Tags Posts tagged with "Valentine’s Day"

Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day penny postcard circa 1909-1911. Image from Beverly C. Tyler's collection

By Beverly C. Tyler

The celebration of Feb. 14 began as an ancient Roman ceremony called the Feast of the Lupercalia. It was on the eve of the Feast of the Lupercalia in the year 270 that Valentinus, a Roman priest, was executed. According to an article in the Nuremberg Chronicle, published in December of 1493, “Valentinus was said to have performed valiant service in assisting Christian Martyrs during their persecution under Emperor Claudius II. Giving aid and comfort to Christians at that time was considered a crime, and for his actions Valentinus was clubbed, stoned and beheaded.” The Roman pagan festivals were spread over the world as the Romans conquered various lands.

Valentine’s Day penny postcard circa 1909-1911. Image from Beverly C. Tyler’s collection

In Britain during the middle ages, these customs were observed and Alban Butler describes that “to abolish the heathens’ lewd, superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls in honour of their goddess . . . several zealous pastors substituted the names of Saints on billets given on this day.” It is also thought that when the early Christian church reorganized the calendar of festival they substituted the names of Christian Saints for the pagan names and allocated Feb. 14 to St. Valentine.

The tradition of sending messages, gifts and expressions of love on Valentine’s Day goes back to at least the 15th century. In 1477, in Britain, John Paston wrote to his future wife, “Unto my ryght wele belovyd Voluntyn – John Paston Squyer.”

By the 17th century, Valentine’s Day was well established as an occasion for sending cards, notes or drawings to loved ones. An early British valentine dated 1684 was signed by Edward Sangon, Tower Hill, London. “Good morrow Vallentine, God send you ever to keep your promise and bee constant ever.”

In America the earliest valentines that are known date to the middle of the 18th century. These handmade greetings were often very artistically done and included a heart or a lover’s knot. They were folded, sealed and addressed without the use of an envelope. Until the 1840s, the postal rate was determined by the distance to be traveled and the number of sheets included, so an envelope would have doubled the cost.

In 1840 Nichols Smith Hawkins age 25 of Stony Brook sent a valentine to his paternal first cousin Mary Cordelia Bayles, age 18. The original does not exist, but her reply, written two days after Valentine’s Day, says a great deal. “Much Esteemed Friend – I now take this opportunity to write a few lines to you to let you know that I received your letter last evening. I was very happy to hear from you and to hear that you hadent forgot me and thought enough of me to send me a Valentine. I havent got anything now to present to you but I will not forget you as quick, as I can make it conveinant I will get something for you to remember me by.

“You wrote that you wanted me to make you happy by becoming yourn. I should like to comfort you but I must say that I cannot for particular reasons. It isn’t because I don’t respect you nor do I think that I ever shall find anyone that will do any better by me. I sincerely think that you will do as well by me as anyone. I am very sorry to hear that it would make you the most miserable wretch on earth if I refused you for I cannot give you any encouragement. I beg to be excused for keeping you in suspense so long and then deny you. Believe me my friend I wouldn’t if I thought of denying you of my heart and hand. I think just as much of you now as ever I did. I cannot forget a one that I do so highly respect. You will think it very strange then why I do refuse you. I will tell you although I am very sorry to say so it is on the account of the family. They do oppose me very much. They say so much that I half to refuse you. It is all on their account that I do refuse so good an offer. I sincerely hope that it will be for the best.”

We don’t know the members of Mary’s family who opposed her marriage to Nichols. Was it her parents who had died in 1836 and 1838 respectively, or the family members that Mary most likely went to live with when she became an orphan at age 16 or 17? Whatever the circumstances  their love for each other continued to bloom.

Four days after replying to the Valentine letter, Mary again replied to a letter from Nichols.  “Dear Cousin – I received your letter yesterday morning. I was very sorry to hear that you was so troubled in mind. I don’t doubt but what you do feel very bad for I think that I can judge you by my own feelings but we must get reconciled to our fate. . . Keep your mind from it as much as you can and be cheerful for I must tell you as I have told you before that I cannot relieve you by becoming your bride, therefore I beg and entreat on you not to think of me anymore as a companion through life for if you make yourself unhappy by it, you will make me the most miserable creature in the world to think that I made you so unhappy. . . I must now close my letter with my love to you. – This is from your most unhappy cousin M__________________ ”

At least two other letters, written the following year, were sent to Nichols from Mary. The letters continued to express the friendship that existed between them. The story does not end there. Mary’s letters are in the Three Village Historical Society archive collection.

