Saturday, July 27, 2019
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
Saturday, July 20, 2019
Most of us have our family traditions and even superstitions that we've upheld through the years, maybe even several generations. Ours, however, aren't declared for the whole world to know. But if you're a member of the British royal family, it seems your little family concerns are out there for the world to see regardless of how old or obsolete they are.
Here are some of the strangest superstitions the monarchy still upholds.
The Tower of London ravens
It's believed that ravens took up permanent residence in the Tower of London back in the 1800s. To the royal family, they have been looking out for the monarchy since it was reinstated in the 1600s with King Charles II following the time of Oliver Cromwell. It's believed that if the ravens flew away, it would bring bad luck. The legend says: "If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it." There are still ravens that live in the tower and serve as a tourist attraction. There are people assigned to full time duty of taking care of the ravens.
Are you wondering why it was cause for concern that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married on May 19, 2018? It's because the month of May is considered unlucky, at least according to royal family superstition. This belief dates back to Queen Victoria's reign. The late monarch's line on the matter was: "Marry in May, and rue the day."
(Queen Victoria makes multiple appearances on this list because she was so superstitious.)
The gems and jewels
Kate Middleton's gorgeous sapphire ring isn't just an ode to her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana. The royal family has long believed that gemstones hold magical powers. Sapphires are a particular favorite because they are believed to bring on financial success and stability. Queen Victoria also wore a sapphire.
The Ceremony of the Keys
Modern security systems keep the crown jewels under tight security at the Tower of London. Even though the monarch hasn't lived there in ages, the Ceremony of the Keys continues its centuries-old installment. Every evening, a ceremonial guard (one of the Beefeaters) walks the halls of the tower and locks all the gates to insure that thieves don't break in.
The monarch's residence
For the last couple of centuries Buckingham Palace has been recognized as the home of the reigning monarch. This isn't Queen Elizabeth II's official address. Her official residence is technically St. James' Palace in London. The reigning monarch lived at St. James' Palace prior to Buckingham House becoming Buckingham Palace. The first monarch to live at Buckingham Palace but keep St. James' Palace as the official residence was (surprise, surprise) Queen Victoria.
Paying the rent
No one actually pays rent at Stratfield Saye House. This is actually an annual ceremony paying homage to the Duke of Wellington and the 1815 Battle of Waterloo when the British defeated Napoleon. The duke was given Stratfield Saye House as a gift for the victory. Every year the current duke delivers a silken French flag to the queen to commemorate the win, i.e. "pay his rent." A new flag is produced every year and is draped over the bust of the first Duke of Wellington.
The royal touch
Dating back to the Middle Ages, it was believed that being touched by the monarch could cure you of any illness. This act was put into practice by King Charles II, with the belief that his touch was God-given and could cure a skin disease called scrofula. Needless to say, modern medicine has made this 'divine' practice a bit obsolete.
No touching the royals
One tradition the monarchy has not been able to shake is the superstition that the members of the royal family cannot be touched by non-royals. This belief dates back to the Middle Ages. From medieval times, monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were seen as gods and demanded to be treated as gods. Everyone from LeBron James to Michelle Obama has been criticized for throwing a friendly arm around the royals.
Searching the cellars
In 1605, Guy Fawkes and a group of co-conspirators called the Gunpowder Plotters enacted a plot to assassinate King James I while making his speech to Parliament. The plan was foiled when Fawkes was apprehended in the cellars below the House of Lords the night before the speech. To this day the tradition continues as the queen's royal guard still searches the cellars for Fawkes.
No shellfish allowed
One of the better-known superstitions among the royal family is that they don't eat shellfish. This old-school tradition, which Queen Elizabeth II upholds to this day, comes from the fear of being poisoned or having a severe allergic reaction. Shellfish still doesn't appear on the Buckingham Palace menu, but some members of the family eat it. (Prince Charles and Kate Middleton are known seafood fans.)
Holding a hostage
Once upon a time, the monarch and Parliament didn't get along very well. They didn't trust each other to the point that the royal family didn't trust the safety of the sovereign while with Parliament. So, in exchange, Parliament would have to send over one of its members to be "held hostage" to insure the monarch's safe return. Even now, when Queen Elizabeth II gives her speech at The State Opening of Parliament a member still stays at Buckingham Palace as a hostage.
Towards the beginning of each year, Queen Elizabeth II selects High Sheriffs during a meeting of the Privy Council. This is referred to as the Pricking Ceremony. She selects names from a list by poking through paper with a sewing needle. The origin isn't clear, but many believe this odd tradition was started by Queen Elizabeth I. She was asked to choose her High Sheriffs while she was in the middle of embroidering. She used her needle as a selecting tool.
Anne Boleyn's ghost
Of all the figures in the monarchy's history, Anne Boleyn continues to be the most intriguing. With that in mind, perhaps it's not surprising that the royal family supposedly believes that her ghost walks around. According to family superstition and local lore, there are at lease seven different locations where her ghost has been seen. They include the Tower of London where she was executed. Her ghost allegedly walks around without a head.
The royal 'we'
As mentioned above, monarchs of times gone by believed they were chosen by God to rule. So when Queen Victoria spoke, she used the pronoun 'we' instead of 'I' showing that she was speaking for both herself and her divine creator. Nowadays, Queen Elizabeth II uses the plural when she addresses Parliament, but to convey that she is speaking for both herself and the nation.
For centuries the royal family has believed that the coronation of a new monarch has to go perfectly without even the slightest hiccup. One mistake can be a sign that the monarchy is in trouble.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
I read an article about scientists who work on location rather than in a lab…the ones whose labs are out there, in dangerous places and situations where most of us would never go.
So, in no particular order, here are nine of these dangerous scientific work locations.
1) Inside Volcanoes
When you think of geologists your first thought is usually the study of rocks and various landforms, something safe and basically stable. But for the branch of this particular science known as volcanology, things are definitely less stable and certainly a little hotter. Having been to Mt. St. Helens, Washington, after the explosive eruption and viewing the devastation first hand, I'm very familiar with the story of David Johnston, the thirty year old volcanologist who was on duty at the time of the eruption and was one of the fifty-seven people who died in the eruption. Volcanologists study the intense heat and chaos inside active volcanoes, and recently a team of three researchers descended inside the Marum Volcano on Ambrym Island off the coast of Australia (pictured above) to study lava flows inside. Wearing a heat-resistant suit, one of them descended 1200 feet into the volcano’s crater to capture video footage of the lava’s movement. Normally, scientists use robotic cameras mounted to small helicopters to do this extremely dangerous work.
2) Tornado Country
The movie Twister gave us a good look at what storm chasers do, and those who live in the part of the U.S. referred to as Tornado Alley see the results of their work on the news when the storm conditions are present that produce tornadoes. Collecting data on storms is a tough process. Getting close to a tornado is risky on a good day, and self-proclaimed storm chasers run that risk all the time. Even with such advanced technology as Doppler radar giving us the overall picture of a severe storm, some scientists claim there is some data that can only be gathered at ground level. One of the most noted tornado researchers, Tim Samaras, routinely drove in front of tornadoes to place cameras and pressure sensors to record the velocities of objects swept up by the storm. Unfortunately, in 2013 Samaras, his son and another storm chaser died in an Oklahoma tornado.
3) Biosafety Level 4 Labs
Laboratories that deal with germs and diseases that can be dangerous or fatal to humans are given a biosafety rating from one to four. Facilities that deal with Level 4 are where the really bad stuff happens. One of the most notable is the integrated research facility located at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The laboratory is housed in a nondescript three-story office building—an airtight, pressurized environment restricted to only thirty researchers. The germs they work with include epidemic diseases like Ebola. The facility has airlocks that separate it from the outside world and anything that leads outside the building, such as light fixtures or electrical outlets, is sealed in epoxy to prevent even a single germ from escaping. Scientists are given a seven-minute showering with virus-killing chemicals before they leave.
4) Underwater Caves
The ocean is a massive mystery to humanity, covering the majority of the Earth’s surface. Even though it's part of our planet, we seem to know more about outer space than we do the depths of our oceans. One of the most interesting areas under the ocean's surface are what are known as blue holes, underwater caves that can reach as deep as 600 feet below sea level. These caves have difficult topography. They vary in size from massive, sprawling caverns to holes barely big enough to admit a human. Diving there can be very dangerous with unpredictable currents. Despite the dangers, scientific rewards are huge with both biological and archaeological finds waiting to be discovered.
5) Tree Canopies
Forest ecosystems are made up of distinct layers, each with its own climate and variety of plants and animals. It’s a simple task to study the layers nearest the ground, but botanists have lots of questions about what’s happening up above. And that’s where canopy research comes in. Scientists at Humboldt State University climb to the top of trees that can exceed 350 feet in height, anchoring their bodies to the trunk. From that risky perch they can observe the canopy ecosystem…as long as they don't lose their balance. At the top of the trees, researchers have discovered a whole ecosystem of moss, lichens, and even whole new trees and bushes growing from dead stumps.
