March 4, 2013 12:14 pm
One hundred years ago, as Washington, D.C. prepared for the March 4, 1913 inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, a group of women determined to march for their right to vote descended upon the city, prompting some to wonder what, exactly, they were on about.
Organized by leading suffrage activist Alice Paul (you might know her as the one who went on a hunger strike, only to be force-fed in the psychiatric ward of a Virgina prison), the parade and rally, staged on March 3, 1913, drew a crowd of more than 5,000 women (plus some 70 members of the National Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, and a bunch of hecklers, and people in town for the inauguration). A breathless New York Times account of the parade published the next day set the scene:
Imagine a Broadway election night crowd, with half the shouting and all of the noise-making novelties lacking; imagine that crowd surging forward constantly, without proper police restraint, and one gains some idea of the conditions that existed along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the Treasure Department this afternoon. Ropes stretched to keep back the crowds were broken in many places and for most of the distance the marcerhs had to walk as best they could through a narrow lane of shouting spectators. It was necessary many times to call a halt while the mounted escort and the policemen pushed the crowd back.
In the allegory presented on the Treasury steps it saw a wonderful series of dramatic pictures. In the parade over 5,000 women passed down Pennsylvania Avenue. Some were riding, more were afoot. Floats throughout the procession illustrated the progress in the woman’s suffrage cause had made in the last seventy-five years. Scattered throughout the parade were the standards of nearly every State in the Union.
Despite their numbers and enthusiasm, the ladies and their supporters were not without adversaries:
The procession, it was charged, had not gone a block before it had to halt. Crowds, the women said, had gathered about one woman and her aids, and drunken men had attempted to climb upon the floats. Insults and jibes were shouted at women marchers, and for more than an hour confusion reigned.
Still, the event was considered a success by most who attended, save one famous figure:
Miss Helen Keller, the noted deaf and blind girl, was so exhausted and unnerved by her experience in attempting to reach a grand stand, where she was to have been a guest of honor, that she was unable to speak later at Continental Hall.
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March 1, 2013 11:34 am
In the NHL, players’ birthdays fall into a strange pattern: the best players seem to all be born in the earlier months of the year. This pattern was extremely clear from youth hockey all the way up to the pros. In Outliers, journalist Malcolm Gladwell explained one possible cause of this weird birthday trend. Here’s New York’s summary:
Gladwell explains what academics call the relative-age effect, by which an initial advantage attributable to age gets turned into a more profound advantage over time. Because Canada’s eligibility cutoff for junior hockey is January 1, Gladwell writes, “a boy who turns 10 on January 2, then, could be playing alongside someone who doesn’t turn 10 until the end of the year.” You can guess at that age, when the differences in physical maturity are so great, which one of those kids is going to make the league all-star team. Once on that all-star team, the January 2 kid starts practicing more, getting better coaching, and playing against tougher competition—so much so that by the time he’s, say, 14, he’s not just older than the kid with the December 30 birthday, he’s better.
Coaches seem to draft based on this idea that older players—players born in the first three months—will have the advantage and be better. A new paper, published in PLoS ONE, looked at those numbers:
Compared to those born in the first quarter (i.e., January–March), those born in the third and fourth quarters were drafted more than 40 slots later than their productivity warranted, and they were roughly twice as likely to reach career benchmarks, such as 400 games played or 200 points scored.
But, actually, this is a daft way to put a team together. The birthday effect that Gladwell describes hasn’t held up to scrutiny, and, in fact, when you look at the Canadian Olympic hockey team, it’s not at all full of “older” players. The NHL doesn’t seem to follow that pattern either, according to SB Nation:
According to nhl.com, at the 2010 Olympic break there were 499 Canadians on NHL rosters. That’s about 55% of the players in the entire league. If you broke their birthdates down by quarters of the year you get the following:
Canadians Non-Canadians (as of the end of the 09-10 season)
Jan-Mar: 25.7% 34.2%
Apr-June: 28.5% 23%
July-Sept: 25.5% 21.3%
Oct-Dec: 20.3% 21.5%
As you can see, if there’s a country with an “old” hockey workforce, it’s not Canada. There were actually more Canadian NHL players born in September (43) than January (41), and June was the most populous month (50). True, there are more players born in the first half of the year, but the notion that Canada is only producing successful players from a small portion of the calendar seems to be, at best, somewhat of an overstatement.
Robert Deaner, the researcher behind the new study, wanted to show people that this birthday effect simply doesn’t hold up. He told the press office at Grand Valley State University:
“There’s no doubt that drafting professional athletes is an inexact science. Plenty of sure-fire first-round picks fizzle while some late-round picks unexpectedly become stars. But our results show that, at least since 1980, NHL teams have been consistently fooled by players’ birthdays or something associated with them. They greatly underestimate the promise of players born in the second half of the year, the ones who have always been relatively younger than their peers. For any given draft slot, relatively younger players are about twice as likely to be successful. So if teams really wanted to win, they should have drafted more of the relatively younger players.”
Take note, coaches: stop listening to Malcolm Gladwell, and start listening to science.
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February 21, 2013 11:29 am
In the United States, “Happy Birthday to You”—one of the most popular songs in the world—is still under copyright. And it will be until 2030. While you’re free to sing the song in private, you need to pay to perform it in public.
But now WFMU and the Free Music Archive are hoping to rescue the world from this intellectual property trap. They put out a challenge: make a new, copyright-free birthday song. Here’s the winner:
The Free Music Archive explains the project a little more here:
The Free Music Archive wants to wish Creative Commons a Happy Birthday with a song. But there’s a problem. Although “Happy Birthday To You” is the most recognized song in the English language and its origins can be traced back to 1893, it remains under copyright protection in the United States until 2030. It can cost independent filmmakers $10,000 to clear the song for their films, and this is a major stumbling block hindering the creation of new works of art.