On Feb. 11, 1849 (three days before Valentine’s Day), Nichols Smith Hawkins, age 34, married Mary Cordelia Bayles, age 27. Coincidentally, Nichols parents, William Hawkins and Mary Nichols were married on Valentine’s Day in 1813. Nichols and Mary raised three children who lived beyond childhood (two others died in 1865 within a month of each other). Nichols was a farmer and the family lived in Stony Brook. Mary died January 30, 1888 at the age of 66 and Nichols died February 10, 1903, at the age of 88. They are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Stony Brook.

Valentines became fancier and more elaborate through the second half of the 19th century. After 1850 the valentine slowly became a more general greeting rather than a message sent to just one special person. The advent of the picture postal card in 1907, which allowed messages to be written on one half of the side reserved for the address, started a national craze that saw every holiday become a reason for sending a postcard and Valentine’s Day the occasion for a flood of one cent expressions of love.

Beverly C. Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Rd., Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit tvhs.org.

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What would Valentine’s Day be without images of a golden-tressed boy armed with bow and arrows? The arrows represent feelings of love and desire, and they are aimed and cast at various individuals, causing them to fall deeply in love — or fall out of it.

In Roman mythology, the boy is known as Cupid and is the son of Venus, the goddess of love. Portrayed as a cherubic and mischievous toddler, this magical boy was purported to be the matchmaker of gods and mortals alike.

For students of Greek mythology, Cupid represents Eros, the Greek word for “desire.” He was the son of Aphrodite, Venus’ Hellenistic counterpart, and would play with the hearts of mortals and gods, sometimes leaving mayhem in his wake. In Greek mythology, Eros was more teenager than bubbly baby, and capitalized on his status as a heartthrob rather than the cherubic status of Roman mythology, according to Richard Martin, a Stanford University professor. While Cupid may have been an adorable imp, some historians say Eros had a darker side, going so far as to describe him as calculating and sinister — forcing the wrong people into lovelorn matches.

According to Museum Hack, while Cupid could make people fall in and out of love, he also was once in love himself. In this telling, Cupid is a young man when Venus learns that a mortal girl is born with such great beauty that others start to forget to worship Venus, adoring this girl instead. Upset about the misdirected adoration toward this mortal, Venus asks Cupid to have the girl, Psyche, fall in love with a monster. Cupid agrees, but once he sees Psyche he “accidentally” hits himself with one of his own golden arrows and falls in love with Psyche. The resulting match does not prove easy, and through a series of unfortunate events, Psyche must prove her love to Cupid and accomplish various tasks to win back his heart. Eventually, Psyche does and achieves goddess status.

Cupid has been portrayed both as a young man and child through Renaissance art and beyond. When Valentine’s Day became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, Cupid was linked to Valentine’s Day celebrations due to his matchmaking abilities. His popularity only continued in the early 20th century, when Hallmark began to manufacture Valentine’s Day cards featuring Cupid.

Cupid helped push people together in ancient mythology, and he can even be the catalyst for modern day matchmaking as well.

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Building heart-healthy habits improves the likelihood we’ll be around for those we love

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

This February, we celebrate both Valentine’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate those we love, as well as American Heart Month, a chance for us to build awareness of heart-healthy habits.

The good news is that heart disease is on the decline due to a number of factors, including better awareness in lay and medical communities, improved medicines, earlier treatment of risk factors and lifestyle modifications. We are headed in the right direction, but we can do better. Heart disease is something that is eminently preventable.

Reducing our risks

Risk factors for heart disease include obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. Unfortunately, both obesity and diabetes are on the rise. For patients with type 2 diabetes, 70 percent die of cardiovascular causes (1). However, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking have declined (2).

Inactivity and the standard American diet, rich in saturated fat and calories, also contribute to heart disease risk (3). The underlying culprit is atherosclerosis, fatty streaks in the arteries.

Another potential risk factor is a resting heart rate greater than 80 beats per minute (bpm). In one study, healthy men and women had 18 and 10 percent increased risks of dying from a heart attack, respectively, for every increase of 10 bpm over 80 (4). A normal resting heart rate is usually between 60 and 100 bpm. Thus, you don’t have to have a racing heart rate, just one that is high-normal. All of these risk factors can be overcome.

When medication helps reduce risk

Cholesterol and blood pressure medications have been credited to some extent with reducing the risk of heart disease. The compliance with blood pressure medications has increased over the last 10 years from 33 to 50 percent, according to the American Society of Hypertension.

In terms of lipids, statins have played a key role in primary prevention. Statins are effective at not only lowering lipid levels, including total cholesterol and LDL — the “bad” cholesterol — but also inflammation levels that contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Jupiter trial showed a 55 percent combined reduction in heart disease, stroke and mortality from cardiovascular disease in healthy patients — those with a slightly elevated level of inflammation and normal cholesterol profile — with statins.

