September 30 – First Tooth Extraction with Anesthesia

Posted on September 30, 2013

The first use of ether as anesthesia was such a big
deal that a painting was made commemorating
the event...
One really bad thing about living in the past was the terrible medical care. Not only did people not understand as much as we do now about the causes and cures of illnesses, and about the importance of washing hands and of sanitation, they didn't even have anesthesia to use during operations and dental procedures.

So people had to endure agony!

Or they kept putting off needed procedures because they feared the pain...and of course that often led to more pain, and sometimes death.

Many doctors and dentists used alcohol or marijuana or even hashish to kill some of the pain—or to make their patients care less about the pain, at least. But other medical practitioners and chemists began to experiment with chemicals that might do a better job than whiskey. One experimenter invented “sweet vitriol,” and another invented “laughing gas.” At first these experiments were done on animals, not humans. By the end of the 1700s, people began to experiment on themselves with these substances.
This was William
Morton's first inhaler.

Finally, on this date in 1846, an American dentist named William Morton pulled a patient's tooth using ether as anesthesia—and the tooth extraction was completely painless! Morton went further and arranged a public demonstration of ether on a patient undergoing surgery. That operation was a huge success, and word spread about this pain-free medical option!

What is pain? Find out here.


Also on this date:






Anniversary of the commissioning of the world's first nuclear submarine


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September 29 – Happy Birthday, Gene Autry

Posted on September 29, 2013

Today let's sing “Happy Birthday” to the “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry.

Was he really a cowboy? Well, as a boy in Texas and Oklahoma, Autry helped out on his dad's ranch, so he was, kinda' sorta'.

Did he really sing? You bet! Gene Autry was a singer and actor, and he became famous with radio, movie, and television appearances. Autry earned enough as a performer to become an owner; he owned a TV station, several radio stations, and even the Angels Major League Baseball team!

Gene Autry is probably most famous as the good-guy cowboy who sings—the guy who is “straight-shooting,” the hero who is honest, brave, and true. But his biggest singing hits were Christmas songs! He was the first singer to record “Frosty the Snowman,” and he wrote as well as sang “Here Comes Santa Claus.” His biggest hit, hitting #1 in the U.S., was “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

That stuff was “before my time” – heck, Autry was born a long time ago, on this date in 1907! – but in 1988 Autry started a museum that displays his collection of Western art and memorabilia. The museum is in Los Angeles, right next to the L.A. Zoo. And I've been there a lot a lot a lot! There are great Native American


artifacts, fun Western movies exhibits, and a fantastic show of Western art once a year!

This painting by Howard Terpning was one
of my favorites of this year's art show!

Here are a few fun facts about Gene Autry:

  • A town in Oklahoma changed its name from Berwyn to Gene Autry. This was in 1941, when Autry was just 34 years old! Can you imagine how many times in his 91 years Gene Autry went to Gene Autry, Oklahoma...just because he could!

  • Speaking of changing one's name, Gene Autry was born Orvon Grover Autry!
  • Autry is the only person to have five different stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! “Why so many?” you ask. Well, they give out stars for motion pictures (movies), radio, recording (music), television, and live theater. And Autry did enough in each category to get a star for each! Wow!
  • The number 26 was retired by the Angels baseball team in honor of their owner, Gene Autry.

  • Autry's old ranch, Melody Ranch (in Santa Clarita, CA), has been restored and now serves as a movie location and as the location of the Cowboy Festival every year.


Also on this date:

Museum Day Live 














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September 28 – A Fishy Day

Posted on September 28, 2013

I was researching the day's holidays, and I noticed that today is National Hunting and Fishing Day for people who love to (now, see if you can follow this logic) hunt and/or fish...and today is Fish Amnesty Day for people who don't like the idea of fishing, or, indeed, any hobby that inflicts pain and death. (“But they're just fish!” most people say.) Today is even a copyrighted holiday called Fish Tank Floorshow Night. The creators of the day say that fish are always in the spotlight, having to entertain us – so tonight we should put on a song-and-dance routine for them.

Basically, today is a very fishy day. So let's talk about fish...

