It’s December 17, and it snowed last night in Chicago. It’s going to snow again late this afternoon or this evening, but not as much as predicted. And remember: there are only 7 shopping days till Christmas and until the beginning of Koynezaa, my own personal 6-day holiday that extends from Christmas to my birthday (Dec. 30).
I’m happy to announce that today is National Maple Syrup Day, but the nation appears to be not Canada but the U.S. Remember, always buy the darkest and lowest-grade maple syrup you can find (the grades and names keep changing, like the sizes of eggs): the darker the syrup, the better the flavor. It’s also National Day in Bhutan (a country I long to visit), a day that celebrates the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first Druk Gyalpo of modern Bhutan. On this day in 1790, the Aztec Sun Stone, perhaps the most famous piece of art from that civilization, was rediscovered under the cathedral in Mexico City, having been buried there after the Spanish conquest in 1521. The stone probably dates from a few decades before that, and its meaning is still disputed. Here it is (I’ve seen it where it resides: in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, one of the finest museums on the planet. It’s unbelievably good):
Another famous event on this day: on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made their first “official” flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the date at which the era of modern aviation begins. As Wikipedia notes:
Following repairs, the Wrights finally took to the air on December 17, 1903, making two flights each from level ground into a freezing headwind gusting to 27 miles per hour (43 km/h). The first flight, by Orville at 10:35 am, of 120 feet (37 m) in 12 seconds, at a speed of only 6.8 miles per hour (10.9 km/h) over the ground, was recorded in a famous photograph. The next two flights covered approximately 175 and 200 feet (53 and 61 m), by Wilbur and Orville respectively. Their altitude was about 10 feet (3.0 m) above the ground.
Here’s that famous photo:
Exactly 100 years later, SpaceShipOne, a rocket-powered plane, broke the sound barrier.
Notable people born on this day include Nobel Laureate Willard Libby (1908, chemist), William Safire (1929), and Pope Francis (1936). Those who died on this day include Kaspar Hauser (1833; read his story), Captain Beefheart (2010), and my former Chicago colleague Janet Rowley (2013), who discovered that some forms of childhood leukemia were produced by a chromosomal translocation (bits of chromosomes 9 and 22 swapped places). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili reluctantly heads to the orchard; apparently the call of the wild is stronger than the lure of the hearth. This is the first picture of Hili I present that was taken with Andrzej’s new camera:
Hili: I’m going to the orchard.A: It’s cold.Hili: So I see, my paws may freeze.
Hili: Idę do sadu.
Ja: Zimno jest.
Hili: Właśnie tak patrzę, że mogą mi łapki zmarznąć.