July 17 – Constitution Day in South Korea

Posted on July 17, 2019

There aren't many nations that can point to 500 years of uninterrupted self-rule, but Korea can point to way longer than that - from the late 7th Century (the 600s) until 1910, when Korea was taken over by Japan. That's more than 1,200 years of self-rule!!

One portion of that long period is called the Joseon Dynasty, which was founded July 17, 1392. That dynasty ruled for about 500 years, and the auspicious date July 17 was deliberately chosen for the day of adoption of South Korea's 1948 constitution.

This constitution sets up the South Korean government as a presidential republic with a lawmaking Assembly that has only one chamber. (The U.S. Congress has two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives, as does the United Kingdom, with its Parliament divided into the House of Commons and the House of Lords.)

For decades, Constitution Day was a no-work holiday, and special events such as marathon races were held. However, since 2008, this holiday - while still celebrated - is no longer a break from school or work.

Here are some things that make South Korea special:

  • It's got the world's fastest internet and loads of high-level tech. Heck, it MAKES a lot of the world's high-level tech!

  • For such a relatively small nation (it's about the size of England), South Korea has a HUGE economy - the 11th largest in the world!
  • It rules the air! 
First, South Korea has the busiest air route in the world, with the 280-mile transit from the nation's capital, Seoul to the international airport on the island of Jeju having more than 175 flights PER DAY!!! That means that that air route provides flights for more than a million people (roughly 1,285,000) per month! 
That's almost twice as busy as the second busiest air route in the world! 
Apparently, Jeju is now Korea's tourism hub because it has so much natural beauty and so many luxury hotels and casinos. Jeju is supposed to be the Korean Hawaii...full of dramatic volcanic landscapes and beaches, plus caves and more!

Second, South Korea has what has been often rated the world's best airport: Incheon International Airport, located near Seoul. It has gardens, free showers, and even saunas!

  • Korea can brag about its awesome music scene (including K-pop), its growing movie biz, its world-leading breakdancing, its cuisine, and of course all of its ancient culture.

July 16 – Countdown to Moon Day 50!!!!

Posted on July 16, 2019

This year, we will have reached the half-century mark of the first time a human walked on another world!

Yep, it's been almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong said those famous words, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Moon Day's 50th Anniversary will be this Saturday, July 20, 2019. So - why am I posting this today?

Today is the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. Here is a video of the actual countdown. And here are some other "counts" involved in this famous launch:

Apollo 11 had three astronauts:
  • Neil Armstrong - the first human to step onto another world.
  • Buzz Aldrin - the second human to do so.
  • Michael Collins - who had to stay up in space while his crew mates did the famous stuff.

Apollo 11, the spacecraft, was made up of three parts:

  • A command module with a cabin for the three astronauts - this is the only part that returned to Earth.
  • A service module, which supported the command module with electrical power, oxygen, water, and fuel.
  • A lunar module designed to separate from the rest of the spacecraft in order to descend to and land on the Moon and then eventually return to orbit. 
Above, the command module.
Below, the lunar module.

The spacecraft was launched by a Saturn V rocket. This huge rocket had three stages of liquid propellant.

How much weight was launched 50 years ago today?
  • The Saturn V rocket had a launch weight of 6,540,000 pounds (2,970,000 kg).
  • The Command and Service Modules had a launch weight of 32,390 pounds (14,690 kg).
  • And the Lunar Module had a launch weight of 33,500 pounds (15,200 kg).
That means that, altogether, the vehicle that slowly lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida weighed (at launch time) 6,605,890 pounds (2,999,890 kg). 

Check out the slo-mo and closeups of the launch in the middle of this longer video. (If you want to skip to it, go to Minute 2 of the video.) Awe-some!

Talk about climbing into the heavens on a pillar of fire!!
And here is a super slo-mo.

July 15 – Be a Dork Day

Posted on July 15, 2019

Personally insulting people is a no-good, very bad thing. 

(If you don't like what someone is saying or doing, tell them so. But be specific: "I don't like it when you do ____" or "I think that's a mean thing to say!" Don't get into personal insults like, "You're so lame!" or "Gosh, you're dumb" or "You're too ugly to talk to me.")

And making fun of people, bullying them, taunting them, name-calling - these are horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad things, for sure.

A lot of us get teased and taunted and name-called, especially when we are children, and especially in school. Kids with glasses (like my little sister) get teased. Kids with physical problems or differences (like a friend of mine) get teased. Kids with "weird" clothes get teased. (I had to wear "corrective" shoes because I "toed in" a bit, and I was teased for wearing "clodhoppers" and "ugly" shoes. It turns out that such shoes don't actually fix in-toeing at all, and that almost everyone outgrows in-toeing without treatment - so I had to endure all that teasing for no good reason!) 

Some kids are teased for being "dumb," and some kids are teased for being "too smart." Strangely, I was teased for both!

I had a hard time with math lessons in elementary school, so I was made to walk down the hall to another, "lower" class for math. I was the only one - so of course I was tortured! 

On the other hand, when I was a bit older, I was criticized for being too smart, getting too high of grades and ruining it for everyone else, using too big of words, etc. 

Many people taunting kids with good grades avoid the irony of saying "you're too smart" - since "smart" IS a good thing! - by name calling:


These insults actually have different dictionary definitions (although they tended to be flung about randomly):

A nerd is defined as someone who is obsessed with something specific, to an annoying degree. Because of this annoying obsessiveness, nerds are supposed to be bad at social interactions. I was surprised to realize that nerd first appeared in print in a Dr. Seuss book (If I Ran the Zoo, published in 1950)!

Kids often use nerd to mean an overly-studious social outcast.

A geek is defined as someone who is odd, bad at social interactions, and interested in computers / technology. This is a really old word that used to mean something more like freak, something used for a circus sideshow act that was really disturbing.

Kids often use geek to mean an overly-studious social outcast.

A dork is defined as someone who is odd, physically awkward, someone who is uncool or uptight, someone who wears unfashionable clothes and is bad at social interactions. It's a slang word that was invented in the mid-1960s. 

And even though it is supposed to mean "stupid" more than "smart," kids often use dork to mean an overly-studious social outcast.

The interesting to note that both nerd and geek tend, now, to be words that smart, driven, computer-savvy adults use for themselves proudly. We have taken the words used to torment us and have elevated them into praise - so much so that even advertisers use them in a positive way: "Embrace your inner geekiness!" "For the sci-fi nerd in everyone!" "The latest celebrity nerd to appear on The Big Bang Theory..." "Tune in to Felicia Day's Geek & Sundry YouTube channel!"

But dork, the newest word of the bunch, has not yet become quite as popular and positive. Let's work on that!

Here are some positive spins on "dork":

Be a Dork Day doesn't mean dress differently than normal - and in weird, unfashionable clothes. 

Be a Dork Day doesn't mean deliberately dropping stuff or tripping over your own feet.

Be a Dork Day doesn't mean make fun of people you actually think are weird!

Instead, it is a day that challenges us to do the things we want to do - to wear what we want, say what we want, try new hobbies or sports we've been wanting to try - without fear of looking stupid, being awkward, or being teased or criticized.

You know that motto "Dance like nobody's watching"? Well, Be a Dork Day says: "Live like nobody's watching...or judging!"