Saturday, September 14, 2019

Say Goodbye To Summer And Hello to Autumn

Monday, September 23, 2019, marks the official end of summer and start of autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere—the Autumnal Equinox, the date that daylight and darkness are equal.

Earlier this month, in my little corner of the world we had a delightful taste of the fall weather to come.  That crisp feel in the air with cooler temperatures replacing the heat and dryer air shoving aside the retched humidity of summer.  That change to cool dry air brought a renewed vigor, a revived energy to replace the lackluster feeling resulting from the summer heat and humidity...at least for me.  (Do you get the impression that I don't function well in heat and humidity?)

Just as I love the renewal of life in the spring—bright green new leaves on the trees, colorful flowers, the awakening of nature from winter's long hibernation—I also love the change of the leaves to their brilliant array of fall colors in autumn.  This year we've exceeded our average amount of rainfall, so I'm hoping for a more colorful autumn than we've had the last couple of years.

I can say with all sincerity that I'm happy to welcome the end of summer.  Oh, yeah…also happy to welcome the start of fall.  But it's mostly the end of summer's heat and humidity that thrills me. I do have to admit that the summer of 2019 was a strange mixture of several triple digit temperature days and periods of cooler temperatures. However, we did have many super high humidity days.  Ugh!

Welcome autumn...I'm thrilled to see you!  But, on the other hand, I'm hoping for a mild winter.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

It's Friday the 13th —Does it make you stop and think?

Triskaidekaphobia:  Fear of the number thirteen.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia:  Fear of Friday the 13th.

An obviously irrational concept that a mere number can bring bad luck to someone.  Or that a specific day of the week can be unlucky.  But that doesn't stop us from dwelling on the possibility.

This week gives us Friday the 13th.  The tradition of Friday being a day of bad luck dates back centuries with some of the more common theories linking it to significant events in the Bible believed to have taken place on Friday such as the Crucifixion of Christ, Eve offering Adam the apple in the Garden of Eden, the beginning of the great flood.

Many sources for the superstition surrounding the number thirteen and its association with bad luck also derive from Christianity with the Last Supper being cited as the origin.  Judas was the thirteenth person to be seated at the table.

And when you put the two bad luck symbols together you get Friday the 13th—the day associated with misfortune.

One legend of the origin of Friday the 13th as unlucky comes from the persecution of the Knights Templar. Philip IV of France borrowed enormous sums of money from the very wealthy Templars to finance a war with England. An ineffectual king and an even worse military commander, Philip was easily defeated. He saw a way of both currying favor with the Pope and eliminating his huge debt. On that fateful day of Friday, October 13, 1307, he ordered all Templars arrested and their property seized. The Grandmaster of the order, Jacques DeMolay was thrown in prison along with several other high-ranking members of the order. The Knights Templar, which had dominated medieval life for two centuries, were no more. Unfortunately for Philip, the Templars had learned of his planned treachery before hand. Many of them escaped and their vast stores of treasure were hidden from the King's soldiers. Jacques DeMolay was burned alive after being tortured when he refused to admit to any wrongdoing. Another legend that has also persisted is that Jacques DeMolay cursed both Philip IV and Pope Clement V, as he died. Philip and Clement died within months of DeMolay's death.

Superstition is a belief or notion not based on reason or knowledge.  An irrational belief.  Lots of superstitions came into being during the Dark Ages, a time when living conditions were so severe that people reached out to anything that might bring them help and solace with the results being explanations for what seemed unexplainable at the time.  Religious beliefs and lack of scientific knowledge helped to spawn many superstitions.

Superstitions differ from culture to culture, but we all have them even if it's only paying surface homage to the concept.  We don't believe in the good luck vs. bad luck of chain letters, yet it often comes down to saying what's the harm, then sending the letter on to avoid breaking the chain.

We often follow the tradition of the superstition without really knowing why it's the traditional thing to do.  If we blow out all the candles on our birthday cake with one breath while making a silent wish, then the wish will come true.  When expressing a desire for good luck (we'll be able to go on the picnic if it doesn't rain), we grin, then we knock on wood as we emit an embarrassed chuckle.
In Western folklore, many superstitions are associated with bad luck.  In addition to Friday the 13th, there's walking under a ladder, having a black cat cross your path, spilling salt, stepping on a crack, and breaking a mirror among others.

