August 28 – Crazy Computer Holidays

Posted on August 28, 2014

Today we celebrate two different computer-related holidays: Crackers Over the Keyboard Day and Race Your Mouse Around the Icons Day.

For Crackers Over the Keyboard Day, we are dared to eat crackers and other crumbly food right over our keyboards – but only in jest, I hope. It's SO not a good idea!

For Race Your Mouse Around the Icons Day, we are encouraged to spend the moments when something is downloading, uploading, or otherwise hourglassing or pinwheeling our computer, instead of just sitting there patiently, by using our mouse to dart around all over our monitors and desktops, trying to “touch” every icon. 

I'm not positive this is such a great bright idea, either. When we do unnecessary computer stuff while impatiently waiting for our computer to do some other stuff...well, maybe it slows the first, important task down?

I don't know that – I'm asking!

When I say "nurture your computer"...
I wasn't thinking of cuddling it!
Instead of torturing your computer today, maybe you could do a 180 reversal on the holiday names and spend the day nurturing your computer.

    this is what my cool wireless mouse
    looks like...It looks like the future!
  • Go wireless, if you can! I love my wireless mouse and keyboard!

Also on this date:

Anniversary of MLK's “I Have a Dream” speech

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August 27 – Moldova's Independence Day

Posted on August 27, 2014

Today Moldova celebrates its Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union on this date in 1991.

Moldova is located between Romania and Ukraine, and its location was both fortunate and unfortunate in that it was strategically positioned on a trade route between Asia and Europe. The region was made part of the Roman and Byzantine Empires during ancient times, and much later the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. In between, it was invaded again and again: by Goths and Huns, by Tatars and Turks, by Bulgarians and Mongolians and Magyars and many other groups.

Moldova is landlocked (it does not touch any ocean or sea), but it is close enough to the Black Sea to enjoy a mild, generally sunny climate.

Unfortunately, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. I think the breakup of the Soviet Union particularly affected this region, as it experienced energy shortages and decreases in industrial and agricultural output. The service sector now dominates the economy; the service sector includes things like entertainment, computers, communications, health, media, tourism and hospitality, banking, gambling, education, and law. That sounds like everything, right? What the service sector does NOT include is growing food (farming, ranching), mining, and manufacturing goods.

Some of the things I might want to see, if I were ever to visit Moldova, include Emil Racovita, a karst cave that is one of the longest caves in the world, which has 20 underground lakes and whose rooms are covered with soft, colorful clays in green, blue, red, black and white.



Orheiul Vechi
Another cool thing is the medieval walled cities such as Bender and Soroca. I would also have to check out the rock-hewn churches and other structures of Orheiul Vechi. 

And of course I would want to eat some stuffed cabbage rolls and sauerkraut! Mmm...

Also on this date:

Artist Alexandra Nechita's birthday

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August 26 – Happy Birthday, Johann Heinrich Lambert

Posted on August 26, 2014

You know how we love celebrating Pi Day every March 14? Well, today we can eat pie again—this time, birthday pie in honor of the fellow who proved that pi is an irrational number!

Johann Heinrich Lambert, born on this date in 1728, was a Swiss mathematician, physicist, philosopher, and astronomer.

Lambert did a lot of cool stuff in math, including working with non-Euclidean geometry...that is, the kind of geometry that deals with curved space. He also studied conic sections and helped make the calculation of the orbits of comets simpler.

Lambert also studied map projections and showed that map makers could not get BOTH the outlines of landforms AND the size (or area) of those landforms right, because the Earth is round (almost spherical) and maps are flat (pretty much two-dimensional).

In physics, Lambert studied light and perspective and optics and color. In astronomy, Lambert developed theories about the generation of the universe and about star systems. He wrote about logic and philosophy, and he worked with famous philosopher Immanuel Kant.

But pi...ah, pi!

Let's talk about pi!

What does it mean to say that pi is an irrational number?

Rational numbers are those that can be expressed as a fraction. The number 124 is rational because it can be expressed as a fraction:


One-half is rational because it can be expressed as a fraction:


But pi cannot be expressed as a fraction. You may remember that pi is the answer to the problem of dividing a circle's circumference by its diameter. EVERY SINGLE CIRCLE – no matter what it's circumference and diameter – when you divide the former by the latter, you come up with the same exact number....a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction.

(Pi is close to 22/7 – but close is not the same as equal, in math.)

Another way of talking about rational and irrational numbers is to explain that a rational number can be expressed as a decimal, such as these decimal numbers:

8 (which is the same as 8.0)

Some rational numbers are not as simple as these, and they can be represented by decimal numbers that NEVER END but instead go on and on and on and on forever.

