Last day of this year and time for my recollections of 2014’s main events.
As always this is by no means meant to be a complete coverage of all the events that happened during 2014, just a personal blog post about some of the things I remember, and a few that I had forgotten until I started to compile this list.
I hope you enjoy.
We will start off with the weather since so many of us seem to be obsessed with it.
In the United States there were weather extremes. In California, for example, January was the warmest and driest on record in San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. Only four other Januaries since 1878 had been completely dry in Los Angeles until January 2014. Alaskans experienced their third warmest January in 96 years of record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
In many parts of the Midwest, on the other hand, 2014 was the coldest winter since the late 1970s or early 1980s. And some southern states of the US became the victims of, firstly, winter storm Kronos which brought a rare blanket of snow as far south as Louisiana, and sleet as far south as Harlingen, Texas and Pensacola, Fla. in late January, and then, just days later, a second winter storm, Leon, hit many of the same areas causing commuter chaos in both Birmingham, Ala. and Atlanta. Leon also spread ice and sleet to the Gulf Coast, including the Florida Panhandle, and the Low country of South Carolina.
And worse was on the way. Winter Storm Pax deposited an inch or more of ice in a swath from east-central Georgia into South Carolina, including Augusta, Ga. and Aiken, S.C. Pax was the second heaviest ice storm dating to 1947 in Wilmington, N.C. The accumulation of ice from Pax claimed the famed “Eisenhower tree” at the Augusta National Golf Club. Pax marked the first time since January 1940 that Columbia, S.C. saw snowfall for three straight days.
In complete contrast, the week after Pax, Columbia, S.C. tied its all-time February high of 84 degrees. Augusta, Ga. warmed into the 80s two straight days on Feb. 19-20.
Elsewhere in the world, severe Atlantic winter storms took their toll on many parts of England which in 2014 experienced storms and rain not seen since the late 19th century.
In Tokyo, Japan, which usually averages only about 4 inches of snow each year, there were also severe snow storms. In February, snow blanketed the city with 11 inches of snow in less than a week, the heaviest snowfall in 45 years for Tokyo and in 60 years for the city of Kumagaya, northwest of Tokyo. The following weekend, parts of eastern Japan, including parts of the Tokyo metro area, received another round of snow. Some smaller communities were isolated by more than 3 feet of snow.
And in the southern hemisphere, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported that more than 10 percent of Queensland and almost 15 percent of New South Wales experienced their record hottest day on Jan. 3. A second heat wave hit parts of southern Australia in mid-January, with temperatures peaking above 41 degrees Celsius (just under 106 degrees Fahrenheit) for four straight days from Jan. 14-17, and reaching a sizzling 43.9 degrees C (111 degrees F) on both Jan. 16 and 17.
Business and Technology
In the world of business and technology 2014 was the year the Obama administration decided to stop inversion deals, where US companies bought foreign domiciled businesses and moved their profit centers to a much more tax friendly location.
In technology buys, one of the largest was Facebook’s purchase of smartphone application WhatsApp for $19 Billion.
In other sectors 2014 saw world oil price plunge to around $50 per barrel, good news for consumers, not so good for producers.
Under pressure from the fall in oil and gas prices, along with the economic sanctions imposed by the west because of the ongoing situation in the Ukraine, the Russian Ruble went into free fall in December.
Also in 2014, in March, the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling program was not scientific but commercial and refused to grant further permits.
With Quantitative Easing having been ended in the US (for the moment anyway) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans for a new $29 billion fresh stimulus, including subsidies and job-creating programs, to help pull the world’s third-largest economy out of recession.
After their embarrassing foul up last Christmas, this year both FedEx and UPS managed to deliver more than 99 percent of express packages as promised on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, according to shipment tracker ShipMatrix.
South Korean prosecutors arrested a government official who allegedly leaked information about an investigation into former Korean Air Lines executive Cho Hyun-ah, who forced a flight to return over a bag of macadamia nuts. Most of the rest of the world tends to think that the idiot executive should suffer the consequences of her stupidity, not the whistleblower.