In addition to cultural superstitions, there's also certain occupations that evoke various rituals to bring on good luck.  It seems to me that gamblers and sports figures have the most superstitions and rituals to insure good luck.

Do you have any superstitions that you hold dear?  Are they more of a traditional situation handed down through your family or are they superstitions that have come down through history?

And I'm sure there won't be any unpleasantries or bizarre accidents this Friday (knock on wood).

Saturday, August 31, 2019

6 INFAMOUS GHOST SHIPS

From the day man first figured out how to travel on the water, it's been an accepted fact that some ships would leave port and never return.  On occasion these lost ships are seen again and again, often minus their crew, seemingly traveling the seas randomly.  These wandering vessels are often referred to as ghost ships.
MARY CELESTE
One of the most famous of the ghost ships, the Mary Celeste was a brigantine with a history of minor accidents, crew illnesses, and embarrassing mishaps.  Suspicious sailors considered it an unlucky ship.  Those sailors were proven right when the ship was found on December 4, 1872, drifting unmanned in the middle of the Atlantic approximately 600 miles from the nearest port.

A popular enhancement to the story, but not true, says the boarding party found still warm and untouched meals when they entered the galley.  In reality, they found nothing amiss except some slight damage to the sails and pumps and the loss or destruction of much of the ship's navigational equipment and documentation.  And the ship's only lifeboat was gone.  The captain's intact log book gave no hint of what happened.  When the vessel was finally steered into Gibraltar, its entire cargo was intact except for 9 mysteriously empty barrels that had contained alcohol.

Modern explanations have fixed on those 9 barrels.  It's theorized that the porous wood allowed the alcohol to evaporate, filling the hold with noxious and explosive vapors.  Fearing an explosion and fire, everyone evacuated the ship in panic.

SS BAYCHIMO
There isn't any mystery concerning the initial loss of the Baychimo, but its continual reappearance is a mystery of its own.  In 1931, the Baychimo became irretrievably mired in pack ice off the coast of Alaska where the crew was able to walk to safety after determining the ship was a write off.  But that didn't stop it from being seen again and again over the next 38 years.  Every attempt by salvage crews to board her were thwarted by freak storms and encroaching ice floes.  The last confirmed sighting was from the air in 1969 showing the wandering ship again mired in heavy pack ice.  To this day the location of the Baychimo is unknown.

SCHOONER JENNY
The Antarctic Circle is known as a dangerous place to sail, spawning many tales of death and tragedy.  One of the most disturbing is the story of the schooner Jenny.  On September 22, 1860, the crew of the whaler Hope sighted a battered ship sailing out from a gap between 2 icebergs with 7 men appearing to be standing at attention on the main deck.  As the Hope drew closer, its crew saw that the men were actually frozen solid.  When they boarded the schooner, the Hope's captain found the Jenny's captain apparently in the middle of writing a log entry.  He, too, was frozen solid.  The last entry in the log book was dated May 4, 1823—almost 40 years earlier.

BOUVET ISLAND ROWBOAT
Bouvet Island is one of the most isolated places on the face of the planet.  The closest land of any kind is the uninhabited coast of Queen Maud Land in Antarctica, 1100 miles away.  It's not on any shipping routes, has no interesting or precious resources, and its sole purpose today is the location of a weather station on one of the few stretches of ground where boats can land.  In 1964 the British and South African government went to Bouvet Island to establish a weather station.  They found a 20 foot boat of a lifeboat or whaler type, a single set of oars, a 40 gallon drum, and a "copper flotation or buoyancy tank" that had been cut open for some unknown reason.  No human remains or traces of habitation were found.  The life threatening weather and aggressive wildlife allowed them only 45 minutes to determine if the area was suitable for the weather station.  The worsening weather forced the crew to return to Cape Town.  Two years later, a follow up expedition found no trace of the rowboat or the damaged equipment.
LADY LOVIBOND
On February 13, 1748, Simon Reed took his new bride, Annette, aboard his ship, Lady Lovibond.  They were going on a cruise to Portugal.  At the time, it was considered bad luck to bring a woman on a ship.  Unfortunately for all on board, the first mate was in love with the captain's wife.  In a fit of jealous rage, he took control of the wheel and steered the Lovibond towards the notorious Goodwin Sands resulting in the death of everyone onboard.  Fifty years later to the day, in 1798, 2 separate ships saw a phantom ship sailing the Goodwin Sands. Then on February 13, 1848, another 50 years later, local fisherman saw a vessel wreck in the area and lifeboats were sent to investigate, but no sign could be found of a ship on the sands.  In 1948, another 50 year increment, the Lovibond was seen again and was described as having an eerie green glow.

