Saturday, April 25, 2020

May's Bizarre and Unique Holidays

Every month has its share of bizarre and unique holidays, and May is no exception. In addition to the legal holidays of Mother's Day (the second Sunday in May) and Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May), the month of May has a calendar full of bizarre and unique holidays.

And there's more than the daily holidays. May also offers both month long and week long celebrations.

Month long celebrations:
Date Your Mate Month, Foster Care Month, National Barbecue Month, National Bike Month, National Blood Pressure Month, National Hamburger Month, National Photograph Month, National Recommitment Month, National Salad Month, Older Americans Month.

Weekly Celebrations:
Nurse's Week (first week of month), Wildflower Week (week two), National Bike Week (third week), National Police Week (third week), Emergency Medical Services Week (fourth week). Now, with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever to pay tribute to our medical workers.

1) Mother Goose Day
When: Always on May 1st
Mother Goose Day was created only recently, as a day to appreciate nursery rhymes and stories. The term "Mother Goose" dates back to the 1650's. It referred to stories like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty. It does not appear to represent a particular person, as many of Mother Goose stories were written both before and after this term was first used. And, the stories were written by numerous authors.
1) Save the Rhino Day
1) International Tuba Day (first Friday in May)
1) Space Day (first Friday in May)

3) Lumpy Rug Day
3) World Press Freedom Day

4) National Candied Orange Peel Day
4) Star Wars Day
When: Always on May 4th
It's all because of a play on words! Star Wars Day is May the Fourth because a famous quote from the hugely popular science fiction series blockbuster is "May the Force (Fourth) be with you". Some call this Day "Luke Skywalker Day". Great ways to Celebrate Star Wars Day: Watch any of the great Star Wars movies. Better yet, have a Star Wars marathon, and watch all of them.

5) National Hoagie Day
5) Oyster Day

6) Beverage Day
6) No Diet Day

7) National Tourism Day

8) Iris Day
8) No Socks Day

9) Lost Sock Memorial Day
When : Always May 9th
Lost Sock Memorial Day recognizes your drawer full of unmatched socks. Each unmatched sock represents a missing sock. We never throw away our unmatched socks. After all, it may show up someday. On Lost Sock Memorial Day, we suggest you spend a little time (as little as possible) searching for those missing socks. After a (very) brief search, and in good memorial spirit, spend a minute reflecting upon how warm and comforting the missing socks were on your stinky toes. Then, by all means, get on with your life. Use this special day, to toss out all of your unmatched socks. Let's face it, you're never going to find the missing one.

10) Clean Up Your Room Day
10) National Train Day (date may vary)

11) Eat What You Want Day
11) Twilight Zone Day

12) Fatigue Syndrome Day
12) Limerick Day

13) Frog Jumping Day

14) Dance Like A Chicken Day

15) National Chocolate Chip Day

16) Love A Tree Day
16) National Sea Monkey Day

17) Pack Rat Day
When: Always on May 17th
Today is Pack Rat Day (or if you prefer, you can call it Hoarder's Day). If you are a Pack Rat, you're in good company. You might as well come out of hiding behind those piles of valuable stuff, and celebrate this fun day. Making the decision to discard something of even remotely questionable value, is difficult, if not impossible to do. In keeping with the intent of Pack Rat Day, here are some Do's and Don'ts: Don't clean your room, basement, garage or any other area today. Don't discard anything today—it may be valuable. Don't even empty the trash today. You might have accidentally thrown out something useful. Do keep an eye out for useful stuff being discarded by others. Do go to garage and rummage sales. They can be pack rat gold mines. Do look around your belongings and be thankful for what you have. Do spend time thinking of uses for your things.

18) International Museum Day
18) No Dirty Dishes Day

20) Be A Millionaire Day (now we all can go for that)
When: Always on May 20th
Everyone wants to enjoy today as a member of the Millionaire's Club, even though a million dollars isn't what it used to be. And after reaching the Millionaire's Club you can work on your qualifications for the Billionaire's Club. If you are a millionaire, savor and enjoy the day. Remember, many Millionaires get there by a combination hard work, sound investment, and frugal spending.
20) Pick Strawberries Day

21) National Memo Day

22) Buy A Musical Instrument Day

23) Lucky Penny Day

24) National Escargot Day
24) International Jazz Day (Saturday of Memorial Day weekend)

25) Tap Dance Day

27) Sun Screen Day

29) Learn About Composting Day
When: Always May 29th
Composting Day is a great opportunity to "Go Green" and help the environment. Composting is easy. It makes you feel good knowing you are doing your part to keep our environment a little bit cleaner. As you learn about composting, you will be surprised at all the things you can compost. It is common knowledge that you can compost garden and yard vegetation as well as kitchen (vegetable) scraps. But, you can also recycle many other things, including papers, untreated wood, and cardboard. Cardboard paper towel and toilet paper holders are great items to compost. You can use compost around your plants, to feed them, keep the weeds down, and to help retain soil moisture.

