Friday, November 8, 2013

It's Another Guest Post From Elaine!

Wikipedia is Useful for at Least One Thing...

Some people go looking for blog prompts when they can't think of what to write about on their blog.

Not me.

I've tried that, and it hardly ever works. But, sometimes I just can't find any inspiration. Or, I've got plenty of inspiration, but I know if I write about what is inspiring me at the moment, I'll just end up ranting and sounding like a loon.

What do I do when that happens?

I click over to Wikipedia. Goodness knows, it needs to be good for something. And that's all the editorializing I'll do about the Wiki for today, because I'm really trying to avoid getting belligerent here right now. Maybe I'll write about it some other time, when I really feel like going full howl. But not now.

Anyway, as I write this, it just turned into October 28 in my time zone about 40 minutes ago. Which means that I should at least be trying to sleep. But, there's a storm coming in, I've got a headache, and I've been having some really strange dreams lately. Right now staying awake seems to be the better alternative.

And so, I'm looking at the Wikipedia page for October 28. Just, you know, to see what happened on this day in history. That's one of the things I'm really geeky about. I like knowing, on any given day, what has happened on that day in history. Or, depending on how far back we're talking, on approximately this day in history. You know, calendar changes and all that. Which is yet another topic for another time.


Now, I don't really trust that Wikipedia is completely correct in these entries for each day of the year. But I figure most of the dates are probably more or less in the ballpark. Close enough, at least, for government work, as my father used to say.

The first thing about October 28 that catches my eye is that it is a day for milestones related to universities. In 1538, so Wikipedia tells me, the first University in the western hemisphere was establised, the Universidad SantoTomas de Aquino. Clicking over to the wiki entry on the university, I discover that this was originally an Roman Catholic seminary run my the Dominican Order and was made an official university by a papal bull issued by Pope Paul III on this date in 1538.

And then, in 1636, the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay colony voted to establish the first college in what is today the United States. We know that school today as Harvard University, named after John Harvard.

October 28 is also, so Wiki tells me, a day of earthquakes, at least in Japan. On October 28, 1707, the Hoei earthquake hit the nation, causing over 5,000 deaths and perhaps the last eruption, 49 days later of Mount Fuji. The quake has been estimated to have been around magnitude 8.6. Then, on the same day in 1891, another quake, this one estimated to be about magnitude 8.0, hit Gifu Prefecture. It was the laragest quake ever recorded inland in Japan. This quake is known as the Mino-Owari earthquake.

A few years before the Mino-Owari quake, on October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. This was probably a much more popular thing than what happened on October 28, 1919, when the Senate followed the previous day's action by the House of Representatives in voting to override President Woodrow Wilson's veto of the Volstead Act, which established Prohibition the following January, making it illegal to use alcholic beverages for other than medicinal or industrial purposes. Prohibition was not repealed until 1933. The interesting thing about all of this is that when Prohibition went into effect on January 17, 1920, so the story goes, it took all of 59 minutes for the first known violation of the Act to occur. I think that should have been a hint that separating people from their alcoholic beverages was probably not going to work out all that well.

On October 28, 1958, John XXIII was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. On the same day in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis ended with the world relieved that there was still a world in existence. And on October 28, 1965, construction on the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, was completed. Building of the arch had begun on February 12, 1963.

And those are just the things that strike me as interesting on a quick read-through of the list of events for October 28. Just in those things that interested me most, there are possibilities for at least 9 or 10 potential blog posts lurking, more than that if you consider side topics suggested by the different events. Side topics such as my own experiences in earthquakes (having lived pretty much all my life in California, I've had a few expereinces with quakes). Or the whole question, posed by Prohibition, of whether or not it is really possible to legislate moraltiy.

You get the idea. I could have chosen any day of the year. Wikipedia has an entry for each day of the year with events, birthdays of the famous and the not-necessarily-so-famous, and a list of those (theoretically) famous people who died on that day. Or, instead of a day of the month, I could have chosen to look at the page for a year. Or a year in movies, or in music, or in television. That is one thing about Wikipedia - there's a lot of information there if you're willing to fact check, and not take Wiki's word at face value. For example, if I were writing a serious piece on any of the topics I've named above, I would have made sure to fact check names, dates, and locations, at the very least.

There is more than one way to arrive at topics to blog about. But, as methods go, I like my Wikipedia method a lot more than going off in search of writing prompts that are all to often either silly or way too personal to write about on a blog that God and everybody can see if they want.

Not that I don't get personal in my blogging from time to time. But, you know, TMI is a real problem on the Internet, and in blogs, and some of the blog prompts I've seen can potentially send the writer places I'm really not willing to go in my blogging.

Which, I suppose, brings up another interesting topic for a blog, one that I might use one day: How much information, really, is too much information to share with the whole world in a blog post or a comment on Facebook or a message board or in a comment on someone else's blog?

Stay tuned. I just might tackle that subject one day.

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