[Daily article] May 31: Half-Life 2: Episode One

Half-Life 2: Episode One is a first-person shooter video game, the first
in a series of episodes that serve as the sequel to the 2004 game Half-
Life 2. Originally called Half-Life 2: Aftermath, it was developed by
Valve Corporation and released on June 1, 2006. Episode One, like Half-
Life 2, uses the Source game engine. The game debuted new lighting and
animation technologies, as well as artificial intelligence enhancements
for the sidekick character, Alyx Vance. Episode One tracks scientist
Gordon Freeman and Alyx as they fight in humanity's continuing struggle
against the Combine, an alien race. Gordon wakes up outside the enemy's
base of operations, the Citadel, after being rendered unconscious by the
concluding events of Half-Life 2. During the course of the game, Gordon
travels with Alyx in and around war-torn City 17 as they attempt to
evacuate the city. As the game comes to an end, they are trapped in a
derailing train; their fates are revealed in Episode Two. Critical
reaction was generally positive, especially for the cooperative aspects
of the gameplay, but the game's short length was criticized.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Life_2:_Episode_One>

Today's selected anniversaries:


Mongol invasions: Mongol forces defeated a combined army of
Kiev, Galich, and the Cumans at the Kalchik River in present-day

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[Daily article] May 30: The Bartered Bride

The Bartered Bride is a comic opera in three acts by the Czech composer
Bedřich Smetana, first performed at the Provisional Theatre, Prague, on
30 May 1866. Set in a country village with realistic characters, it
tells the story of how true love prevails over the combined efforts of
ambitious parents and a scheming marriage broker. Originally presented
in a two-act format with spoken dialogue, the opera was not immediately
successful, but it gained rapid popularity after numerous revisions.
Smetana's musical treatment made considerable use of traditional
Bohemian dance forms such as the polka and furiant, creating music which
was accurately folk-like, and considered to be quintessentially Czech in
spirit. After a performance in Vienna in 1892 the opera achieved
international recognition. It reached Chicago in 1893, London in 1895
and New York in 1909, becoming the first, and for many years the only,
Czech opera in the general repertory. Many of these early international
performances were in German, under the title Die verkaufte Braut, and
the German-language version continues to be played and recorded.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bartered_Bride>

Today's selected anniversaries:


Jane Seymour, a former lady-in-waiting, became Queen of England
by marrying King Henry VIII.


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[Daily article] May 29: House of Plantagenet

The House of Plantagenet (1154–1485) was the royal house of all the
English kings from Henry II to Richard III, including the Angevin kings
and the houses of Lancaster and York. In addition to the traditional
judicial, feudal and military roles of the king, the Plantagenets had
duties to the realm that were underpinned by a sophisticated justice
system. They were often forced to agree to constraints on royal power,
such as Magna Carta, in return for financial and military support.
During their reigns, a distinct national identity was shaped by conflict
with the French, Scots, Welsh and Irish, and by the establishment of
English as the primary language. In the 15th century, the Plantagenets
were defeated in France in the Hundred Years' War and beset with social,
political and economic problems. Revolts were triggered by politics and
by the denial of freedoms. English nobles raised private armies, engaged
in private feuds and openly defied Henry VI. Rivalry between the
Yorkists and Lancastrians erupted into the Wars of the Roses. After
Richard III's death ended the reign of the Plantagenets, Henry VII
founded the Tudor dynasty.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Plantagenet>

Today's selected anniversaries:


With the conquest of Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire fell
to the Ottomans.

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[Daily article] May 28: The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth is a 1961 children's adventure novel by Norton
Juster with illustrations by Jules Feiffer (pictured). It tells the
story of a bored young boy named Milo, who unexpectedly receives a magic
tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, drives through
it in his toy car. The tollbooth transports him to the Kingdom of
Wisdom, once prosperous, now troubled. There, he acquires two faithful
companions and goes on a quest to restore to the kingdom its exiled
princesses, named Rhyme and Reason. The text is full of puns and
wordplay; many events, such as when Milo unintentionally jumps to
Conclusions (an island in Wisdom), explore the literal meanings of
idioms. A major theme of the book is a love for education. Although the
book was not expected to sell well, it received strong reviews and has
sold in excess of three million copies. It has been adapted into a film,
opera, and play, and translated into many languages. Critics have
compared its appeal to that of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland and to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_Tollbooth>

Today's selected anniversaries:


Anglo-Spanish War: The Spanish Armada, with 130 ships and over
30,000 men, set sail from Lisbon for the English Channel in an attempt
to invade England.

