October 20 - World Statistics Day

Posted October 20, 2020

(Celebrated every five years)

This United Nations day - which is only celebrated every five years - this year has the theme "Connecting the World with Data We Can Trust."

It's only the third World Statistics Day (the first was in 2010). In 2015 the theme was "Better data, better lives." 

I like the intent here. We can only make good decisions if we consider facts and evidence - in other words, data. We can only learn from the past by consulting data.

And, crucially, we can only reach a consensus if we share the same set of "facts." Obviously, carefully collected evidence-based data is factual - but there are "statistics" and "data" presented as if they were facts that are actually misinformation or disinformation. People making up lies that work in their favor, or people fudging experimental results for the sake of pleasing whoever is funding the research, or people tossing out bunches of data points that don't fit with the preferred narrative - the results of these kinds of shenanigans - even if they are dressed up with the language of statistics - are not factual. There is no such thing as "alternative facts." 

It is good for everyone if we develop trust for organizations and journalists that deal with real data and true information. I'm not sure how to get there - but we need "data we can trust"!

The Internet Society has an important motto: "The data-driven world doesn't run on data; it runs on trust."

October 19 – Happy Birthday, Marguerite Perey!

Posted October 19, 2020

Today's famous birthday was a French physicist, a student of Marie Curie, and the first woman elected to the French Académie des Sciences. 

(If you can believe it, Curie never was!!!)

One of Perey's biggest accomplishments was discovering the element francium. You may have guessed that the name, francium, was chosen because the element was discovered in France.

Francium (symbol Fr, atomic number 87) is really unstable, highly radioactive. Its half-life is just 22 minutes. That means that it only takes 22 minutes for half of a clump of pure francium to break down into astatine, radium, and/or radon (depending on the isotope - the number of neutrons - in the francium).

October 18 – Hard-Boiled Guy / Girl Day

Posted October 18, 2020

The name of this special day gave me pause - hard-boiled guy? Hard-boiled girl?

"Hard-boiled" detective fiction is a particular style of crime writing that became popular in books and movies in the 1930s.

You have to look at literary styles in relation to earlier styles. There was a British style of mystery book that - even though it may have been about icky things like murder - downplayed blood and violence. These sorts of books often took place at country manors that had entire staffs of cooks and maids and butlers and that frequently hosted relatives; all those people living in close proximity meant a bunch of suspects with excellent motives for murder!

Apparently this style of mystery was followed elsewhere, including the U.S., even though there were few well-staffed country manors in that country! 

My favorite kind of mystery is the
more cerebral, less gritty, very British
style of books. I really love books by
Agatha Christie, especially the ones
with quirky Belgian detective Hercule

These sorts of British mysteries ruled in America - until author Dashiell Hammett. An American who had worked for years for the Pinkerton detective agency, Hammett wrote "grittier" and more realistic stories with more modern settings. More violence, more blood. (So, very much NOT my thing.) 

Hammett's new, gritty, violent, realistic detective fiction - which was often set in cities, not on countryside estates - was and still is called hard-boiled fiction.

Hammett's most famous detective was Sam Spade. Spade was tough, hard, able to handle whatever came his way. Although he wasn't the sort of intellectual solver-of-puzzles that fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was, Spade did have a good eye for details and a sharp, practical intelligence.

Spade was the main character in Hammett's most famous book, The Maltese Falcon. Several movie versions of this book have been made - and today is the anniversary of the most famous version, the 1941 film starring Humphrey Bogart.
And that's why today is Hard-Boiled Guy / Girl Day!

International Necktie Day

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October 17 - Dessalines Day in Haiti

Posted October 17, 2020

You might already know that Haiti is the only nation that was created by former slaves who had successfully rebelled against their masters.

You might also know that Toussaint Louverture was the heroic leader of the rebellion - but did you know that French forces captured Louverture before the revolt fully succeeded - and that the hero died in a French jail?
Jean-Jacques Dessalines was a lieutenant under
Louverture, and he ended up taking over when Louverture was captured - AND he ended up beating the French! In November 1803, Dessalines and his troops finally defeated French forces, and the 7,000 (or so) French troops still alive skedaddled off the island. 

At that point, Dessalines went from being military leader to governmental leader. He was far from perfect - he ordered the killing of every French person on the island (about 5,000 people!), and although he freed all the slaves, most former slaves didn't have a ton of freedom. They had only two choices: continuing hard physical labor on the plantations, or joining Dessalines's army.

Basically, Dessalines became a dictator!

Dessalines became Emperor of Haiti for Life, but he only lived another year before he was killed by his political rivals, on this date in 1806.

Even though Dessalines was a pretty bloodthirsty and tyrannical political leader, he DID lead the revolt to victory over the French. And although he wasn't very popular among his fellow Haitians during his rule, in the 1900s and 2000s he  rebounded in reputation as a patriot and a founding father...

Also on this date:

Astronaut Mae Jemison's birthday

National Playing Card Collectors Day

Sloth International Day
(Third Saturday in October)

Bridge Day (also here)

(Third Saturday of October)

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