The downside of statins is their side effects. Statins have been shown to increase the risk of diabetes in intensive dosing, compared to moderate dosing (5).

Unfortunately, many on statins also suffer from myopathy (muscle pain). I have had a number of patients who have complained of muscle pain and cramps. Their goal when they come to see me is to reduce and ultimately discontinue their statins by following a lifestyle modification plan involving diet and exercise. Lifestyle modification is a powerful ally.

Making lifestyle changes

The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, a prospective (forward-looking) study, investigated 501 healthy men and their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The authors concluded that those who consumed five servings or more of fruits and vegetables daily with <12 percent saturated fat had a 76 percent reduction in their risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who did not (6). The authors theorized that eating more fruits and vegetables helped to displace saturated fats from the diet. These results are impressive and, to achieve them, they only required a modest change in diet.

The Nurses’ Health Study shows that these results are also seen in women, with lifestyle modification reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD). Many times, this is the first manifestation of heart disease in women. The authors looked at four parameters of lifestyle modification, including a Mediterranean-type diet, exercise, smoking and body mass index. There was a decrease in SCD that was dose-dependent, meaning the more factors incorporated, the greater the risk reduction. There was as much as a 92 percent decrease in SCD risk when all four parameters were followed (7). Thus, it is possible to almost eliminate the risk of SCD for women with lifestyle modifications.

Monitoring your risk of heart disease

To determine your progress, we use cardiac biomarkers, including inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index. 

In a cohort study of high-risk participants and those with heart disease, patients implemented extensive lifestyle modification: a plant-based, whole foods diet accompanied by exercise and stress management. The results showed an improvement in biomarkers, as well as in cognitive function and overall quality of life. The best part is the results occurred over a very short period to time — three months from the start of the trial (8). Many patients I have seen have had similar results.

Ideally, if patient needs to use medications to treat risk factors for heart disease, it should be for the short term. For some patients, it may be appropriate to use medication and lifestyle changes together; for others, lifestyle modifications may be sufficient, as long as patients take an active role.

By focusing on developing heart-healthy habits, we can improve the likelihood that we – and those we love – will be around for a long time.


(1) Diabetes Care. 2010 Feb; 33(2):442-449. (2) JAMA. 2005;293(15):1868. (3) Lancet. 2004;364(9438):93. (4) J Epidemiol Community Health. 2010 Feb;64(2):175-181. (5) JAMA. 2011;305(24):2556-2564. (6) J Nutr. March 1, 2005;135(3):556-561. (7) JAMA. 2011 Jul 6;306(1):62-69. (8) Am J Cardiol. 2011;108(4):498-507.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com. 

Photo by Tom Caruso


Tom Caruso of Smithtown sent in this incredible photo just in time for Valentine’s Day. He writes, ‘I recently installed a bird feeder in my backyard and I’ve been able to photograph some very beautiful birds. None is as beautiful as this male Northern Cardinal. This regal bird was taking a break from dining at my feeder when I snapped this picture.  My camera was able to capture an amazing amount of detail in his feathers.’

 The Cardinals

By Ellen Mason, Stony Brook

A flash of brown and orange,

A dash of red and black,

The cardinals have returned.

I’m delighted that they’re back. 


Nuts fall from the feeder,

The couple share a seed,

Then fly into my berry bush.

The male bird takes the lead. 


He’s dressed in bright red plumage,

His eyes are sharp and bright.

He listens to the other birds

But keeps his mate in sight. 


Chickadees and bluejays

Have mounted an attack.

Cardinals will not give an inch

And take the feeder back. 


Have they come here for a reason?

With a message to impart?

Bringing solace, peace and comfort 

To my sad and lonely heart?


Perhaps this is the moment

To reflect on life and love,

And thank the lovely cardinals

As they fly off high above.

Send your Photo of the Week to [email protected]

METRO photo

Hearts abound on February 14, and few symbols (and gifts) are more widely associated with a holiday than heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are with Valentine’s Day.

Chocolates became trendy in the mid-19th century when the first chocolate bar was made by British company J.S. Fry & Sons by combining cacao powder with sugar and cacao butter to make a rich, melt-in-your-mouth treat that was markedly different than the gritty and greasy drinking chocolate that was losing popularity in Europe. Within a few years, competitor Cadbury introduced the first box of chocolates. It was called the “Fancy Box” and it didn’t take long to become wildly popular.