This is a photo of a goldfish responding to
the news that there is no such thing as a fish!
First...and this is weird for me, too: There is no such thing as a fish!

The word “fish” is useful in everyday life and for cooking, but biologically speaking, there is no good definition for “fish,” and no reason to consider fish a group of creatures. Modern biologists point out that some “fish” are more closely related to tetrapods such as lizards, whales, eagles, and us, than they are to other “fish.” According to the science of classification, which is called cladistics, that means that we cannot group fish together.

To learn more about cladistics, check out this Kid's Science (Cladistics) Pinterest board

Second...some creatures that have “fish” in their name aren't evenly remotely fish (if there were such a thing as fish). Can you think of any? Check your answers against the 8 answers here

Third...there are some fishy creatures that are so large, they're called “megafishes.” Check them out here

Fourth...here are some of my favorite fishy books:

Fifth...You probably know that many fishy creatures swim together in groups called “schools.” They do this because there is more safety in numbers than in swimming alone – and it's a real fish-eat-fish world. Check out these beautiful photos of schools of fish. If you've ever wondered what it's like to swim into a giant school of fish, watch this video


Sixth...Some of the most beautiful and ugliest creatures are fish. Check out these 10 extraordinary fish

Last, and quite possibly least...Be sure to play Go Fish today!



Also on this date:
















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September 27 – Ask a Stupid Question Day

Posted on September 27, 2013

Sometimes people say, “There are no stupid questions.”

But I'm not sure that's entirely true. For example, I once asked how the doctors and parents knew if a brand-new baby was a boy or a girl. You know, when he or she is first born, before there are clothes or a name to make the sex clear to all.

Okay, yeah, I was a little kid. But I was old enough to know better!

So maybe there are some stupid questions. But one thing I know for sure: we shouldn't worry too much about asking stupid questions. It's far better to ask a stupid question than to never ask a question!

This day was created by people who want kids to ask more questions. If you don't understand something, ask a question. If you aren't sure something is true, ask how someone knows that, what the source is. If you don't know how something works, ask!

(By the way, now that I am an adult, I realize that my stupid question above was not so very stupid, after all, because in 1 out of every 100 births, doctors and parents DON'T know if the child is a boy or a girl.)

Celebrate Questions!

Here are some awesome quotes about asking questions:

No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious. 
– George Bernard Shaw

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. 
– Bruce Lee

To the dumb question, 'Why me?' the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, 'Why not?' 
– Christopher Hitchens







Here are some fun “stupid questions”:

  • What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?

  • How does a thermos know whether a drink should be hot or cold?
Here are some fun not-stupid questions:

  • Which was the tastiest dinosaur?
Actually, real scientists have worked on that last question! And they came up with an answer, too. I wouldn't swear that it is the right answer...

  •  How do we know we are real, and not just someone's dream?
Deep! Did you just watch The Matrix?


Also on this date:


















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September 26 – Gilligan starts a 3-hour tour (that turns into 3 years!)

Posted on September 26, 2013

A silly TV show about seven people shipwrecked on an island first aired on this date in 1964. The struggle to survive on a desert island, and to escape, doesn't sound all that funny, but somehow the 98 episodes of Gilligan's Island managed to nurse the theme for laughs for three seasons.

The show was successful, but not a huge hit.

After it was cancelled, however, the show began to appear in re-runs, and it grew and grew in popularity. 

Now Gilligan is considered an American cultural icon. Apparently work has begun on Gilligan's Island, the Musical (a show meant for Broadway). A TV-movie featured the rescue of the castaways, and a big-screen movie was in the works for a while, too (and may still happen, who knows?). Gilligan's Island's long-lasting popularity has been discussed and analyzed and has even been the subject of a documentary!

The funniest thing about the show, perhaps, never appeared on the screen. Apparently the United States Coast Guard got several telegrams from concerned viewers who begged the Coast Guard to rescue those poor people on the deserted island.

The Coast Guard just forwarded the mail to the show's producer!

The first season was shot in black-
and-white but has been colorized for
syndication.

Celebrate!

Listen to—and maybe learn—the catchy theme song

Have a Gilligan's Island dinner! Check out what one family did here

Enjoy some of the professor's inventions here. (Scroll down a bit.)

