May 31, 2012 - World No-Tobacco Day

You probably already know that smoking tobacco is the Number 1 cause of preventable death.

Just choosing NOT to spend a lot of money on a habit that is for many very addicting, and therefore hard to quit—a habit that you are not allowed to do in an increasing number of places—a habit that causes your skin to wrinkle, your hair and clothes to smell bad to many, and your colds and other illnesses to be more frequent and more severe—just choosing NOT to do this one “bad habit” is the Number 1 thing you can do to live a healthier, longer life.

Today alone, May 31, 2012, more than 1,000 people in the U.S. alone will die of smoking-related causes!

Still, an awful lot of people smoke tobacco, and a lot of kids start smoking every day. It's pretty crazy.
The cost of cigarettes can add up to more than a thousand
dollars a year, but if you count in higher insurance costs,
higher medical costs, and lower car and home resale values,
it is estimated that smoking could cost about $10,000
each and every year!!!

This year's theme of World No-Tobacco Day is “tobacco industry interference.”

If you're interested in checking out some of the “bad acts” carried out by tobacco companies, check out Tobacco-Free Kids

Also on this date:

May 30, 2012 - Celebrate, Central American Style!

Today three different Central American countries celebrate three different holidays.

Can you find Honduras, Nicaragua, and Trinidad and Tobago on this map?

Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago

This holiday marks the anniversary of the May 30, 1845, arrival of a ship full of East Indian people. Although the day used to be called Indian Emigration Day, the early East Indian arrivals were not freely choosing to emigrate to the lovely Caribbean islands—instead, they were brought over as “coolies,” or slaves. Nowadays, the racial mix of people living in Trinidad and Tobago includes around 40% black (many descendants of African slaves) and around 40% Indian (many descendants of “coolies”). It is this sizable Indian group who have encouraged the celebration of their ancestors' arrival on the islands by reveling in music, dance, and food from their Indian heritage.
To learn more about Trinidad and Tobago, see this earlier post

Arbor Day in Honduras

Honduras is a sort of tree heaven—also known as a biodiversity hotspot. It has tropical rainforests, “cloud forests” (which are jungles that are almost always covered by low clouds and fog—and which gets little rain but lots of “fog drip”), mangrove forests that grow in a sort of saltwater swamp, and forests of pine and oak trees in the mountains.

Timber is an important product for Honduras, but there are other, even more important, products that don't involve cutting down trees—such as tropical fruit and eco-tourism. Dia del Arbol (“Day of the Tree”) is important in Honduras because so much of it is covered by trees. Kids learn about the importance of caring for the nation's forests, plant trees, and participate in special art projects.

To learn more about Honduras, check out this earlier post

Mother's Day in Nicaragua

Many different nations have set aside a day to celebrate mothers, but of course they don't all choose the same day. Today is Mother's Day in Nicaragua; the date was chosen by a president in the 1940s; May 30 was the birthday of his mother-in-law.

Here is a very short tourism video about Nicaragua. 

To find out more about Nicaragua and Honduras, see this earlier post

Also on this date:

May 29, 2012 - Happy Birthday, Ebenezer Butterick

It sure would be easier to sew if the pattern was the right size!”

Ellen Pollard Butterick said words to this effect to her husband around the time of the American Civil War. She was attempting to sew a new shirt for her son, but the paper pattern she was using to cut out all the pieces she needed for the front, back, sleeves, and collar of the shirt was a very different size than her son.

As a matter of fact, all paper patterns back then came in only one size each—and not some medium or “ideal” size, either—a different size for each pattern. Home sewers had to customize the patterns to their specific family members—and this resizing was apparently time-consuming and difficult.

Ebenezer Butterick (today's birthday boy, Ellen's husband, and a tailor) thought his wife had a very good idea—that selling “graded” patterns—that is, patterns in multiple standard sizes—was in fact a great idea. So he drew up some graded patterns on tissue paper and began to sell Butterick patterns in 1963.

The Buttericks' invention is said to have revolutionized home sewing!

They started off creating the pre-cut tissue-paper patterns in their own home, but within a year the business had grown so much that they opened a factory. At first they only created patterns for men's and boys' clothing; later they created patterns for women's and girls' clothing as well—and that ended up being the best-selling portion of their pattern business, with 13 sizes offered in blouses, dresses, coats, and skirts. The Buttericks used to give only the briefest of instructions about how to cut out and sew the garment, but customers clearly wanted more help than that, and the Buttericks began to print instructions on the envelopes and, later, extensive instructions and even cutting diagrams on folded papers inside the envelopes as well. These days, there are even some instructions printed on the pattern pieces

In 1867, the Buttericks began publishing fashion magazines to promote their patterns. By the “turn of the century” (when the 1800s ended and the 1900s began), their magazine called The Delineator was the most important fashion magazine in the U.S.