Here is one:


This rational number, one-third, can be represented by this decimal number:


EXCEPT to make it accurate, I would have to keep typing 3s forever, and you would have to keep reading 3s forever, and neither of us would get anything else done. Since that would be boring, we call these decimals that go on forever “repeating decimals.” And we write repeating decimals by either:

  1. putting three dots after the part that repeats,
  2. or putting a little line over the top of the part of the decimal that repeats forever.

Here are some more repeating decimals:

Now...that's all rational numbers.
What about irrational numbers?

When you try to show an irrational number as a decimal number, the numbers go on and on forever BUT DON'T REPEAT!

Here is a little bit of pi:

Mathematicians have used computers to figure out the digits of pie out to more than 10 trillion digits! And there is no repeating pattern. We can say that pi is sorta kinda close to 3.14 – but remember, in math “close” is not the same as “equal.”

Today's birthday boy, Lambert, is the first mathematician to offer a mathematical proof that, no matter how far into pi you go, there will never be repeating decimals. In other words, he proved that the number is irrational.

Also on this date:

Women's Equality Day here...

...and here

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August 25 – Anniversary of the Beginning of the Belgian Revolution

Posted on August 25, 2014

An opera performed on Aug. 25
was so nationalistic, the audience
emerged from the opera house and
promptly joined in the rioting!
What happens when a nation is full of frustrated people who cannot find jobs, who feel that their ruler is unfair, who feel misunderstood and out-of-step with the “powers that be”?

Sometimes what happens is rioting and looting.

Sometimes what happens is political revolution.

Sometimes it's rioting that leads to revolution!

King William I
That is what happened in Belgium on this date in 1830. King William I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands spoke a different language and professed a different religion than most of the people in southern Belgium, and unemployment was high. When riots broke out in Brussels on August 25, 1830, shops were looted, factories were occupied, and machinery was destroyed. William sent soldiers to restore order, but rioting and uprisings continued elsewhere in the country and broke out again and again in Brussels.

Soon some of the protestors talked about secession; before the year was out, the States-General in Brussels decided to secede, and they declared Belgium's independence. A conference was held in London by representatives of the Great Powers (the Netherlands, Britain, France, Prussia) – and William I was very unhappy that the other European nations decided to recognize and even guarantee Belgium's independence!

Perhaps this political cartoon, showing
the kings of other nations sending
Leopold I to Belgium to become its king,
helps us understand why many Belgians
resented the London Conference.
Some people were very happy about the conference. I'm not talking about the Belgians here (although I assume that some of them were happy with the results), because many Belgians who were pro-independence felt rather humiliated that the leaders of other nations would presume to say whether or not they were allowed to be independent. But some Europeans were excited that the leading powers could use talk – diplomacy – rather than force – war – to decide things, and they saw the conference as providing “the institutional framework through which the leading powers of the time safeguarded the peace of Europe.” 

However, the peace was not necessarily safeguarded. William I, feeling even more humiliated by the conference's decision, launched in 1831 a military attack to reconquer Belgium. Called “The Ten Days' Campaign,” the attack was not successful. France backed the Belgians, William I's forces were turned back, and in 1839 the Dutch finally accepted Belgium's independence.

Learn more about Belgium here, here, and here

Also on this date:

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August 24 – Wayzgoose Day

Posted on August 24, 2014

Like so many long-standing holidays, Wayzgoose Day marked the changing of seasons—in this case, the end of the summer and the beginning of the season when people worked by candlelight.

This picture is supposed to show awayzgoose feast.
On Wayzgoose Day, master printers used to provide an entertainment to their workers each day on (or around) August 24.

Now the term refers to an annual outing and / or dinner for the staff of a printing house or of a newspaper.

There are several theories for how a day of merry-making and feasting came to be called wayzgoose. It may have been a reference to eating goose, of course, or it may have been a word that evolved from a Dutch term for “inn” or, figuratively, “banquet.”

Why August 24? Aside from the fact that late August is a great time to mark the end of summer, in the northern hemisphere, today is St. Bartholomew's feast day, and St. Bart is the patron saint of bookbinders (as well as others). Also, today is the historical anniversary of THE most important even in printing history:

On this date in 1456, the printing of the Gutenberg Bible was completed. It's possible that this momentous event was celebrated with the very first wayzgoose party!

Nowadays some wayzgoose parties are held on other dates, even in different months and seasons. In Canada one town holds an annual wayzgoose festival every April; the festival focuses on handmade paper, handmade books, and small presses. The Letterpress Guild of New England meets in September for wayzgoose, and the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Wisconsin holds a wayzgoose in November. The wayzgoose in Tacoma, Washington, includes a Steamroller Smackdown competition that gets the community involved in the art of printmaking, and the University of California, Irvine's wayzgoose is a medieval fair.

Celebrate printing and paper making!

You, too, can explore the worlds of printmaking and paper making

Also on this date:

Actress Marlee Matlin's birthday 

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