And finally, after their embarrassing hack attack and cringe-worthy capitulation to what amounted to a terrorist cyber attack which was rightly criticized publicly by President Obama, Sony finally decided to release its movie ‘The Interview’.
Conflicts, Wars & Terrorism
Unfortunately 2014 saw many conflicts and acts of terrorism.
In April an estimated 276 girls and women were abducted and held hostage from a school in Nigeria. The following month, Boko Haram militants killed approximately 300 people in a night attack on Gamboru Ngala and terrorists in Nigeria detonated bombs at Jos, killing 118 people.
June saw the emergence of a Sunni militant group called the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’ (also known as the ‘ISIS’ or ‘ISIL’). It began an offensive throughout northern Iraq, with the aim of eventually capturing the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad and overthrowing the Shiite government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The group has been responsible for beheading of hundreds of people including several from the United States.
In July and August tensions between Israel and Hamas grew following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in July. Israel launched ‘Operation Protective Edge’ on the Palestinian Gaza Strip starting with numerous missile strikes, followed by a ground invasion a week later. In 7 weeks of fighting, 2,100 Palestinians and 71 Israelis were killed.
Also in July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777, crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 souls on board. There are conflicting claims as to who was responsible, some blaming pro Russian forces for a missile strike and others blaming Ukrainian forces.
In August and September the United States military began an air campaign in northern Iraq to stem the influx of ISIS militants and the following month the United States and several Arab partners began an airstrike campaign in Syria.
Expect more on these stories during 2015.
During 2014 we said farewell to many well know people from various walks of life. Here is just my selection of those I remember.
British novelist and playwright (b. 1946)
P. D. James
British writer and life peer
From Movies & TV
Philip Seymour Hoffman
American actress and diplomat
American film director,
writer, and actor
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
writer and actor
American radio host
and voice actor
American actress and singer
American actor and comedian
British actor and film director
American comedian, actress,
and television host
American actor (b. 1939)
Glen A. Larson
American television producer
Golden Age actress
“The Great Ziegfeld”
American singer, songwriter,
musician, and activist
American singer and guitarist
British bass guitarist
British rock bassist
British jazz clarinetist
9th Prime Minister of the
People’s Republic of Poland
11th Prime Minister of Israel
British politician and diarist
138th Prime Minister of Spain
James R. Schlesinger
American economist and politician
A. N. R. Robinson
3rd President of Trinidad and Tobago
American politician and diplomat
2nd President of Georgia
Irish Taoiseach (prime minister)
British politician and
First Minister of Northern Ireland
Prince of Russia
41st President of Haiti
11th Duke of Marlborough,
British peer and educator
21st Prime Minister of Australia
From Space Exploration
Dutch astronaut and physicist
American colonel and astronaut
American professional wrestler
American tennis player
Nelson Frazier, Jr.
American professional wrestler
Australian race car driver
owner of Manchester United
Ukrainian sailor, Olympic triple champion
and silver medalist
Brazilian footballer and manager
Alfredo Di Stéfano
Ukrainian football player and coach
Swedish rally driver
Andrea de Cesaris
Italian race car driver
The big health scare of 2014 that dominated the headlines was the of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa in February, that initially infected over 19,000 people and killing at least 7,000, the most severe both in terms of numbers of infections and casualties.
In other news, also in February, Belgium became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill patients of any age.
On January 1, Latvia officially adopted the Euro as its currency and became the 18th member of the Eurozone.
In February, the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office, replacing him with Oleksandr Turchynov, after days of civil unrest that left around 100 people dead in Kiev. The pro-Russian unrest lead to the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and an insurgency in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
In March, Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela, severed diplomatic and political ties with Panama, accusing it of being involved in a conspiracy against the Venezuelan government.
Also in March, an emergency meeting, involving the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, and Canada temporarily suspended Russia from the G8.
In April, also in response to the Crimean crisis, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution temporarily stripping Russia of its voting rights; its rights to be represented in the Bureau of the Assembly, the PACE Presidential Committee, and the PACE Standing Committee; and its right to participate in election-observation missions.
The same month, United States President Barack Obama began new economic sanctions against Russia, targeting companies and individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In May the Royal Thai Army overthrew the caretaker government of Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan after a failure to resolve the political unrest in Thailand.
Back in Europe, in June, King Juan Carlos I of Spain abdicated in favor of his son, who ascended the Spanish throne as King Felipe VI.
And the political year ended on a positive note, with U.S. President Barack Obama announcing the resumption of normal relations between the U.S. and Cuba after more than half a century.
The major space event of 2014 happened in November when the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Philae probe successfully landed on Comet 67P, the first time in history that a spacecraft has landed on such an object.
The two major world sporting events of 2014 were the XXII Olympic Winter Games, held in Sochi, Russia in February, and the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil, and won by Germany, during June and July.
In American sport the Super Bowl was won by the Seattle Seahawks, the MLB World Series winners were the San Francisco Giants and in basketball the San Antonio Spurs came out on top.
Ice Hockey had three champions in 2014, Canada becoming Olympic champions, Russia world champions and in the NHL the Los Angeles Kings were the victors.
In tennis at the world famous Wimbledon Tournament in England Novak Djokovic became Men’s Singles Champion and Petra Kvitova Ladies Singles Champion, while the men’s and women’s winners of the US Open were Marin Čilić and Serena Williams respectively.
In Soccer, as noted above, Germany won the 2014 World Cup. The European Champions League winners were Real Madrid and the English Premiership was won by Manchester City.
The Formula 1 motor racing champion for 2014 was British driver Lewis Hamilton, who also picked up the award of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
In golf’s major championships, the Masters Tournament, held in April, was won by Bubba Watson by three strokes. It was his second Masters championship.
May saw the BMW PGA Championship where young Northern Ireland man Rory McIlroy birdied the 18th hole to win by one stroke over Irishman Shane Lowry, who also birdied the 18th hole.
In June, U.S. Open winner was Martin Kaymer who won by eight strokes to become the first German player to win the U.S. Open, and the first player to win the Players Championship and the U.S. Open in the same year.
In July, the Open Championship Northern Ireland man Rory McIlroy, was on top again winning by two strokes over Rickie Fowler and Sergio García. It was his third career major championship, and his first Open Championship. With the win, he became the fourth player ever of 25 years old or under to have won at least three majors.
In August, McIlroy was back, winning the PGA Championship by one stroke over Phil Mickelson. He was having quite a year, it was his fourth career major and his second PGA Championship.
Then in September, in the Ryder Cup, Team Europe (also including McIlroy) defeated Team USA by a score of 16½ – 11½. It was the third consecutive Ryder Cup victory for Europe, and also Europe’s fifth consecutive home victory in the Ryder Cup.
In March Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 airliner en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, disappears over the Gulf of Thailand with 239 people on board. The aircraft is presumed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean.
In April Korean ferry MV Sewol capsized and sunk after an unmanageable cargo shift. More than 290 people were killed, mostly high school students.
In May hundreds of workers were killed in mining accident in Turkey.
In July, Air Algérie Flight 5017 crashed in Mali, killing all 116 people on board.
And just a few days ago AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed, wreckage has been found off the coast of Indonesia’s Kalimantan coast.
Welcome to another edition of the classified ads. Those advertisements that didn’t quite turn out as planned in the minds of those who devised them.
The first one reminded me of a small take-away Chinese establishment in a town near where I used to live. A friend and I stopped off there on the way home from work one evening, both of us hungry but not wanting to waste the time going for a sit-down meal.
We ordered our food and all went well. The take-away had an excellent reputation for producing good food and it was always very busy.
Sure enough after about ten minutes or so our ticket was called and I went up to the counter to collect.
It wasn’t the usual girl on duty that evening, but a small rather elderly Chinese lady.
Had it been the usual girl she would have known to pack some utensils, like a plastic fork, in the bag, but instead the little Chinese lady looked up into my face and asked in a heavily accented but loud voice for all to hear,
“D’ya wanna fok?”