6) Amundsen-Scott Station
Originally built by the United States government in 1956, the Amundsen-Scott Station sits squarely on the south pole. With temperatures ranging from minus 13.6 degrees Celsius (minus 56.48 Fahrenheit) on a nice day to minus 82.8 degrees Celsius (minus 181.04 Fahrenheit) when winter is in high gear, it’s one of the most inhospitable regions on the planet. Even though blizzards and intense winds are common, astronomers spend months at the station because the six months of total darkness during winter makes Amundsen-Scott a perfect place to observe the night sky. Other researchers study the movements of the Antarctic ice sheet—the station itself moves about thirty-three feet a year as the ice drifts.
7) Aquarius Lab
Operated by the National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration, this deep-sea science station comes with a little twist. The human body is only capable of staying underwater for a short period at a time because decompression sickness (commonly referred to as the bends) can cause incredible damage when gas bubbles form and disrupt tissue. Some scientists have long-term research projects that need to happen in deep water, so they do it at the Aquarius Lab. This facility rests on the sea floor outside of Key Largo, Florida at a depth of 50 feet. Researchers spend up to ten days underwater at a time, studying the nearby coral reefs.
8) Inside Hurricanes
Here’s another meteorological condition where some scientists like to get a little too close. The National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration employs a number of flight meteorologists who take airplanes into the eyes of hurricanes to gather data on the storm’s strength and direction. They use two planes—one is a Gulfstream G-4 that has the easy job of circling the storm’s funnel, the second is a smaller propeller plane that actually penetrates the fast-moving wind to fly right to the eye of the storm. In addition to using Doppler radar on the plane’s tail, they also release a device called a dropsonde that transmits pressure and humidity data.
9) Outer Space
And finally…what Star Trek referred to as 'Space—The Final Frontier.' There is literally no environment as hostile to the human body as the vacuum of space. Long-term weightlessness has negative effects on muscle tone, bone density and the immune system. Exposure to radiation in low-earth orbit comes at levels ten times higher than the normal dose on the Earth’s surface. And there’s also the fact that outer space doesn’t have any of that oxygen stuff our bodies need to function. True—humans can't breathe at ocean depths without bringing oxygen with them, but the availability of more oxygen is much closer than it is in outer space. Experimentation in outer space has led to a number of fascinating discoveries in fields as diverse as astronomy and cancer medicine.
And there you have a sampling of dangerous locations some scientists refer to as their lab (minus those white lab coats, of course).
Saturday, July 6, 2019
1) Betty White Is Older Than Sliced Bread
1928 is the date when bread was first sold commercially as sliced rather than the traditional whole loaves. Prior to that, bakers didn't believe that sliced bread could stay fresh. Betty White was born in 1922, six years before the invention that became the benchmark for greatness with future inventions being heralded as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
2) Harvard University was founded before calculus was invented
Originally called the New College, 1636 is the date for the founding of Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher education in the new world—in an area that is now the United States of America. It should also be noted that physicist, mathematician and astronomer Galileo was still alive during Harvard's early years. He died in 1642. The invention of calculus didn't come about until 1684 with Gottfried Leibniz's publication of Nova Methodus.
3) The Ottoman Empire still existed when the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series
1908 is the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The Ottoman Empire, founded in the 13th century, came to an end in 1922 with Mehmed VI being the last sultan of the empire before the Turkish government abolished the sultanate and took governing control of the new republic.
UPDATE: The Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series in 2016 after a very long dry spell of not winning.
It's believed that the last wooly mammoths died out approximately 1700B.C. on Russia's Wrangel Island. The Pyramids of Giza, in Egypt, were built approximately 300 years earlier (about 4,000 years ago). There are some claims that the pyramids might be even older than that.
5) The fax machine is the same age as the Oregon Trail
1843 is the year Alexander Bain, a Scottish mechanic, invented the first fax machine. The same year the Great Migration on the Oregon Trail began when a wagon train of approximately 1000 migrants attempted to travel west but probably died of dysentery along the way.
6) Jewelry store Tiffany & Co. was founded before Italy was a country
1837 is the year Charles Tiffany and John Young founded Tiffany & Young which became Tiffany & Co. in 1853. 1861 is when General Giuseppe Garibaldi led a successful campaign to bring the various city-states together as one nation, although Rome held out for a number of years after that. Macy's was founded in 1858, also prior to Italy becoming the nation we know today.
7) France was still using the guillotine when the first Star Wars movie was released
1977 is the release date of the first of the Star Wars movies. A few months later is when France conducted its last execution by guillotine. The guillotine had been used in France for approximately 200 years. And another French time line fact to boggle the mind: 1889 is the year of the Eiffel Tower, the same year Nintendo was founded (the company originally made playing cards) and Van Gogh painted The Starry Night.
8) Two of President John Tyler's grandsons are still alive
1841 to 1845, John Tyler was America's tenth president. And, surprisingly, two of his grandsons—Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr., and Harrison Tyler—were both born in the 1920s and are still alive today.
And there you have it…a few surprising facts from history.