30) Water A Flower Day

31) National Macaroon Day
31) Worldwide No Tobacco Day
When: Always May 31st
Worldwide No Tobacco Day brings awareness of the health issues and dependency issues related to tobacco use. World No Tobacco Day stresses the importance of making people all over the world aware of the health dangers of using tobacco. In 1987, the World Health Organization Assembly passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for 7 April 1988 to be "a world no-smoking day." In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on 31 May.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Crazy Things Confiscated By Customs Inspectors

Excluding the current disruption created by the Coronavirus pandemic, just getting on an airplane under 'normal' circumstances is a cause for nervous tension due to full body scanners, intrusive pat-downs, long lines at security check points, and what seems to be a constantly changing list of what you can and can't take on the plane.  All-in-all, flying is not the fun experience it used to be.

And that's just on domestic flights.  You add to that the need to clear passport control and customs on international flights, both entering a foreign country and coming home, and it's enough to make your head spin.

There's certainly been enough written about what seems to be the ever changing TSA restrictions and requirements, so I won't dwell on those.  But I did find an interesting list of contraband seized by Customs inspectors around the world…a bit more than trying to sneak in an extra bottle of wine hidden in your suitcase.

And here is that list.

10)  Shoes Stuffed With Heroin:  Smugglers might be a scheming lot, but that doesn't mean they always use their brains.  In October 2010, a 32 year old US citizen and her younger brother disembarked from a Caribbean cruise and were tagged by Customs for a secondary screening process.  When they opened the woman's luggage they found 15 pairs of 1980s style men's shoes…definitely suspicious items for a woman to be bringing back from the Caribbean.  They discovered over 6 kilos of heroin duct taped inside the shoes.

9)  Human Skulls:  Not the creepy Halloween decorations.  In September 2010, two American tourists had 6 human skulls confiscated from their luggage at the Athens International Airport in Greece.  They had purchased the 6 skulls at a souvenir shop on the island of Mykonos and thought they were fake.  They were charged with desecrating the dead.

8)  Tiger Cub:  The 3 month old tiger cub was found sedated and hidden among stuffed animal tigers inside a woman's luggage at Bangkok International Airport when the oversize suitcase went through an X-ray machine.  The woman was headed to Iran where the tiger cub could have brought in more than $3,000 on the black market.  The cub was sent to a wildlife conservation center and the woman faced wildlife smuggling charges and fines.

7)  Fake $100,000 Bills:  In 2009, agents confiscated two $100,000 counterfeit bills from a passenger arriving at New York's JFK Airport from Seoul.  In 1934, rare $100,000 bills were printed to be circulated between the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve Banks.  The bills were never put into general circulation.  The man claimed to have found the bills in an old book belonging to his father.  The bills were turned over to the Secret Service.

6)  Cocaine Cast:  A leg in a cast can garner some sympathy, but it didn't work for a Chilean passenger arriving at the Barcelona, Spain, airport from Santiago.  Customs agents decided to spray the cast with a chemical that turns bright blue when it comes in contact with cocaine.  And it did.

5)  Bear Paws:  And I'm not talking about the pastry, either.  In October 2010, a dozen genuine furry bear paws were confiscated from a Vietnam man's luggage in Ho Chi Minh City Airport upon his return from Hong Kong.  Bear paw soup is considered a delicacy.

4)  Snakes and Lizards:  You're familiar with the movie, Snakes On A Plane?  Well, in 2009 a would be smuggler taped 14 snakes and 10 lizards onto his body in an attempt to sneak them into Norway.  Oddly enough, it was a tarantula spotted in his luggage that led to a full body search.

3)  Bonytongue Fish:  Having an airline lose your luggage is an inconvenience.  However, it's even worse when you're smuggling fish in your suitcases.  In 2009 a man returning from Malaysia to his home in Queens, New York City, unfortunately did not have his luggage arrive on the same flight.  The next day a Customs agent doing random checks on lost luggage discovered 16 fish packed in individual plastic bags and cushioned with Styrofoam.  Considered good luck charms in Asian cultures, they sell for $5,000 to $10,000 apiece.

2)  Rhinoceros Horns:  Ireland is not where you'd expect to find pieces of safari animals.  Over a period of time in late 2009 and 2010, three Irish passengers were busted at Shannon Airport for smuggling 10 rhinoceros horns valued at approximately 500,000 Euros at the time, which at today's exchange rate (today being April 17, 2020, with the exchange rate of 1 Euro = $1.08 U.S., definitely down from what it was) is $540,000.  Rhino horns are often ground down and used as a prized ingredient in Chinese medicine.

1)  Snake Wine:  A glass of snake wine might not have the same appeal as a nice Merlot or Chardonnay.  But in Southeast Asian countries, a whole snake soaking in alcohol is a specialty.  In May 2009 a routine Customs inspection in Miami revealed a cobra and other poisonous snakes packed into a jar of liquid in an express mail package from Thailand.

It makes that additional bottle of Merlot or Chardonnay wrapped inside the sweater and stuffed into the corner of a suitcase not seem as bad.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Earth Day—Where, When, And Why

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, is Earth Day. We only have one planet and we need to do everything we can to save it.

Supposedly originated in 1969 at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco, the name and idea for Earth Day was first observed on March 21, 1970—the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere that year. This day in celebration of the Earth was put into a proclamation signed by UN Secretary U Thant.

And at about the same time, a separate Earth Day was founded in the United States as an environmental teach-in first observed on April 22, 1970.  The April 22nd date was taken international in 1990 with organized events focusing on environmental issues in 141 nations.

The impetus for an Earth Day came following the huge oil spill in 1969 off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.  Originally a teach-in on environmental issues to be observed on every college campus in the United States.  The name Earth Day was a logical and obvious suggestion made by several people in the fall of 1969.

The April 22, 1970, Earth Day was the beginning of the modern environmental movement.  Media coverage of the first April 22 Earth Day included Walter Cronkite's narration of a CBS News Special Report Earth Day: A Question Of Survival.

Earth Day became a popular event in the United States and soon around the world as well.  Earth Day seemed to work because of a grassroots level enthusiasm that quickly spread.

In 1990, on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in the United States, the observation officially went global in 141 countries.  The status of environmental issues now had stronger marketing tools, greater access to television and radio, and multimillion-dollar budgets.

Earth Day 2000 marked the first time the movement used the internet as its principle means of organization both locally and internationally.

Today Earth Day continues to grow in membership, number of countries participating, and the scope of its effectiveness.

We only have one planet and now, more than ever, we need to do everything we can to save it.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Doomed Franklin Expedition—Finally Found

In 1845, two ships left England to locate the Northwest Passage, the fabled waterway believed to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They vanished without a trace. The HMS Erebus and its sister ship, HMS Terror, were under the command of Sir John Franklin and carried a total of 128 officers and men. They departed England on May 19, 1845. Locating and mapping the Northwest Passage had been a quest of many of Europe's most skilled mariners for nearly four centuries.

The two ships had already proven their capability in the ice filled waters of Antarctica. A little over two months after leaving England, the Erebus and Terror were spotted in Baffin Bay (Canada) just east of what was acknowledged as the passage's entrance. Then the ships and their crew disappeared.

Subsequent rescue missions turned up a few clues—three graves at one site and a note at another site dated April 1848. That note said Franklin and 23 others were dead, the ships had been trapped in the ice for 18 months, and that the survivors were abandoning ship and attempting to make their way across land. Other clues were randomly discovered but didn't lead anywhere. There were stories from the local Inuit people about ships that disappeared beneath the ice.

For 170 years, little bits and pieces of information was all that existed of this unsolved mystery. Then in September 2014, searchers found the Erebus in just 36 feet of water. Two years later, another search team found the Terror northwest of the Erebus in deeper water. Rather than supplying answers to what happened, the discoveries only created more questions. The wrecks were in the wrong place. Terror was about 60 miles south of where the 1848 note said the ships had been abandoned and Erebus was another 30 miles south of where Terror was found.

According to some archeologists, it's possible for the abandoned vessels to have been carried to their final location by the same ice that had trapped them. Although it is surprising that the two ships should be found so far from where they were deserted, the wreck site of the Erebus is precisely where Intuit oral traditions have long said one of the ships sank. The Inuit information was initially discounted by the British officials. In more recent times, however, the accuracy of the Inuit testimonies have been increasingly acknowledged.

In August 2019, incredible underwater video of HMS Terror showed a wreck that appeared to be frozen in time. Perhaps, somewhere on the wreck, are clues to what really happened. Now, after 175 years, the fate of the Erebus and Terror might finally be solved.

**I, personally, question the wisdom of setting sail on a voyage of discovery, traveling half way around the world to chart an unknown passage through dangerous waters, in a ship named Terror.**  :)