Boy, when I was a kid, I used to love to pore over giant books of Butterick pattern styles—with all the colorful illustrations of lovely girls and women in fashion-forward clothes. As a matter of fact, if I asked nicely, the women who worked at the fabric store would save the pattern books for me when they became outdated and replaced—they'd just tuck those books under the counter with a note saying “Save for Cathy,” and I'd go pick them up for free! It was like having a giant book of paper dolls, because I'd cut out my favorite 50 or 100 illustrations to play with!

I wonder if people still do that?

I imagine that patterns don't sell nearly as much nowadays. Sewing your own clothes used to be something almost everyone did, but now inexpensive clothes—often sewn in other countries—make sewing the much more expensive option.

Also on this date:

May 28, 2012 - Slugs Return from Capistrano

This silly holiday is a parody of the holiday called “Swallows Return to Capistrano.” Swallows Day is supposed to be a lovely day in March when flocks of cliff swallows arrive at the beautiful Mission San Juan Capistrano and begin to build their springtime nests. For years people have had a parade and festival to welcome back the sparrows, and they traditionally ring the mission bells as well. Unfortunately, there have been very few or no swallows anywhere near Capistrano, recently. And I don't mean few or no swallows on Swallows Day; I mean few or no swallows anywhere near Capistrano at all, ever.

Still, from what I can tell, Swallows Day goes on, with or without the swallows!

Today's “holiday,” Slugs Day, warns people all over the nation that the slugs are returning from their winter headquarters in Capistrano—but of course, that's a great big lie! Slugs do not migrate each year, and they certainly don't overwinter in Capistrano!

Still, it might be fun to have a Slugs Day today. Try out the slugs links and games at Wart Games. And here are some experiments about slugs and caffeine.  (You should know that most gardeners consider slugs and snails huge problems, major pests. They want to learn about them so they can repel or even destroy them!) Finally, here are some groan-worthy jokes about snails and slugs. 

Also on this date:

May 27, 2012 - Cellophane Tape Day

I have no idea why today is the day for cellophane tape—but since someone, at some point, made it so, let's salute cellophane tape inventor Richard Drew today!

Drew had earlier invented masking tape to fulfill a particular customer's needs. In the late 1920s, Drew found out that a customer needed a waterproof covering for insulation batts. He had heard of someone covering masking tape with cellophane to make it waterproof and decided to try to make the tape itself out of cellophane.

Drew ordered 100 yards of cellophane and set to work on how to apply adhesive to one side so it could act as a tape. At first the adhesive wouldn't spread evenly, but he fiddled around until he developed a primer that would allow an even adhesive layer. Still, the cellophane split far too easily inside the machines. Drew made adjustments to the machinery. Finally, in September of 1930, Drew's first roll of Scotch Cellophane Tape was sent to a customer. And it's been onward and upward ever since.

Scotch tape has been used in many weird and wonderful ways. For example, farmers sometimes use this sort of tape to cover cracks in turkey eggs—and the turkey hatchlings continue to develop normally and then hatch. Scotch tape has been use to shield the Goodyear blimp from corrosion and to repair airplane rudders. It's been used to attach labels to horses and to pick up broken glass, to repair torn money and to plug holes in balloons, to remove smudges from walls and to lift fingerprints from surfaces.

It's even been used in art!

Here is a video of an artist “painting” with a variety of tape products, and here is a photo gallery of amazing tape sculptures!

Also on this date:

May 26, 2012 - “Catholics May Not Enter!”

Anniversary of an Awful Law – 1647

You guys can't be here,” the Massachusetts lawmakers said to Jesuit (Catholic) priests on this date in 1647. “So leave. And if you come back, we're going to kill you!”

Of course, the new Massachusetts law didn't say those exact words (and also featured ye olde fashioned spellings), but that was the gist of the law. We in the United States have enjoyed freedom of religion for so long that we sometimes forget why our nation's founders wrote the First Amendment in the first place. But before our U.S. Constitution, the norm was for each government to dictate the religion of that nation. If you weren't the “right” religion, you were considered a sinner, religiously speaking, but you were often considered a second-class citizen, too. Or you were killed or ejected, beat up or rejected.

So today is a very good day to be thankful for the separation of church and state. The U.S. Constitution states that the government cannot establish a national religion, cannot institute a religious test before granting citizenship or voting rights, and cannot show preference for one religion over another.

