksgiving" -- continued until 1940 when Congress proposed a compromise: Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday of November, which would sometimes be the last Thursday and sometimes the penultimate one.

The tradition of the President pardoning a turkey began in 1947.

Canadians trace their celebration of Thanksgiving to a 1578 feast held by Martin Frobisher in Newfoundland. The first official Thanksgiving was in 1872, but did not become a national holiday until 1879. Since 1957, it has been held on the second Monday of October.

Wealth/Poverty Rankings

US States With Highest (Personal) Income Per Capita
  1. Connecticut ($38,450)
  2. New Jersey ($35,521)
  3. Massachusetts ($35,333)
  4. Maryland ($32,680)
  5. New York ($32,451)
US States With Lowest (Personal) Income Per Capita
  1. Mississippi ($20,142)
  2. Arkansas ($21,169)
  3. West Virginia ($21,327)
  4. New Mexico ($21,555)
  5. Utah ($21,883)

Nations With Highest Per Capita Income

  1. Luxembourg
  2. Bermuda
  3. United States
  4. Norway
  5. Liechtenstein

Nations With Lowest Per Capita Income

  1. Sierra Leone
  2. Malawi
  3. Tanzania
  4. Burundi
  5. Democratic Republic of Congo

The figures for the countries are based on purchasing power as $100 will get you more in Egypt than it will in Switzerland. Other lists may use less realistic determinations of income. The PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) indices use a base value determined by a nation's GDP divided by the population. This artificially boosts nations with favorable banking and tax laws -- like Luxembourg, Monaco, et al -- as their GDP is boosted by foreign investments without a commensurate increase in the population count. It is near impossible to separate domestic from foreign incomes in these nations, so the statistics are left as skewed.