There was momentary silence, no one quite knowing what they thought they had heard. Then my mouth got in the way of good sense and I said, “No thanks, I’m just in to get something to eat.”
Then everyone laughed and I made my way out of the place before any further conversation or explanation.
As it turns out the joke was on me in the end because I left without getting a ‘fok’ so the meal had to wait until I got home.
So that by way of anecdotal introduction leads us nicely to today’s classifieds.
Today we have another ‘significant’ number, fourteen, so-called because of its use and the beliefs surrounding it.
The number 14 seems to have some regal significance, particularly where these two Royals were concerned:
ascended to the throne on May 14th, 1643 (1+6+4+3=14);
he was saved by Turenne at Blema in 1652 (1+6+5+2=14);
in accordance with an Edict of Charle V, he was declared major at 14 years and governed himself in 1661 (1+6+6+1=14);
he built the Hotel of the Invalids in 1670 (1+6+7+0=14);
he died in 1715 (1+7+1+5=14), at the age of 77 years old (7+7=14);
having reigned 72 years (7×2=14).
England’s King Henry IV
was born 14 centuries, 14 decades and 14 years after the Christian era;
he came into the world on December 14th ;
he died on May 14th :
he lived 4 x 14 years, 14 weeks and 14 days.
The atomic number for Silicon is 14.
The approximate atomic weight of nitrogen 14.
There are fourteen ascending and downward days of the moon.
The fourteenth year is, for the man, the year of the puberty.
The fingers of each of the two hands are composed of fourteen phalanxes.
February 14th is Saint Valentine’s Day, a fact most men are not allowed to forget.
In the Bible
There are fourteen generations from Abraham to David;
The fourteen epistles written by saint Paul, having on the whole 100 chapters and adding up 2335 verses;
With the return of Exile, after the rebuilding of the Temple, the Israelis celebrated the Passover the fourteenth day of the first month; (Ezr 6,19)
Jacob worked fourteen years for his uncle Laban in order to be able to marry his daughter Rachel, they had fourteen sons and grandsons; (Gn 29,15-30 and 46,22)
The sufferings of the Christ would have begun fourteen days before Passover to finish with his passion;
Every year, the celebration of the Easter is never done in the same date. At the fourth century after Jesus Christ, it was established that this major feast of the liturgical calendar would be celebrated the first Sunday following the 14th night of lunation of March;
In the Book of Enoch (not included in the Bible) it talks about the fourteen preferential trees which remain always green for all season of the year.
According to the Egyptian legend, the body of Osiris was cut into 14 pieces, 13 of which were found by Isis, the 14th, the penis, having been devoured by the fishes.
In Egypt, the Amenti, area westward of the Nile, where go the souls of deaths, was divided in 14 parts.
Among Greeks, the fourteen days “alcyonians” were the 7 days preceding and the 7 days following the solstice of winter. During this period, the sea was supposed calm so as to allow the “alcyons” to build their nest and to brood. The alcyons came from the Metamorphosis of Ceyx, son of the Star of the morning, Eosphéros (in Latin Lucifer) and his wife Alcyon, girl of Eole.
Fourteen also is:
The number of days in a fortnight;
In traditional British units of weight, the number of pounds in a stone;
A number supposedly ‘encoded’ in much of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach may have considered this number a sort of signature, since given A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc., then B + A + C + H = 14;
A common designation for the thirteenth floor in many buildings for superstitious reasons;
The number of lines in a sonnet;
The Number 14 airship by Alberto Santos Dumont that was used to test the aerodynamics of his 14-bis airplane;
The number of the French department Calvados;
A Storage server manufactured by IBM. It goes by name of “XIV” and is pronounced as the separate letters “X”, “I”, “V”;
The Piano Sonata No. 14, also known as Moonlight Sonata, is one of the most famous piano sonatas composed by Ludwig van Beethoven;
Age 14 is the earliest that the emancipation of minors can occur in the U.S.
Minimum age at which one can work in many U.S states. Some require parental consent while others don’t;
Minimum age at which one can work in most Australian states with parent’s consent;
Minimum age at which one can drive a vehicle in the U.S. with a driver’s license (with supervision of an adult over 18 years of age, and with a valid, unmarked driver’s license, and at least 365 days of experience driving an actual automobile);
The minimum age limit to drive a 50cc motorbike in Italy.
The fourteenth President of the United States was Franklin Pierce (1804–1869) of the Democratic Party, who served from March 4th, 1853 to March 4th, 1857. His VP was William R. King (March 4th, 1853 to April 18th, 1853, when he died of tuberculosis only 45 days into office, the position being vacant from April 18th, 1853 to March 4th, 1857.)
Then There Was The Fourteen Points
‘The Fourteen Points’ was a speech given by US President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. It was the only explicit statement of war aims by any of the nations fighting in World War I, and was intended to assure the country that the Great War was being fought for a moral cause and for postwar peace in Europe.
The Fourteen Points were:
There should be no secret alliances between countries;
Freedom of the seas in peace and war;
The reduction of trade barriers among nations;
The general reduction of armaments;
The adjustment of colonial claims in the interest of the inhabitants as well as of the colonial powers;
The evacuation of Russian territory and a welcome for its government to the society of nations;
The restoration of Belgian territories in Germany;
The evacuation of all French territory, including Alsace-Lorraine;
The readjustment of Italian boundaries along clearly recognizable lines of nationality;
Independence for various national groups in Austria-Hungary;
The restoration of the Balkan nations and free access to the sea for Serbia;
Protection for minorities in Turkey and the free passage of the ships of all nations through the Dardanelles;
Independence for Poland, including access to the sea;
A league of nations to protect “mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small nations alike.”
The Fourteen Points was accepted by France and Italy on November 1, 1918. Britain later signed off on all of the points except the freedom of the seas. The United Kingdom also wanted Germany to make reparation payments for the war, and thought that that should be added to the Fourteen Points.
The speech was delivered 10 months before the Armistice with Germany and became the basis for the terms of the German surrender, as negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The Treaty of Versailles had little to do with the Fourteen Points and was never ratified by the U.S. Senate.
In aviation the designation 14 has been used for several famous aircraft. Best known would be the Grumman F-14 Tomcat which entered the fleet in 1973, replacing the F-4 Phantom II. New variants were introduced in 1987 (the F-14B) and in 1990 (the F-14D).
The designation has also appeared on Soviet/Russian aircraft, the most notable being the Antonov An-14 Pchelka, a utility transport introduced in 1966 and primarily used by the Soviet Air Force, Aeroflot, Afghan Air Force and East German Air Force. Production continued until 1972. Known as the “Little Bee”, it was a twin-engined light STOL utility transport first flown on 15 March 1958. Serial production started in 1966, and about 300 examples were built by the time production ended in 1972. A small number of An-14 are still in airworthy condition.
The Ilyushin Il-14 was a commercial and military personnel and cargo transport aircraft that entered service in 1954.
Apollo 14, launched on January 31st, 1971, was the eighth manned mission in the Apollo program, and the third to land on the Moon. It was the last of the “H missions”, targeted landings with two-day stays on the Moon with two lunar EVAs, or moonwalks.
The astronauts were Commander Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell.
Shepard and Mitchell made their lunar landing on February 5th in the Fra Mauro formation (this had originally been the target of the aborted Apollo 13 mission).
They spent about 33 hours on the Moon, with Shepard famously hit two golf balls on the lunar surface with a makeshift club he had brought from Earth.
Apollo 14 landed in the Pacific Ocean on February 9.
Finally, the No. 14 chair is the most famous chair made by the Thonet chair company. Also known as the bistro chair, it was designed by Michael Thonet and introduced in 1859. It became one of the best-selling chairs ever made with some 50 million being sold between 1859 and 1930. Millions more have been sold since.
Movement 1 from Ludwig Van Beetoven’s famous Moonlight Sonata