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11 Things That Happened on Other Cool Dates

11/22/11 is the 791st anniversary of Frederick II being crowned Holy Roman Emperor, the 293rd anniversary of Blackbeard’s beheading, the 254th anniversary of the Austrian defeat of Prussia in the Seven Years’ War’s Battle of Breslau, the 48th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and what would have been novelist George Eliot’s 192nd birthday. (Also: Toy Story turns 16 today.)

So many distinctions and yet 11/22/11 may only be the second coolest date in the last 11 days. But its proximity to the ever-so-flossy 11/11/11 should not keep us from celebrating its place among history’s very fun numerical dates. In honor of its coolness, here are some things that happened on other fun dates in history.

1. 7/8/9 (July 8, 1709): The Russians defeated the Swedes in the Battle of Poltava.

“But, why were they fighting?” you ask. Well, it was a part of the Great Northern War in which Tsar Peter the Great’s Russia and his allies in Denmark-Norway, Saxony, and Poland-Lithuania challenged the supremacy of the Swedish Empire. Russia’s decisive victory at Poltava (in modern-day Ukraine) pretty much sealed the deal establishing Russia as a major power in that part of the world and sending the Swedish Empire, under their teenage leader Karl XII, into a power decline. As you know, the date also explains very clearly why 6 was so very afraid of 7.

2. 3/3/3 (March 3, 1803) The first impeachment trial for a federal judge began.

Then-Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature, John Pickering has the proud distinction of being the first United States federal official to be removed from office after conviction by impeachment. Basically, he just stopped showing up to court and many contended that he had simply gone bonkers.

After a bit of a political debate regarding the constitutionality of the removal of a federal official for something not considered a high crime or misdemeanor, then-Prez TJ sent evidence to the House of Representatives of Pickering’s drunkenness and unlawful rulings and they voted to impeach. The Senate voted to convict. And that was that.

3. 1/2/3 (January 2, 1903): Teddy Roosevelt shut down a Mississippi Post Office.

President Theodore Roosevelt shut down the post office in Indianola, Mississippi, for its racially motivated mistreatment of black postmistress, Minnie Cox. Racist politicians pointed to Cox’s position as evidence that blacks had attained too much power and demanded her removal. The postmistress was also threatened with violence and local law enforcement refused to provide appropriate protection. Fearing for her safety, she resigned her position and left town. The next day, the President closed down the post office, declined Ms. Cox’s resignation and continued her salary. Indianola residents were told that their mail could be collected at the Greenville post office 30 miles away.

Though Roosevelt could not keep the post office closed because the county was entitled to one by statute and though Cox did not accept the reappointment, it was still a pretty cool move by Teddy.

4. 11/11/11 (November 11, 1811): Cartagena, Colombia, declared its independence, the first Colombian province to do so.

The colonial city was established in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia and was named for a town in Spain from which many of his sailors had come. After existing under Spanish rule for 275 years, on 11/11/1811, Cartagena became independent of Spanish rule and now, as a beach resort city, is a popular tourist destination and center of economic activity in Columbia.

Every 11/11, Cartagena’s independence is celebrated with parades and dance performances. The central event of the day is the crowning of the queen of the Concurso Nacional de Belleza (national beauty contest) in which the two most important moments are the Desfile de Balleneras, where the contestants and their entourages parade their good looks via yachts and sailboats around the Bay of Cartegena, and when the bathing-suit-clad contestants parade around the pool at the Hilton. If you were not in Cartegena on 11/11, I am not sure why not.

5. 12/12/12 (December 12, 1812): The French invasion of Russia came to an end.

A major turning point in the Napoleonic Wars, the Little Corporal’s invasion of Russia was a pretty costly move, reducing his army to a small fraction of its size prior to the invasion. He could have quit while he was ahead with basically all of Europe under either his direct or indirect control. But, noooooo. He had to go and invade Russia because Tsar Alexander wouldn’t buy into the whole Napoleonic economic system.