And that's a very, very good thing. Just ask those priests!

Learn more...

Here is a rather advanced treatment or “lesson” on freedom of religion, meant for high school age or older.  And here is a quiz on the same subject, again for advanced or older students. 

Teaching Tolerance has some good discussion questions. 

Also on this date:

May 25, 2012 - Geek Pride Day

According to the Los Angeles City Council, today is Star Wars Day—because the first Star Wars movie was released on this date in 1977.

But most of us we already celebrate May the Fourth (be with you) as Star Wars Day. So many people suggested that today be a more universal, much-needed, celebration of Geeks and Nerds everywhere.

Even the Geeks who don't particularly like Star Wars!

Geek Pride Day is today not only because of the Star Wars connection, but because of the connection of May 25th to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and to Discworld.

(Three Geek dates on the very same day in May???Coincidence? Well—yes!)

Today is Towel Day, a tribute to Douglas Adams, who was the author of the Hitchhiker's Guide “trilogy,” a very funny series of five books. To celebrate Towel Day, carry a towel everywhere you go! And to learn more about Towel Day, check out this earlier post. 

In Terry Pratchett's humorous Discworld novels, which parody fantasy cliches and much, much more, May 25 is the date of the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road, a day when people fought and died for truth, justice, and hardboiled eggs. To celebrate this day, many fans wear lilac and, I presume, eat hardboiled eggs. On a more serious note, fans urge people to donate money to research on Alzheimer's disease, which Pratchett suffers from.

Celebrate your inner geek!

So, lot's to do today: watch Star Wars: A New Hope (again!), carry a towel, wear the lilac, donate money to Alzheimer's, re-read your favorite Adams and Pratchett books (or discover new Adams and Pratchett books), hmm...what else?

How about checking out Geek & Sundry, Felicia Day's latest project? 

Also on this date:

May 24, 2012 - Queen Victoria's Birthday

She gave her name to an era—a period of great change in Britain and the world. It is not uncommon for an era to be named after a monarch—but THIS monarch ruled longer than any other British king or queen, and longer than any queen in the world.

Born on this date in 1819, Queen Victoria ruled for more than 63 years!

And during her reign, the British Empire expanded greatly, so that Queen Victoria not only had the title of Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but she was also Empress of India.

The empire spread all over the world, with dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories administered by the UK. During its heyday, it was often said that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”

Victoria ruled so long, her empire celebrated her Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of her crowning...and ten years later, the empire celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, her 60th anniversary. This year, Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee—the only other monarch of the United Kingdom to rule as long. As a matter of fact, Elizabeth II has a chance of passing Victoria as the longest-ruling monarch, if she lives another four years. (She's 86 right now. It definitely could happen!)

It's easy to imagine Queen Victoria as a woman very different than most other women, but she was probably quite an ordinary woman who just happened to be born to power. She ditched her first name, Alexandrina, at age 18 when she was crowned queen; she liked to read, dance, go to the opera and theater, and laugh; she leaned on advisors to help her rule, but she also gave her strong opinions; she fell in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and she eventually married him; she adored her nine children and her 34 grandchildren.

Explore some more...

Wart Games” has gathered some links and online resources about Queen Victoria. 

Also on this date:

May 23, 2012 - Happy Birthday, Bob Moog

There was a time when people had to pluck or bow or hit a string, or blow air through a pipe or reed or horn, or hit a bell or drum or wooden block in order to make music...

And then the electronics revolution swept through every industry and art form, including music. Bob Moog was a pioneer of electronic music and invented the Moog synthesizer.

Reading about Moog's college career, you might not have imagined him making a huge contribution to music. Moog, who was born in 1934 and brought up in New York City, earned a bachelor's degree in physics, a second bachelor's in electrical engineering, and a PhD in engineering physics.

Indeed, all his life Moog thought of himself as an engineer and toolmaker. It's just that his customers – the people who used his tools – were musicians!

Moog started his first company when he was just 19 years old. He made theremins, an electronic musical instrument that can be played without being touched. Two metal antennas sense the position of the player's hands. The player controls pitch with one hand and volume with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a speaker.

Moog's synthesizer, on the other hand, had a keyboard and buttons and controls as well as some automatic sound generators and rhythms.

Play Today!

If you have an electronic keyboard or other electronic instrument, play a song today in honor of Moog. If not, check out this virtual piano and these virtual drums.

I love to set up a drum beat and then play on top of that. Here is a virtual keyboard that allows you to do just that! 

Also on this date: