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April 28-May 4 

Glogg, May Day and the brown recluse spider

click to enlarge Brown Recluse Spider
  • Brown Recluse Spider

April 28. Birthdate, in 1758, of James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States and the third to die on the Fourth of July.

April 29. A punch called a glogg can be made by heating a bottle of port, a bottle of burgundy and a bottle of the caraway-flavored spirit aquavit, along with half a pound of seedless raisins. After boiling the mixture for several minutes, submerge into it a stick of cinnamon and a handful of cloves wrapped in a cheesecloth bag. Allow to cool and serve with an almond.

April 30. Walpurgis Night begins in most of Central Europe tonight. It is a celebration for witches, socialists, pranksters and builders of bonfires.

May 1. May Day, a holiday of labor unionists and pagans, is celebrated in Scotland by running naked into the North Sea at dawn. The distress call of the same name may be given at any time of year, but only under extreme threat and only if repeated briskly three times so as to avoid it being mistaken for some similar-sounding phrase.

May 2. New moon, 11:51 p.m.

May 3. On this day in 1855, William Walker set sail for Nicaragua with the idea of claiming it as a colony. He found the Nicaraguans to be entirely unfriendly to the idea. After years of minor skirmishes and failed attempts, he was deserted by his men, captured by the government of Honduras, and shot. These sort of unauthorized, quasi-military expeditions to claim another country for one's own were, at that time, called filibusters.

May 4. In spite of allegations to the contrary, the brown recluse spider does not live in California and, as far as we know, never has. A few close relatives live in sparsely populated deserts in southern California and inflict very little harm. University of California scientists hosted a "Show Me the Spider" challenge for many years in which they offered a cash reward to anyone who could collect and send them an actual brown recluse specimen; no one ever claimed the prize. There are brown spiders; there are frightening sores that won't heal. There are not, however, brown recluses in California.

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Amy Stewart

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