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[Daily article] May 27: A Quiet Night In

"A Quiet Night In" is the second episode of the British dark comedy
anthology series Inside No. 9. Written by Reece Shearsmith (pictured)
and Steve Pemberton, it first aired on 12 February 2014 on BBC Two. It
stars the writers as a pair of hapless burglars attempting to steal a
painting from the large, modernist house of an oblivious quarreling
couple, played by Denis Lawson and Oona Chaplin—a granddaughter of the
silent film star Charlie Chaplin. The episode progresses almost entirely
without dialogue, relying on physical comedy and slapstick. Critics
generally responded positively to the episode, and a particularly
laudatory review by David Chater was published in The Times. On its
first airing, the episode was watched by 940,000 viewers (4.8% of the
market). It was submitted to the British Academy of Film and Television
Arts for their 2015 awards, but was not nominated. Pemberton and
Shearsmith are not planning any further silent episodes for Inside No.
9, but they have continued the use of experimental formats, including in
the 2015 split screen episode "Cold Comfort".

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Quiet_Night_In>

Today's selected anniversaries:


John, who would posthumously become known as one of the most
reviled Kings of England, was crowned at Westminster Abbey.


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[Daily article] May 26: Paul Collingwood

Paul Collingwood (born 26 May 1976) was until 2011 a regular member of
the England Test cricket team. He is a batting all-rounder, and a
medium-pace bowler. His 206 during the 2006–07 Ashes series was the
first double century by an England batsman in Australia for 78 years.
Three consecutive match-winning performances at the end of the 2006–07
Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia brought him enthusiastic approval
in the British media, helping to secure the trophy for England. In 2010
he led the England team to their first International Cricket Council
Trophy, the 2010 World Twenty20. He has made the most One Day
International (ODI) appearances for England and was, until recently
passed by Ian Bell, the leading ODI run scorer. He announced his
retirement from Test cricket in January 2011, during the 5th Test of the
2010–11 Ashes series. He finished on a high, becoming a three-time
Ashes winner as England won a series in Australia for the first time in
24 years, with three innings victories contributing to a 3–1 win. He
is regarded as one of the finest fielders of his time.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Collingwood>

Today's selected anniversaries:


Armenian rebels were defeated by forces of the Sassanid Empire
on the Avarayr Plain in Vaspurakan, but the loss played a major factor
in their being granted religious freedom 33 years later.

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[Daily article] May 25: Operation Copperhead

Operation Copperhead was a small military deception operation run by the
British during the Second World War. Conceived by Dudley Clarke, it was
intended to mislead German intelligence as to the location of General
Bernard Montgomery (pictured) just before the 1944 invasion of Normandy.
The German high command expected Montgomery, one of the best-known
Allied commanders, to play a key role in any cross-channel bridgehead.
Clarke and the other deception planners reasoned that a high-profile
appearance outside England would suggest that an Allied invasion was not
imminent. An appropriate look-alike was found, M. E. Clifton James, who
spent a short time with Montgomery to familiarise himself with the
general's mannerisms. On 26 May, James flew to Gibraltar and then to
Algiers, making appearances where the Allies knew German intelligence
agents would spot him, but the operation did not appear to have any
significant impact on German plans. James later wrote a book about the
operation, I Was Monty's Double, which was adapted into a film, with
James in the lead role.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Copperhead>

Today's selected anniversaries:

240 BC:

The Chinese chronicle Records of the Grand Historian recorded
the first confirmed sighting of Halley's Comet, the first comet to be
recognized as periodic.

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[Daily article] May 24: Push the Button (Sugababes song)

"Push the Button" is a song by the English girl group the Sugababes,
released as the lead single from their fourth studio album Taller in
More Ways (2005). Composed by Dallas Austin and the Sugababes as an
electropop and R&B; song with various computer effects, it was inspired
by an infatuation that one of them (Keisha Buchanan) developed for
another artist. Critics praised the song's conception and production,
and some of them named it one of the best pop singles of the 2000s. The
song became one of the group's most commercially successful releases,
peaking at number one in Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United
Kingdom, and reaching the top five across Europe and in Australia. It
was nominated for Best British Single at the 2006 BRIT Awards. Matthew
Rolston directed the song's music video, which was filmed in Shepherds
Bush, London; it features the Sugababes flirting with three men in an
elevator. The group performed the single at Oxegen 2008, V Festival
2008, and other festivals and events. "Push the Button" appears on the
soundtrack to It's a Boy Girl Thing (2006).

