January 21 – National Hugging Day

Posted on January 21, 2017

Today's theme – hugging one another to lift each other's spirits and show affection – was positioned sorta-kinda halfway between the end of the Christmas and New Years holidays and Valentine's Day. 

For us Northern Hemisphere types, it can be a time of short, dark, stormy days, and the founder of the holiday (Kevin Zaborney) thought it was a great time to try to bring warmth and cheer into our lives.

I would suggest changing the name of the day from “National Hugging Day” to “International Hugging Day,” since the day has become popular in many other countries, from Canada and Guam to Australia and Bulgaria.

Check the official website to see who won “Most Huggable Person of 2017” (plus past winners). 

Did you know that hugging is physically good for you?
  • A long hug can boost serotonin levels. Serotonin is an important chemical that lifts your mood and makes you happy.
  • Hugs also boost oxytocin levels. That chemical is called the “love chemical”; it's important to healing negative emotions such as loneliness and anger.
  • There is evidence that hugging reduces stress, reduces blood pressure, improves immune function (so you get fewer colds or other viruses, and if you do get a cold, it tends to go away faster), and improves pain tolerance.

A family therapist named Virginia Satir once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the introduction of the smallpox vaccine

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January 20 – Happy Birthday, León

Posted on January 20, 2017

Some people reading this might realize that I have a very special “someone” in my life named Leon (no accent) – but this is not "my" Leon; his birthday is not January 20!

Today's birthday León is a city in Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato. It was founded on this day in 1576. One of the largest cities in Mexico, León is known for leather products, bike lanes, and being environmentally friendly.

Leon (in the red box) is right in the middle of the nation.

The leather industry includes shoes, boots, belts, jackets, purses, bags, and more. It's called "the shoe capital of the world"!

León is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in all of Latin America. About 40% of all trips made in the city are biking or walking, rather than motorized transport (bus, taxi, subway, car, van, motorcycle, etc.) – that's pretty unusual for a large city!

The bike lanes are integrated into the rest of the transport system (Sistema Integrado de Transporte, or SIT), which includes bus rapid transit, called Optibus, and a subway system, called Metro. The buses use Euro IV technology, which results in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. That's a win for all of us!


Also on this date:

National Heroes' Day in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau 

Penguin Awareness Day

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January 19 – Singing Singers Day

Posted on January 19, 2017

What do the following women have in common?

  • Makoto Kawamoto
  • Janis Joplin
  • Hikaru Utada
  • Dolly Parton

You may know some of these names, but even if you don't, you may figure out that they are all singers, because I called today “Singing Singers Day.”

The four women were all born on January 19, too!

Makoto Kawamoto is a Japanese pop singer who currently performs under the name Tiger Fake Fur.

Janis Joplin was a powerful and popular American singer during the 1960s. She was famous for her raw rock songs. Sadly, she died way too young.

Hikaru Utada is a Japanese American singer. Her English-language album and songs have enjoyed mixed success, but her Japanese-language albums have met with much greater success. She is one of the best-selling music artists in Japan!

Dolly Parton is an American country music star.

Here are some more things these four musicians have in common:

In addition to vocals, all four women play instruments:

  • Makoto Kawamoto plays piano, flute, guitar, and keyboard.
  • Janis Joplin played guitar.
  • Utada Hibaru plays guitar, piano, and synthesizer.
  • Dolly Parton plays banjo and guitar.

All four women are (were) songwriters as well as singers. Parton and Hibaru both have “record producer” credits, too.

Here is a sample of each of our January 19 birthdays' music:

Also on this date:

Anniversary of Captain Wilkes claiming Antarctica for the U.S.

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January 18 – Happy Birthday, OTGO

Posted on January 18, 2017

If you were a painter with the name Otgonbayar Ershuu, you too might choose to shorten it as you dash your signature across one corner of your canvas.

OTGO, born on this date in 1981 in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, loved painting at an early age and started having his own solo shows at the incredibly young age of 15! He studied traditional Mongolian painting in college, but he had to learn Mongolian miniature painting on his own, as no school offered a course on the craft.

OTGO spent years crossing his beloved home country, taking part in a lot of different cultural and social projects and creating hundreds of images. But now he lives in Berlin (Germany) and has shown his work internationally all over the world, from Japan to France and from Moldova to India.
This is an example of Mongolian miniature painting. The piece is just 20 x 27 cm (about 8 inches by 10 inches), painted with tempura on cotton.
Some of OTGO's work is a LOT bigger.
This piece, called "Hun," depicts more than
11 THOUSAND animals and people!

Here are some more OTGO pieces:



Roaring Hoofs-31

Also on this date:

(aka A. A. Milne's birthday!)

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