The marriage of chocolate and heart-shaped boxes seemed a natural progression, but the National Valentine Collectors Association says that heart-shaped boxes actually predate chocolate boxes. Various heart-shaped vessels, including “betrothal pendants” and silver boxes in the shape of hearts, were popularized a century earlier. There even were heart-shaped porcelain boxes as well as ones for sewing.

Having already introduced a chocolate box, Richard Cadbury marketed the first Valentine’s Day box in 1861. It was filled with delicious chocolates, and later could be saved as a keepsake to store special notes or other mementos, according to the North American Packaging Association. Furthermore, the gift fit with Victorian sensibilities in that it was demurely suggestive, NPR reports. Its introduction coincided perfectly with Valentine’s Day, which also soared in popularity around the same time.

Giving chocolate on Valentine’s Day also proved popular in North America. The American chocolate company Hershey’s introduced its Hershey’s Kisses in 1907, and in 1912 the Whitman’s Sampler arrived. In the 1920s, Russell Stover unveiled their own heart-shaped boxes, which today still include the “Red Foil Heart” and the “Secret Lace Heart.” Russell Stover has since become the No. 1 boxed chocolate brand in the United States. Today, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes holding 58 million pounds of chocolate are sold each year and they have become a quintessential symbol of Valentine’s Day celebrations.

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By Barbara Beltrami

Can even a small silver lining be found in the cloud of the COVID-19 isolation? If you and your spouse or significant other are both working from home, you can do a Valentine’s Day brunch. And even if you’re alone, you can do one for yourself, because hey, ya gotta love yourself too. It can be anything from a thick deli sandwich to takeout from your favorite restaurant to whipping up something special at home. If you’re inclined to think the third choice could be fun, I’ve got some great menu items to suggest. I’m thinking a lobster salad with avocado on a croissant, a quiche Lorraine with browned onions or coconut-almond pancakes. Of course, a Bloody Mary, Mimosa or glass of champagne is a must, and to make the whole thing extra special, have your brunch in bed.

Lobster Salad with Avocado

YIELD: Makes 2 servings


1/2 pound lobster meat

1 celery rib, cleaned and finely chopped

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 croissants, sliced open and lightly toasted and buttered

2 large leaves Boston lettuce, washed, drained

1/2 avocado, cut into 4 wedges, then brushed with lemon juice


In a large bowl combine lobster, celery, scallion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper. Lay the croissant halves on two plates; spread lobster mixture on one half and top lengthwise with two avocado wedges, then lay lettuce on top of avocado. Place other croissant half on top and cut croissant in half. Serve with a tossed salad and potato chips.

Quiche Lorraine with Browned Onions

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


Pastry for an 9” pie

4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled, fat reserved 

1 onion, diced

1 cup diced Swiss cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups half and half

Dash nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground white pepper


Preheat oven to 400 F. Line pie plate with pastry and build and flute a substantial crust around rim; place aluminum foil over bottom of crust, then spread pie weights evenly over it. Bake 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, cook diced onion in bacon fat until nicely browned, about 8 to 10 minutes; remove to paper towels to drain. Remove crust from oven; remove pie weights and discard aluminum foil. Reduce oven heat to 375 F. Sprinkle bacon, onion, Swiss cheese and grated cheese evenly over inside of partially baked crust. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, nutmeg and salt and pepper; pour into crust over bacon, onion and cheeses.

Place pie plate on cookie sheet and place on middle rack of oven; bake until knife inserted near edge comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm with fruit salad or spinach salad.

Coconut-Almond Pancakes

YIELD: Makes 2 servings


1 1/4 cups shredded coconut 

1/3 cup sliced almonds

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder 

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup milk

2 small or medium eggs

1 teaspoon coconut extract

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled 

Nonstick cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread coconut and almonds on a baking sheet and toast till lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and let cool; reserve baking sheet; reduce oven temperature to 200 F. In large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In medium bowl whisk together buttermilk, milk, eggs, coconut extract, honey and melted butter. Whisk into dry ingredients just until combined (don’t worry about a few lumps);  let batter rest for 10 minutes. With heat on medium-high, heat a griddle until hot (a few drops of water should bounce when sprinkled); spray with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle 1/4 cup batter onto griddle and spread into 5” round; repeat procedure; flip once till golden brown on both sides; remove to baking sheet and put into oven to keep warm. 

When ready to serve, stack pancakes with coconut and almonds sprinkled between them. Serve hot with maple syrup and sliced mangoes or oranges.

Alexander Boyce
Renowned Magician Alexander Boyce to perform in Valentine’s Day Fundraiser

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will present Alexander Boyce’s Virtual Magic Show on Sunday, February 14 via Zoom from 7 to 8 p.m. Boyce, a renowned magician, performs a fun, live, interactive sleight-of-hand and mind-reading event. Guests will need a deck of cards and some coins on hand if they want to participate.