The French armies were not prepared for the different and less agriculturally-rich Russian landscape and, in the course of the invasion, Napoleon’s Grande Armee became not nearly as grande. They lost more soldiers to desertion, starvation, and disease than they lost in actual battles with the Russians.

6. 1/1/1 (January 1, 1901): Australia became a commonwealth.

Previously six separate colonies, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia became states united under a federal government and began operating under the Constitution of Australia. The federation of Australia, as this process become known, also lends its name to a type of architecture that was popular during the time. As we all, of course, know, Federation architecture is similar to Edwardian architecture but stands out because of the use of verandah and images of distinctly Aussie plants and animals (yes, kangaroos and kookaburra included).

7. 8/8/8 (August 8, 1908): A Wright Brother proved the French wrong.

Wilbur Wright made his first public flight at the Hunaudieres racecourse near Le Mans, France. Prior to the public display, the press was openly skeptical about the Wright Brothers’ claim of having flown. One newspaper stated of the brothers, “They are in fact either flyers or liars. It is difficult to fly. It is easy to say, ‘We have flown.’” Well, Wibur proved to be a flier, indeed, as his first flight lasted one minute and 45 seconds and featured crafty turns and maneuvers that the public had not thought possible. The crowd went wild, headlines were made, and skeptics were silenced.

8. 8/9/10 (August 9, 1910): The washing machine was patented.

Alva Fisher patented the Thor washing machine, the first electric clothes washer sold commercially in the United States. Produced by the Hurley Electric Laundry Equipment Company of Chicago, the Thor was mass marketed throughout the country starting in 1908 and was a major leap ahead from crude early attempts at an automatic washer that usually involved the use of a crank. There is controversy over whether or not Fisher “invented” the automatic washing machine. A different company out of New York, Nineteen Hundred Washing Machine Company, says they invented the electric washing machine in 1906 and some claim that a Ford Motor Company employee invented the electric washer even earlier than that. Regardless, Fisher’s patent is a matter verified by official record and the mighty Thors were certainly the first washers to reach the thunderstruck public, en masse.

9. 11/11/11 (November 11, 1911): Lots of weather craziness went down.

In the Midwest, as many cities broke their record high and low temperatures on the same day. Springfield, Missouri, for example, recorded a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day before dropping to 13 degrees before midnight – a 67-degree drop in 10 hours. In some cities, there were tornadoes on 11/11 followed by blizzards on 11/12. Some folks call that cold snap that impacted the central part of the U.S. “The Great Blue Norther of 11/11/11,” some just call it straight-up, unadulterated meteorological wackiness.

10. 2/2/2 (February 2, 2002): A Prince married an investment banker.

The scandalous marriage between Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Argentine-born NY investment banker Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti occurred on 2/2/2. The controversy surrounding the marriage was unrelated to her involvement with the bulls and the bears — rather, it was regarding her father’s prior role as Argentina’s Minister of Agriculture from 1976-1981 under the military dictatorship. During that time, between 10,000 and 30,000 people just up and disappeared (and are presumed dead), but Maxima’s father insists he was not aware of the government’s actions. The Dutch Parliament conducted an inquiry and verified that the prince’s father-in-law-to-be was being truthful. However, remaining pressure from the public prevented Maxima’s father from attending the wedding.

By the way, the couple met in Spain in 1999 at the Seville Spring Fair. The prince introduced himself simply as “Alexander” and did not tell Maxima that he was a prince until later. She thought he was joking.

11. 10/10/10 (October 10, 2010): The Netherlands Antilles were dissolved.

So, the Netherlands Antilles used to be an autonomous Caribbean country that was a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was made up of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Sint Maarten, and two other groups of small islands. Aruba became a separate country under the Kingdom of the Netherlands umbrella in 1986 and sparked a lengthy series of referendums for the rest of the Antilles, who had to decide whether they wanted to have closer ties with the Netherlands, autonomy within the Netherlands kingdom, independence, or maintenance of the status quo.