Check out the bite-sized bits of Gilligan videos here


Also on this date:












JohnnyAppleseed's birthday



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September 25 – Banned Books Week

Posted on September 25, 2013


The last week of September is always Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read.

Weird, huh? Everyone is always trying to get us to read, read more, read more books. Don't we already have the freedom to read?

Well, there have been times and places when people were so upset at a particular book that, not only did they not want to read it, they didn't want their kids to read it. And (I hate to say) they don't even want other people, and other people's kids, to read it!

And so they try to get the book banned from a library, school library, or schoolroom.

What sort of books have been banned?

According to the American Library Association, the Harry Potter books are the most-banned books in America. Apparently some people think that the magic spells in them are read. (Trust me, they're not.)

Other popular books such as The Hunger Games and the Captain Underpants series have been banned.

Classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, have been banned.

A popular children's author once told all of us at a writing workshop that one of his books was banned from a public library because it included the color green in several descriptions. 

The color green! 

According to a newspaper article about the banning, someone thought that the color green was code for Paganism. Not that there is anything wrong with Paganism...but I can't even get around to saying that, because I am so busy saying:

“REALLY? The color green? What book DOESN'T include the color green???”

It used to be that communities sometimes gathered together books that they didn't want people to read, and they burned them! A great philosopher and author named Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every burned book enlightens the world.” What do you suppose he meant?

For more on Banned Books Week, check out the official website

Also on this date:


Anniversary of the passage of an amendment that took 74,003 days to be adopted!!!





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September 24 – National Day for Guinea-Bissau

Posted on September 24, 2013

We are independent of you, Portugal.”

The government of what was then known as Portuguese Guinea, in Western Africa, made this declaration in 1973, but Portugal didn't agree to the independence at first. Portugal was having its own problems, though, and about half a year later its own government was overthrown by a military coup. At that point, the world accepted Guinea-Bissau as an independent nation.

There are a lot of different ethnic groups within the borders of this small nation (which is just a bit larger than the state of Maryland). Because of this, there are many different languages spoken. The official language is Portuguese (because it was a Portuguese colony), but only about 14% of the population speaks that language. Far more people speak Kriolu, which is a Portuguese-based creole language—but most of the Kriolu-speakers also know one or more African languages, such as Mandingas or Pepeis. What surprised me was that students in Guinea-Bissau learn French in school!

Why French, rather than Portuguese or some other language?

Guinea-Bissau is (as I have already mentioned) a pretty small country, and it is surrounded by French-speaking countries including Senegal and Guinea.

This nation is one of the poorest in the world, and it is having a lot of trouble with political instability. Some leaders have been elected, but not one has ever served his five-year term before being kicked out, arrested, or even killed.


Also on this date:





























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September 23 – National Day in Saudi Arabia

Posted on September 23, 2013

Today Saudis celebrate the 1932 unification of their kingdom.

A modern nation?
Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, thanks to the fact that it has the second largest oil reserve on the planet. Although the nation's oil wealth has allowed it to modernize many aspects of life, it has not modernized the role of women. Saudi Arabia is, for example, the only country in the world that bans women from driving. All women—even non-Muslim tourists—have to wear hijab, a veil that covers the head and chest. Every adult female has to have a male relative as her guardian, and women usually have to ask their guardian's permission to travel, study, or work.

(Remember, I'm talking about adult women! Yuck!)

Still, even in places that have huge problems with human rights, there are beauties to enjoy. Here I will share with you few sculptures I like, found in the city of Jeddah, and some gorgeous desert photos.

Islam doesn't allow paintings or sculptures of people (or any living creatures), so artists have to turn to other subjects. Like this giant geometry set.



The city of Jeddah is one of the world's largest “open air galleries,” because it has so many large-scale sculptures.

Maybe the rule against depictions of living creatures doesn't include fish? Because I'm pretty sure I see a fish in this sculpture!

Most of Saudi Arabia is desert, and I saw lots of cool photos of sand dunes. This is one of the weirdest.

I am always amazed when nature is this colorful!







Also on this date:















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