 Boyce has performed on national television, at The Magic Castle in Hollywood, and was featured recently in The New York Times. The Times has called Boyce “sophisticated.” The Philadelphia Inquirer said he is “enchanting.” The recent New York University graduate also performed in the long-running hit Speakeasy Magick at the McKittrick Hotel in New York City.

Actor Neil Patrick Harris, third from left, speaks with Alexander Boyce, back to camera. Photo by Bjorn Bolinder.

“I’ve spent the last several years touring the world sharing unique magic for the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Jimmy Fallon, and Daniel Craig,” Boyce said. “I’ve worked wonders as a magician for clients like Amazon, Google, and NASDAQ at New York City institutions including The Friars Club, The Players Club, and The Rainbow Room.”

Time Out New York called the show, “highly skilled close-up magic that really leaves you gasping with wonder.” Recently, Boyce was one of the first American magicians to be invited to entertain in Cuba since the revolution.

Tickets for the fundraising event are $40 for Vanderbilt Museum members, $45 for non-members. Each ticket is good for one household. To order, please visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, the need for blood donations has hit a crisis level due to the lack of donors.  To help assist the New York Blood Center (NYBC) increase their blood supply, Senator Mario R. Mattera (2nd Senate District) is sponsoring a blood drive on Sunday, February 14, at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove.  This donation drive will take place from noon to 6 p.m. in the mall’s Center Court.

With nearly 2,000 donations needed every day in New York and New Jersey alone, the current shortage has the potential to have a real effect on those who need blood transfusions.  Every single donation can save up to three lives.

Those most in need of blood include cancer patients, accident, burn, or trauma victims, newborn babies as well as mothers delivering babies, transplant recipients, surgery patients, chronically transfused patients suffering from sickle cell disease or thalassemia, and many more.

Potential donors are required to meet certain criteria including:
• Bring NYBC Blood Donor Card or ID with signature or photo.
• Minimum weight 110 lbs. or more.
• Eligible ages are 16 to 75.  Anyone donating who is 16 years old must have parental permission and anyone who is age 76 and over is required to supply a doctor’s note.
• No tattoos for past 3 months

All donors will receive a New York Blood Center t-shirt and a coupon for Auntie Annie’s pretzels.  Additionally, the NYBC will be doing free COVID anti-body testing for anyone who participates in the blood drive with results being provided via mail.

The entire donation process takes less than an hour and appointments are recommended to ensure minimal waiting time.  To schedule an appointment or for more information, residents should visit Senator Mattera’s website at mattera.nysenate.gov and click on the link on the home page or call the NYBC at 800-933-2566.

Donors with O-negative blood type, or “universal donors,” are especially encouraged to donate, as their blood is essential in emergency situations.  Any potential donor with questions concerning medical eligibility is asked to call 1-800-688-0900.  It is recommended that those donating eat well and drink plenty of fluids prior to their appointment.

“The ongoing crisis is causing a very real and extremely serious shortage of blood supply and it is my hope that all residents who are eligible to donate will join us on Valentine’s Day to show some heart for their fellow Long Islanders.  Each donation has potential to save three lives and all donors will be a Valentine’s Day hero to everyone in our community in need of life saving assistance,” stated Senator Mattera.

Residents are urged to visit Senator Mattera’s website at mattera.nysenate.gov for more information and to make an appointment.

Pony Boy, who was named after a song by the Allman, will greet visitors on Feb. 13. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Smithtown Historical Society, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown hosts a special free event, Love on the Farm, on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Treat your sweetheart to an afternoon of fun romantic activities down on the farm! Enjoy a walk around the property with a petting zoo experience and multiple photo opportunities. Hot cocoa, s’mores, and flowers will be available for purchase. For more information, call 631-265-6768.

Members of the Harbormen Chorus in Stony Brook will serenade beloved mothers for Mother's Day.

2020 was a tough year for singing groups after it became clear that singing was one way to rapidly spread COVID-19. The traditional barbershop singers of the Harbormen Chorus with their director Rob Ozman have been able to keep their spirits up with regular online rehearsals and fellowship this past year, learning some new songs and keeping their singing voices in shape with the old ones too.

For Valentines Day 2021 they have prepared something special, a custom virtual singing Valentine with a song from the whole chorus (each recorded separately and combined by the director) and a video message especially for the recipient. You can order one for $35 by calling “Mr. Cupid” at 631-644-0129. Order by February 7 to ensure the virtual Valentine is ready for the 14th!