After a speedy 24 years of deliberations, the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved in 2010. Curacao and Sint Maarten became constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the other islands became “special municipalities.” If we have any readers in said special municipalities who can explain what that term means, we'd love to hear from you.

I'm a sucker for "what ______ was almost called" trivia, from movies to books to search engines. So leave us your favorite almost-names in the comments!

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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Animals
15 Reasons You Should Appreciate Squirrels
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Even if you live in a big city, you probably see wildlife on a regular basis. Namely, you're sure to run into a lot of squirrels, even in the densest urban areas. And if you happen to live on a college campus, well, you're probably overrun with them. While some people might view them as adorable, others see them as persistent pests bent on chewing on and nesting in everything in sight. But in honor of National Squirrel Appreciation Day, here are 15 reasons you should appreciate the savvy, amazing, bushy-tailed critters.

1. THEY CAN JUMP REALLY, REALLY FAR.

A flying squirrel soars through the air
iStock

In one study [PDF] of the tree-dwelling plantain squirrels that roam the campus of the National University of Singapore, squirrels were observed jumping almost 10 feet at a stretch. In another study with the eastern ground squirrel, one researcher observed a squirrel jumping more than 8 feet between a tree stump and a feeding platform, propelling itself 10 times the length of its body. Flying squirrels, obviously, can traverse much farther distances midair—the northern flying squirrel, for instance, can glide up to 295 feet [PDF].

2. THEY'RE VERY ORGANIZED …

A squirrel digs in a grassy field filled with fallen leaves.
iStock

In fact, they may be more organized than you are. A recent study found that eastern fox squirrels living on UC Berkeley's campus cache their nuts according to type. When given a mixture of walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts, the squirrels took the time to hide each type of nut in a specific place. This method of "spatial chunking" may help them remember where the nuts are when they go to retrieve them later. Though the study wasn't able to determine this for sure, the study's results suggested that the squirrels may have been organizing their caches by even more subtle categories, like the size of the nuts.

3. … BUT THEIR FORGETFULNESS HELPS TREES GROW.

Looking up a tree trunk at a squirrel climbing down
iStock

Tree squirrels are one of the most important animals around when it comes to planting forests. Though they may be careful about where they bury their acorns and other nuts, they still forget about quite a few of their caches (or at least neglect to retrieve them). When they do, those acorns often sprout, resulting in more trees—and eventually, yet more acorns for the squirrels.

4. THEY HELP TRUFFLES THRIVE.

A man holds a truffle up for the camera.
iStock

The squirrel digestive system also plays an important role in the survival of truffles. While above-ground mushrooms can spread their spores through the air, truffles grow below ground. Instead of relying on the air, they depend on hungry animals like squirrels to spread their spores to host plants elsewhere. The northern flying squirrel, found in forests across North America, depends largely on the buried fungi to make up its diet, and plays a major role in truffle propagation. The squirrels poop out the spores unharmed on the forest floor, allowing the fungi to take hold and form a symbiotic relationship with the tree roots it's dropped near.

5. THEY'RE ONE OF THE FEW MAMMALS THAT CAN SPRINT DOWN A TREE HEAD-FIRST.

A squirrel stands on the knot of a tree trunk looking down at the ground.
iStock

You may not be too impressed when you see a squirrel running down a tree, but they're actually accomplishing a major feat. Most animals can't climb vertically down head-first, but squirrel's back ankles can rotate 180°, turning their paws all the way around to grip the tree trunk as they descend.

6. SEVERAL TOWNS COMPETE FOR THE TITLE OF 'HOME OF THE WHITE SQUIRREL.'

A white squirrel in Olney, Illinois stands on its hind legs.
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Squirrels are a more popular town mascot than you might think. Surprisingly, more than one town wants to be known as the "home of the white squirrel," including Kenton, Tennessee; Marionville, Missouri; the Canadian city of Exeter, Ontario; and Brevard, North Carolina, the location of the annual White Squirrel Festival. But Olney, Illinois may be the most intense about its high population of albino squirrels. There is a $750 fine for killing the all-white animals, and they have the legal right-of-way on roads. There's an official city count of the squirrels each year, and in 1997, realizing that local cats posed a threat to the beloved rodent residents, the city council banned residents from letting their cats run loose outdoors. In 2002, the city held a 100-Year White Squirrel Celebration, erecting a monument and holding a "squirrel blessing" by a priest. Police officers wore special squirrel-themed patches for the event.

7. THEY CAN AID STROKE RESEARCH.

An illustration of different regions of the brain lighting up in blue
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Ground squirrels hibernate in the winter, and the way their brains function while they do may help scientists develop a new drug that can limit the brain damage caused by strokes. When ground squirrels hibernate, their core body temperature drops dramatically—in the case of the arctic ground squirrel, to as low as 26.7°F, possibly the lowest body temperature of any mammal on Earth. During this extra-cold hibernation, a squirrel's brain undergoes cellular changes that help its brain deal with reduced blood flow. Researchers are currently trying to develop a drug that could mimic that process in the human brain, preventing brain cells from dying when blood flow to the brain is cut off during a stroke.

8. THEIR FUR MAY HAVE SPREAD LEPROSY IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

A woman in a fur vest with a hood faces away from the camera and stares out over the water.
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If you always warn your friends not to pet or feed squirrels because they can spread disease, put this story in your back pocket for later: They may have helped leprosy spread from Scandinavia to the UK in the 9th century. Research published in 2017 found a strain of leprosy similar to a modern variant found in squirrels in southern England in the skull of a woman who lived in England sometime between 885 and 1015 CE. The scientists suggest that the leprosy may have arrived along with Viking squirrel pelts. "It is possible that this strain of leprosy was proliferated in the South East of England by contact with highly prized squirrel pelt and meat, which was traded by the Vikings at the time this woman was alive," one of the authors told The Guardian. That may not be the most uplifting reason to appreciate squirrels, but it's hard not to admire their influence!

9. THEY'RE MORE POWERFUL THAN HACKERS.

A squirrel runs across a power line.
Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty Images

While energy companies may worry about hackers disrupting the power grid, squirrels are actually far more powerful than cyber-whizzes when it comes to sabotaging our electricity supply. A website called Cyber Squirrel 1 documents every public record of squirrels and other animals disrupting power services dating back to 1987. It has counted more than 1100 squirrel-related outages across the world for that time period, which is no doubt a vast underestimate. In a 2016 survey of public power utilities, wildlife was the most common cause of power outages, and for most power companies, that tends to mean squirrels.

10. THEY CAN HEAT UP THEIR TAILS TO WARD OFF PREDATORS.

A ground squirrel sits with its mouth open.
David McNew, Getty Images

California ground squirrels have an interesting way of scaring off rattlesnakes. Like cats, their tails puff up when they go on the defense. A squirrel will wave its tail at a rattlesnake to convince the snake that it's a formidable opponent. Surprisingly, they whip their tails at their foes whether it's light or dark outside. Squirrels can control the blood flow to their tails to cool down or keep warm, and they use this to their advantage in a fight, pumping blood into their tails. Even if the rattlesnakes can't see the bushy tails, researchers found in 2007, they can sense the heat coming off them.

11. THEY HELP SCIENTISTS KNOW WHETHER A FOREST IS HEALTHY.

A squirrel runs down a tree trunk toward a pile of leaves.
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Researchers look at tree squirrel populations to measure just how well a forest ecosystem is faring. Because they depend on their forest habitats for seeds, nesting sites, and food storage, the presence and demographics of tree squirrels in an area is a good bellwether for the health of a mature forest. Studying changes in squirrel populations can help experts determine the environmental impact of logging, fires, and other events that alter forest habitats [PDF].