And finally, probably the most famous ghost ship of all…
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
What most people probably didn't know (and I'm in that group) was that The Flying Dutchman refers to the captain of the vessel and not to the ship itself.  Several ghost ships have been referred to as The Flying Dutchman, but there was one original candidate.

As the story goes:  Captain Hendrick Van Der Decken was sailing around the Cape of Good Hope headed for Amsterdam.  Even though a terrible storm raged around them, the captain refused to turn back despite the pleadings of the frightened crew.  As monstrous waves attacked the ship, the captain passed the time by singing obscene songs, drinking beer, and smoking his pipe.  Finally, out of desperation, some of the crew mutinied.  The captain, in a drunken stupor, shot the leader and threw his body overboard.  At that time, the clouds overhead parted and a booming voice came down from the heavens. "You're a very stubborn man."

The captain replied, "I never asked for a peaceful voyage.  I never asked for anything, so clear off before I shoot you, too."  Van Der Decken aimed his pistol toward the sky but before he could fire, the pistol exploded in his hand.

"You are condemned to sail the oceans for eternity, with a ghostly crew of dead men, bringing death to all who sight your spectral ship and to never make port or know a moment's peace.  Furthermore, gall shall be your drink, and red hot iron your meat."

Since that time there have been numerous sightings of The Flying Dutchman, quite often by reputable and experienced seamen including Prince George of Wales and his brother, Prince Albert Victor of Wales.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

History Of Labor Day Holiday

The Labor Day holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in September.  This is the same day that Canada celebrates their Labor Day holiday.  This year, that date is September 2, 2019.

The history of Labor Day in the U.S. goes back to the labor movement of the late 1800s and became an official federal holiday in 1894, celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.  Prior to 1894, workers who wanted to participate in Labor Day parades would forfeit a day's pay.

Over the ensuing decades, Labor Day has come to symbolize something else, too.  In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the official beginning and ending of the summer, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the summer season that unofficially started on Memorial Day weekend (the fourth Monday in May in the U.S.).
What led up to the creation of a holiday specifically designated to honor and celebrate the workers and their accomplishments?  The seeds were planted in the 1880s at the height of America's Industrial Revolution when the average American worked 12 hour days/7 days a week in order to manage a basic living.  Although some states had restrictions, these workers included children as young as 5 years old who labored in the mills, factories and mines earning a fraction of the money paid to the adults in the same workplace.  Workers of all ages were subjected to extremely unsafe working conditions in addition to insufficient access to fresh air and sanitary facilities.
Labor Unions had first appeared in the late 1700s.  As America changed from an agrarian society into an industrial one, these labor unions became more vocal and began to organize rallies and strikes in protest of poor working conditions and low wages.  Many of these events turned violent.  One prominent such incident was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 where several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Other rallies were of a more positive nature such as September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off from their jobs and held the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history when they marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.

It was another 12 years before Congress legalized the holiday.  This was primarily brought about on May 11, 1894, when employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.  Then on June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars thus crippling railroad traffic nationwide.  To break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago.  The resulting riots were responsible in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.  As a result, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in all states, the District of Columbia and the territories (many of which later became states).

And now, more than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day still hasn't been identified.

So, for everyone enjoying this upcoming 3 day holiday weekend, now you know why you have that additional day.  And why the banks are closed and you don't have any mail delivery.  :)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival

According to Chinese legend, hungry and restless ghosts roam the world to visit their living descendants.

Traditional Chinese belief has the seventh month of the lunar year reserved for the Hungry Ghost festival (Yu Lan). For 2019, that's August 15th. This is a boisterous celebration of feasts and music. According to Chinese folklore, the ghosts who wander the physical world are ravenous and envious after dying without descendants or because they are not honored by relatives who are still alive.
Because the hungry spirits need to be appeased, prayers and incense are offered to deceased relatives. Fake currency, known as hell money, along with paper copies of material wealth are burned. The ghosts then use them when they return to the underworld.
Neighborhoods hold nightly shows of Chinese operas and pop concerts. The front row of seats remain empty because they are reserved for the ghosts. These shows are accompanied by extravagant feasts. On the 15th day of the lunar month, families offer cooked food to the ghosts with the hope that the spirits will help them find good jobs, get good grades, or even win the lottery.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

19 Things That Kill More People Than Sharks

And by things that kill, I'm not referring to crime or war.  Some are bizarre and others more common place.  A recent survey provided a list of cause-of-death statistics that I found interesting and thought I would share with you.  I actually found two lists, one a list of 10 Incredibly Bizarre Death Statistics and the other a list of 20 (all the 10 items from the first list are on the list of 20 plus 10 more).

Sharks reportedly kill 5 people annually.  But that's a small number compared to other bizarre causes of death.

Roller Coasters are responsible for 6 accidental deaths annually.  Overall, the risk factor for injury while riding a roller coaster is very low.  In the U.S., people take about 900 million rides a year.

Vending Machines kill 13 people a year.  What?  A crazed vending machine out on a killing spree?  Nope, the deaths are a result of the vending machine toppling over and crushing the unfortunate person who happened to be in the way.

High School Football is responsible for 20 tragic deaths annually.

Ants kill 30 people annually.  There are over 280 different species of ants that can kill with the fire ant and siafu ant, both found in Africa, among the most deadly.  Ants live in colonies that can reach 20 million ants in a single colony.  Once an attack begins, ants can easily overpower their prey.

Dogs kill 30 people annually in the U.S.  There are approximately 4.7 million dog bite victims in the U.S. alone with 1000 of those treated in emergency rooms.  Most of those victims are children who were bitten in the face.

Jelly Fish are responsible for 40 deaths annually.  Most jelly fish are not deadly, but some can cause anaphylaxis which can be fatal.

Tornadoes kill an average of 60 people annually, with some years having more tornado outbreaks than other years.

Hot Dogs are responsible for 70 deaths annually, primarily from choking.

Icicles kill 100 people a year in Russia.  This happens when sharp icicles fall from snowy rooftops and land on unsuspecting victims on the sidewalks below.

Deer are responsible for 130 annual deaths (I, personally, was attacked by a deer as a child but the injuries were minor).

Bathtubs account for 340 annual deaths, primarily from people slipping and falling.  They die either from a fatal blow to the head or knocking themselves out and drowning.

Falling Out of Bed results in a surprising 450 deaths a year.  According to the Center for Disease Control, falling out of bed produces 1.8 million emergency room visits and over 400,000 hospital admissions each year.  The very young and very old are most at risk with people over 65 faring the worst.

Shopping On Black Friday gives us 550 annual deaths.  A U.S. phenomenon, that mad scramble for bargains the day after Thanksgiving which is the busiest shopping day on the year.  The name Black Friday referring to a financially good economic situation, the day that retail businesses operate 100% in the black for the rest of the year (all income being profit, rather than the loss after deducting expenses related to being in the red). However, with online shopping becoming more and more popular, this figure is decreasing.

Autoerotic Asphyxiation kills 600 people annually.  This is the act of strangling or suffocating (most often by hanging) yourself to heighten sexual arousal.  Depriving the brain of oxygen gives a person a dizzy, high feeling, however it's all too easy to make a mistake and accidentally kill yourself while practicing this dangerous sex act.

Volcanoes kill 845 people annually.

Airplanes are responsible for an average 1,200 annual deaths.

Hippos come in on the survey with 2,900 deaths annually.  Many experts believe that the Hippopotamus is the most dangerous animal in all of Africa.  They weigh up to 8,000 pounds and can gallop at 18 miles per hour.  They have been known to upset boats for no reason and bite passengers with their huge, sharp teeth.  They are aggressive, unpredictable and have no fear of humans.

Texting while driving is responsible for 6,000 deaths each year.  A survey by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that a driver's risk of collision is 23 times greater when they are texting while driving.

Lightning, the final cause of death on our list, kills 10,000 people annually.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Weird August Holidays

Every month has its collection of strange, weird, and obscure holidays—at least one per day—many of which are unknown to the general public.  And, needless to say, holidays that are not recognized as a paid holiday at work. Days where the schools, banks, government offices, and post office are not closed. But still holidays to be celebrated and enjoyed in their own quirky fashion.

Let's start with month long celebrations.  For August you have:  Admit You're Happy Month, Family Fun Month, National Catfish Month, National Eye Exam Month, National Golf Month [I'd better make sure my brother knows about this one], Peach Month, Romance Awareness Month, Water Quality Month, and National Picnic Month.

And then there are the week long celebrations.  The first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week.  The second week of the month is National Smile Week.  The third week is Friendship Week.  And the fourth week is Be Kind To Humankind Week.

And the daily celebrations:  I found it interesting that 10 of the 31 days in August have holidays connected to food [are we seeing an ongoing theme here?]. Some of the dates have more than one holiday attached to them.

August 1)  National Raspberry Cream Pie Day
August 2)  National Ice Cream Sandwich Day
August 3)  National Watermelon Day
August 3)  National Mustard Day (the first Saturday in August)
August 4)  U.S. Coast Guard Day
August 4)  Sisters Day (first Sunday in August)
August 4)  International Forgiveness Day (first Sunday in August)
August 4)  Friendship Day (the first Sunday in August)
August 5)  Work Like A Dog Day
August 6)  Wiggle Your Toes Day
August 7)  National Lighthouse Day
August 8)  Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day
            Apparently zucchini is one of the most prolific plants with a single plant producing what seems to be an endless supply of zucchini. By the time August arrives, home gardeners have far more zucchini than they can possibly use. After giving away as much as they can to family and friends, desperate growers seek desperate measures to rid themselves of the overflow. And that gives us the name of the holiday…sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day.
August 9)  Book Lover's Day
            Book Lover's Day encourages you to find a comfortable place, relax, and enjoy a good book. If you happen to fall asleep in that gently swaying hammock while reading, that's perfectly okay. There is some disagreement about when this holiday is celebrated. August 9th is the most widely accepted date. Some celebrate it on the first Saturday in November. My suggestion? Celebrate both days.
August 10)  Lazy Day
August 10)  National S'mores Day
August 11)  Presidential Joke Day
August 12)  Middle Child's Day
August 13)  Left Hander's Day
August 14)  National Creamsicle Day
August 14/15)  V-J Day (end of World War II)
August 15)  Relaxation Day
            For people with a hectic lifestyle, this is the day to kick back and do nothing…just relax. Take a break from your busy work and personal schedule. If something stresses you out, this is the day to ignore it.
August 16)  National Tell A Joke Day
August 17)  National Thrift Shop Day
August 18)  Bad Poetry Day
August 19)  Aviation Day
August 20)  National Radio Day
August 21)  Senior Citizen's Day
August 22)  Be An Angel Day
August 22)  National Tooth Fairy Day (and/or February 28)
August 23)  Ride The Wind Day
            This is a carefree day, a time to soar above the earth. Catch a ride on the breeze or float like a cloud. Summer will soon be over. Take advantage of this day to relax and leave your worries behind. Fly a kite. Enjoy the final days of summer.
August 24)  Vesuvius Day
August 25)  Kiss And Make Up Day
August 26)  National Dog Day
August 26)  Women's Equality Day
August 27)  Global Forgiveness Day
August 27)  Just Because Day
August 28)  Race Your Mouse Day [but in today's world are we talking rodent or computer?]
August 29)  More Herbs, Less Salt Day
August 30)  Frankenstein Day
            There are 3 versions of this day. This one is in honor of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who was born August 30, 1797. There is also Frankenstein Friday and National Frankenstein Day, both celebrated in October. Confused? Celebrate all 3 days.
August 30)  Toasted Marshmallow Day
August 31)  National Trail Mix Day