Blog Posts

History of Australia Day

January 26, 2020 /
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Did you know that the history of European Australia is tied to the American Revolutionary War?

Back when the 13 American Colonies were part of the British Commonwealth, it was convenient for England to transport its convicts to the Colonies. Indeed, it was considered more humane to “transport” prisoners than to execute them, and there were getting to be so many convicts.

Following the 1730s, the British population began to increase, and with the rise of the Industrial Revolution crime was becoming a greater problem in England. What to do with all the prisoners? Even the debtors’ prisons were swelling. America seemed to be a likely landing place. In 1732, a royal charter was granted to a group of philanthropists interested in helping the “worthy poor.” Specifically, it was granted to the Trustees of the Province of Georgia.



History of Chinese New Year

January 25, 2020 /
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Chinese New Year - Lion DanceHISTORY OF CHINESE NEW YEAR

Today marks the beginning of Chinese New Year. This is the oldest, longest, and most important social and economic holiday in China. Chinese New Year, which begins the first day of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. It starts this year on January 25, though the celebrations continue for around two weeks. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and ends with the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese calendar.

It is celebrated across China and in many other parts of Asia with people of Chinese descent. About 20% of the planet observes this holiday. In the West, it roughly corresponds to the end of the winter season and the beginning of Carnival.

Chinese New Year is the largest annual human migration in the world. More than 400 million people are expected to travel during the holiday period, almost four times as many as during the US holiday season. The Chunyun period, or the Spring Festival travel season typically starts 15 days before Lunar New Year’s Day and can last for 40 days. Some believe with the criss-crossing travel, 3 billion trips will be taken.


Because the Chinese lunisolar calendar — which dates back to the Shang Dynasty in the 14th century B.C. — is different from the western Gregorian calendar, this festival begins with the New Moon, typically the second new moon after the Winter Solstice and can occur on dates between January 21 and February 20. The lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days so to synchronize with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an interstitial month seven years out of a 19-year cycle.


History of Macintosh: a 36 Year Love Affair

January 24, 2020 /
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The now-famous Macintosh computer has just turned 36. When Apple President Steve Jobs launched this computer at the Flint Center on De Anza College campus on January 24, 1984, to the theme from Chariots of Fire, he called it “insanely great!” The $1.5M “1984” Superbowl commercial filmed by Sir Ridley Scott had appeared on TV two days before Macintosh went on sale and the world was holding its breath.

When IBM released the so-called IBM PC in 1981, I remember saying at the time that it “legitimized the desktop microcomputer market,” at least for business. Though it was called a Personal Computer, few people that I knew had one at home. It was driven to popularity with MS-DOS, a character-based user interface, first with green characters on a black screen, then in living color. The PC had been around for almost a decade, back to the Xerox PARC Alto machine, but they were too expensive and too difficult to use for the ordinary mortal. The more hobby-friendly Commodore PET, Atari, TRS-80 were within people’s budgets but were mostly used by hobbyists. Early adopters used CP/M machines from Compaq in the business world. Even Apple II computers were around then.


History of Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2020 /
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Born on January 15, 1929, we celebrate a holiday in honor of a man who was not a president, nor an explorer, nor a saint; rather he was a Baptist minister and an American leader of the 1960s civil rights movement who was named for the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther after his father was inspired by a trip to Luther’s Wittenberg. Though President Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1977, it was not until 1986 that a day was established on the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday.

The only other American federal holidays that honored individuals have been for Jesus, President Washington, and Christopher Columbus.


History of Ben Franklin

January 17, 2020 /
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We know this polymath as a writer, publisher, printer, merchant, scientist, moral philosopher, international diplomat, and inventor. Musically he invented the glass harmonica, but he also invented the Franklin stove and started the first lending library and fire brigade in Philadelphia.

He did experiments in electricity and developed the lightning rod. He was considered:

America’s best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its most practical, though not most profound, political thinkers. — Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life


Born on January 17, 1706*, in Boston, he was one of the earliest and oldest of the American Founding Fathers. He served as a lobbyist to England, was first Ambassador to France, and has been called “The First American.”


History of Epiphany: Ends the 12 Days of Christmas?

January 5, 2020 /
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Epiphany occurs in the Christian calendar on January 6. It signifies the event of the Magi, or Wise Men, visiting the baby Jesus, and is known in some Latin cultures as Three Kings Day. In the Eastern (Orthodox and Oriental) churches, it is known as the Feast of Theophany (God Manifest), commemorating Jesus’ baptism with the attendant appearance of the Holy Spirit as a dove and the voice of God the Father. This story is recounted in all four Gospels of the New Testament. This date is also tied to Jesus’ miracle of changing the water to wine at the Wedding at Cana in the Gospel of John, Chapter 2.

Christmas vs. Advent

So, the 12 Days of Christmas don’t end at Christmas, Advent does. Instead, the 12 days start with Christmas and end with Epiphany. These 12 days are sometimes called Christmastide. The subsequent “season” of Epiphany lasts from January 6 through the day before Lent. Some Latin American and European cultures extend this season to February 2 or Candlemas.


History of New Year’s Resolutions: Where Did They Begin?

January 1, 2020 /
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Janus Ponte Fabricio



As I mentioned earlier, New Year’s Day celebrations began in pre-Christian times, beginning with the Babylonians in March but later changed to January by the Romans. Where did we get the idea of New Year’s Resolutions and why at the beginning of the year?


The month of January gets its name from Janus, the two-faced god who looks backward into the old year and forwards into the new. Janus was also the patron and protector of arches (Ianus in Latin), transitions, time, gates, doors, doorways, endings, and beginnings. He was also the patron of bridges, and we see this statue (pictured at left) set on the bridge Ponte Fabricio which crosses the Tiber River in Rome to Tiber Island, where it survives from its original construction in 62 BC during the time of Julius Caesar. Even today, it is believed that if you touch the Janus head as you cross the bridge, it will bring good fortune. (The followers of the goddess Juno have a competing claim to the month of January, according to ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs.) (more…)

History of New Year’s Day: Why on January 1?

December 31, 2019 /
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We have the ancient Romans to thank for celebrating New Year’s Day on January 1. It wasn’t always that way. Previous civilizations celebrated it in March to observe the “new year” of growth and fertility. Before calendars existed, the time between seed sowing and harvesting was considered a cycle or a year. But the Romans moved the date of New Year to January 1, as I’ll explain below, but first a little on calendars.

The word Calendar gets its name from the first day of a month in the Roman (Latin) calendar: kalendae


History of 2020: The Beginning of the New Decade?

December 30, 2019 /
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With the beginning of the New Year, you’ve seen articles everywhere discussing the end of the decade or declaring that 2020 is the beginning of the new decade.


Q: Isn’t 2020 the beginning of the new decade?

  • 2020 is the beginning of a new decade — as any year is
  • But it is not the beginning of the new decade


Q: But the year ends in Zero. If 2010 was the beginning of the decade, and 2000 was the beginning of the new millennium, how can 2020 not be the beginning of the new decade?

2001Because 2010 was not the beginning of the decade, as I explained a decade ago here. And 2000 was not the beginning of the Third Millennium. That is why Arthur C. Clarke was careful to name his space odyssey 2001, not 2000. (more…)