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Push_the_Button_(Sugababes_song)>

Today's selected anniversaries:


The Act of Toleration became law in England, granting freedom
of worship to Nonconformists under certain circumstances, but
deliberately excluding Catholics.

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[Daily article] May 23: Spanish conquest of Petén

The Spanish conquest of Petén was the last stage of the conquest of
Guatemala, a prolonged conflict during the Spanish colonisation of the
Americas. The Itza, the Yalain, the Kowoj, and other Maya populations in
Petén were engaged in a complex web of alliances and enmities before
the conquest. Petén was first penetrated by Hernán Cortés with a
sizeable expedition that crossed the territory from north to south in
1525. In the first half of the 16th century Spain established
neighbouring colonies in Yucatán to the north and Guatemala to the
south. In 1622 a military expedition from Yucatán led by Captain
Francisco de Mirones was massacred by the Itza. In 1628 the Manche Ch'ol
of the south were placed under the administration of the colonial
governor of Verapaz within the Captaincy General of Guatemala. In 1695
another expedition tried to reach Lake Petén Itzá from Guatemala.
Martín de Ursúa y Arizmendi captured Nojpetén, the island capital of
the Itza kingdom, in 1697, defeating the last of the independent native
kingdoms in the Americas and incorporating them into the Spanish Empire.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_conquest_of_Pet%C3%A9n>

Today's selected anniversaries:


Hundred Years' War: Joan of Arc was captured at the Siege of


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[Daily article] May 22: Frigatebird

Frigatebirds are a family—Fregatidae—of seabirds found across all
tropical and subtropical oceans. The five living species are classified
in a single genus, Fregata. All have predominantly black plumage, long,
deeply forked tails and long hooked bills. Their pointed wings can span
up to 2.3 metres (7.5 ft), with the largest wing area to body weight
ratio of any bird. Females have white bellies and males have a
distinctive red gular pouch, which they inflate during the breeding
season. Able to soar for days on wind currents, frigatebirds spend most
of the day in flight hunting for food. They mainly eat fish and squid
that have been chased to the surface by large predators such as tuna.
Frigatebirds are kleptoparasites as they occasionally rob other seabirds
for food, and are known to snatch seabird chicks from the nest. Three of
the five species are widespread, while two are endangered and restrict
their breeding habitat to one small island each. The oldest fossils date
to the early Eocene, around 50 million years ago; classified in the
genus Limnofregata, those birds had shorter less-hooked bills and longer
legs, and lived in a freshwater environment.

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frigatebird>

Today's selected anniversaries:


Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, and Danish King Christian IV
signed the Treaty of Lübeck to end Danish intervention in the Thirty
Years' War.

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[Daily article] May 21: 1987 Giro d'Italia

The 1987 Giro d'Italia was the 70th event in the series, one of
cycling's Grand Tour races. It began on 21 May with a 4 km (2.5 mi)
prologue in San Remo, and concluded on 13 June with a 32 km (19.9 mi)
individual time trial in Saint-Vincent. A total of 180 riders from 20
teams entered the 22-stage, 3,915 km (2,433 mi) race. Defending
champion Roberto Visentini of the Carrera Jeans–Vagabond team led the
first stage, and Dutchman Erik Breukink led the second. Irishman Stephen
Roche, Visentini's teammate, took the overall lead after his team won
the stage three team time trial. Visentini regained the lead for two
days, but Roche rode ahead of him in the fifteenth stage, against orders
from the team management, and held onto the lead for the win. Second
place was taken by British rider Robert Millar, and Breukink took third.
It was the second time in the history of the Giro that there were no
Italian riders on the winners' podium. Roche was the second rider ever
to win the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France, and the World Championship
road race in the same year, a feat commonly called the Triple Crown of

Read more: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1987_Giro_d%27Italia>

Today's selected anniversaries:


King Henry III of Castile sent an embassy to the court of Timur
(Tamerlane) to discuss the possibility of an alliance between Timur and
Castile against the Ottoman Empire.

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