12. THEY CAN LIE.

A squirrel with a bushy tail stands on its hind legs.
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Gray squirrels know how to deceive. They can engage in what's called "tactical deception," a behavior previously only seen in primates, as a study in 2008 found. When they think they're being watched by someone looking to pilfer their cache of food, the researchers discovered, they will pretend to dig a hole as if burying their acorn or nut, but tuck their snack into their mouth and go bury it elsewhere.

13. THEY WERE ONCE AMERICA'S MOST POPULAR PET.

A man in a hat kisses a squirrel on the White House grounds
Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Though some states currently ban (or require permits for) keeping squirrels as pets, it was once commonplace. Warren G. Harding kept a squirrel named Pete who would sometimes show up to White House meetings and briefings, where members of Harding's cabinet would bring him nuts. But keeping a squirrel around wasn't just for world leaders—the rodent was the most popular pet in the country, according to Atlas Obscura. From the 1700s onwards, squirrels were a major fixture in the American pet landscape and were sold in pet shops. Despite Harding's love of Pete, by the time he lived in the White House in the 1920s, squirrel ownership was already on the wane, in part due to the rise of exotic animal laws.

14. THE MERE SIGHT OF JUST ONE COULD ONCE ATTRACT A CROWD.

A historical photo of nurses leaning down to feed a black squirrel
Library of Congress // Public Domain

The American cities of the 1800s weren't great places to catch a glimpse of wildlife, squirrels included. In fact, the animals were so rare that in the summer of 1856, when a gray squirrel escaped from its cage inside a downtown New York apartment building (where it was surely living as someone's pet), it merited a write-up in The New York Times. According to the paper, several hundred people gathered to gawk at the tree where the squirrel took refuge and try to coax the rodent down. In the end, a police officer had to force the crowd to disperse. The paper did not document what happened to the poor squirrel.

15. IN THE 19TH CENTURY, THEY WERE TASKED WITH TEACHING COMPASSION.

A boy doing homework with a squirrel on the table.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In the mid-1800s, seeking to return a little bit of nature to concrete jungles, cities began re-introducing squirrels to their urban parks. Squirrels provided a rare opportunity for city slickers to see wildlife, but they were also seen as a sort of moral compass for young boys. Observing and feeding urban squirrels was seen as a way to steer boys away from their "tendency toward cruelty," according to University of Pennsylvania historian Etienne Benson [PDF]. Boy Scouts founder Ernest Thompson Seton argued in a 1914 article that cities should introduce "missionary squirrels" to cities so that boys could befriend them. He and other advocates of urban squirrels "saw [them] as opportunities for boys to establish trusting, sympathetic, and paternalistic relationships with animal others," Benson writes.

But young boys weren't the only ones that were thought to benefit from a little squirrel-feeding time. When the animals were first reintroduced to parks in the 19th century, feeding squirrels was considered an act of charity—one accessible even to those people who didn't have the means of showing charity in other realms. "Because of the presence of urban squirrels, even the least powerful members of human society could demonstrate the virtue of charity and display their own moral worth," Benson writes. "Gray squirrels helped reshape the American urban park into a site for the performance of charity and compassion for the weak." Even if you were too poor to provide any sort of charity for someone else, you could at least give back to the squirrels.

BONUS: THEY USED TO HATE TAX SEASON TOO.

A colored lithograph shows men and dogs hunting squirrels in a forest.
Currier and Ives, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Though notably absent from big cities, much of the U.S. was once overrun by squirrels. The large population of gray squirrels in early Ohio caused such widespread crop destruction that people were encouraged—nay, required—to hunt them. In 1807, the Ohio General Assembly demanded that citizens not just pay their regular taxes, but add a few squirrel carcasses on top. According to the Ohio History Connection, taxpayers had to submit a minimum of 10 squirrel scalps to the town clerk each year. Tennessee had similar laws, though that state would let people pay in dead crows if they couldn't rustle up enough squirrels.

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