Part of the reason the song will be under copyright for so long is that the two school-teaching sisters who wrote the melody and the words didn’t both copyrighting it. The New York Times provides a little bit more history, writing:
In 1893 the sisters wrote a book called ”Song Stories for the Sunday School.” Within that book was a composition called ”Good Morning to All,” which had the ”Happy Birthday” melody. The lyrics went: ”Good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning dear children, good morning to all.” Sung in Many Languages
Only later did the sisters add the birthday words. It is now one of the three most popular songs in the English language, the Guinness Book of World Records says, along with ”Auld Lang Syne” and ”For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”
It wasn’t until 1935 that the Clayton F. Summy Company copyrighted the song, crediting different authors. Later, the song was purchased as part of a deal cut by the Sengstack family when they bought Summy. These companies have been sticklers about the copyright, too. Here’s the Times again:
Enforcing the copyright of a song as popular as ”Happy Birthday” has led to some peculiar situations. By law, any public performance of the song for profit or mechanical reproduction triggers a copyright fee. Summy sued Postal Telegraph in the 1940′s when the song was used in singing telegrams. The suit was dropped when company lawyers were stymied by the argument that even though the song was used for profit, it was not sung in public.
The company also objected when Frederick’s of Hollywood advertised underwear that played ”Happy Birthday.”
Currently, the copyright’s in the hands of Warner Music Group, which, like its predecessors, continues to profit off it. So WFMU and The Free Music Archive are trying to help us all out by building a better, freer song. Try it out.
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January 3, 2013 10:41 am
January 3rd was J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday, and in his honor, we’ve put together instructions on how to throw the best Hobbit Birthday ever.
First, we have the official advice for the producers of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Next, play Pin the Ring on Bilbo made by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
Then, make sure you have lots and lots of food. Here’s WikiHow on How to Celebrate Hobbit day (these are the same foods at listed in the guide above, but food is very important to hobbits, so you must be sure to get it right):
- Mushrooms (these are favorite hobbit food and Farmer Maggot used to grow them and Frodo got caught trying to steal some)
- Wine (Bilbo and Frodo both inherited vineyards); beer is also popular with hobbits
- Hot soup
- Cold meats, mince pies, pork pies, rabbit, fish and chips, rashers of bacon
- Blackberry tarts and other blackberry foods (including uncooked blackberries)
- Freshly baked bread and lots of butter
- Pickles are often mentioned
- Ripe cheese
- Food made from vegetables such as corn, turnips, carrots, potatoes and onions
- Food made with apples, such as apple tart (with raspberry jam)
- Honey (foods made with honey such as honey cakes would be nice)
- Scones (known as “biscuits” in North America), fruit pies, and cakes of any kind, including seed cakes
- Pinwheel sandwiches (just because these are small and cute and the hobbits may have approved provided they weren’t too fussy)
- Tea and coffee.
- Keep seasonings and sauces to a minimum; apparently hobbits didn’t bother with them that much.
Finally, give other people presents. Yes, other people. It’s Hobbit tradition to give gifts to others on their birthdays. Here’s Tolkien on the subject:
Receiving of gifts: this was an ancient ritual connected with kinship. It was in origin a recognition of the byrding’s membership of a family or clan, and a commemoration of his formal ‘incorporation’. No present was given by father or mother to their children on their (the children’s) birthdays (except in the rare cases of adoption); but the reputed head of the family was supposed to give something, if only in ‘token’.
Giving gifts: was a personal matter, not limited to kinship. It was a form of ‘thanksgiving’, and taken as a recognition of services, benefits, and friendship shown, especially in the past year.
A trace of this can be seen in the account of Sméagol and Déagol – modified by the individual characters of these rather miserable specimens. Déagol, evidently a relative (as no doubt all the members of the small community were), had already given his customary present to Sméagol, although they probably set out on their expedition v. early in the morning. Being a mean little soul he grudged it. Sméagol, being meaner and greedier, tried to use the ‘birthday’ as an excuse for an act of tyranny Because I wants it’ was his frank statement of his chief claim. But he also implied that D’s gift was a poor and insufficient token: hence D’s retort that on the contrary it was more than he could afford.
With that, have a very happy birthday Tolkien—and thanks for all the adventures.
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December 12, 2012 9:01 am
Tons of parents vie to have their kid born first every new year. But how many do you think planned to have their kids turn 12, at 12:12, on 12/12/12? Two. Okay, their parents probably didn’t plan it out, but two kids do have twelfth birthdays today at 12:12—Kreg Ryan Gunter from Belleville, Illinois, who turned 12 just past midnight, and Kiam Moriya of Birmingham, Alabama, who’s turning twelve at twelve minutes past noon today.
There might be six other kids with the same six twelves out there somewhere, says The Daily:
Based on statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4 million babies were born in the United States in 2000 — an average of about eight in any given minute. So far though, only these two boys have come to the attention of the media.
But, of course, that’s just an average—no one really knows if there are more of these lucky 12-year-olds and soon-to-be-12-year-olds. Ryan (Kleg goes by his middle name) told The Daily that he had been looking forward to this day since he was 11 (and we know that one year in kid time is like an eternity). Kiam plans to eat Krispy Kreme donuts arranged in the shape of a 12, because “donuts are awesome.”
When explaining why their birthdays were so cool, Kiam said “It’s like one minute out of a whole lifetime,” he said. “You know, it’s all 12s.”
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