April 30 – Honesty Day in the U.S.A.

Posted on April 30, 2014

A writer named M. Hirsh Goldberg was writing a book called The Book of Lies: Fibs, Tales, Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds that Have Changed the Course of History and Affect Our Daily Lives.

He was so bummed at the negative effects of all the lies he was writing about, he decided to declare April 30 Honesty Day. Why that day? Goldberg figured that April begins with the Fool's Day, which is often full of tricks, pranks, and for-fun lies – so it should be balanced out by ending with a holiday celebrating honesty in all of its forms.

There are lies and there are lies...

Of course, there are such things as “white lies,” which are the polite untruths people tell in order to help everyone get along. When your mom asks you, “Does this dress make me look fat?” you don't want to say “yes,” no matter what. But there are more honest ways of dealing with tricky situations. In this example, if your mom hasn't bought an unflattering dress yet, you could say, “Well, it's not the most flattering on you. The others you tried on, honestly, look better.” If your mom HAS bought the dress and you are halfway to a party, you would say something completely different. Maybe something like - “Oh, gosh, Mom, you always look nice. I just love the color of this dress – it's so flattering to your skin!” In other words, you don't have to be blunt and insulting, but you don't have to completely lie; instead you can find something you like to honestly and kindly comment on.

Another kind of lie we often don't count as a lie is called the “lie of omission.” You don't say a lie, because you don't say anything at all. You either don't correct someone's incorrect assumption, or you don't come forward with important information. Once again there are many situations that are tricky AND sticky... But most of the time, coming forward with the truth is better than sitting around quietly benefitting from the assumptions or ignorance of others.

Here's an example: Let's say that a blind student named Sharon accidentally broke the collectible Star Wars figure that Barry took to school and carelessly left on the playground. If Barry complains to his mom about the the breakage without mentioning the circumstances, and allows his mom to go to school with a complaint about Sharon, that's definitely a lie of omission. He left out some pretty important parts!

Here's another example: Let's say that Carla borrowed her sister's iPod and then lost it. That day, Carla's sister happened to have a whole bunch of friends over, so when that evening the sister discovered that her iPod was missing, she assumed that one of her friends took it. If Carla doesn't say anything to correct that mistaken assumption, that's a really bad lie of omission!

Goldberg wrote in his Book of Lies that the average person lies about 200 times a day, if you count lies of omission and white lies. TWO HUNDRED! Yikes! We can all do better than that. 

(Hmm...I'm not sure I believe it. I think that maybe one to five lies daily is more likely, even counting lies of omission and polite fudgings-of-the-truth.)

Former President Richard M. Nixon
was caught covering up wrong-doing
AND lying about it.
The sorts of lies that Goldberg wrote about in his book were about lies told by or to powerful people. We should all hold our politicians and other powerful people accountable for their lies, and call attention to those who tell the truth. 

Goldberg gives out Honesty Awards every April 30, choosing companies, organizations, groups, and individuals who have acted honestly.

Also on this date:

Queen's Day in the Netherlands

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April 29 – International Dance Day

Posted on April 29, 2014

Dancing – it's an art form seen in every human culture.

Turn on music with a good beat in a room full of toddlers, and you can see dance (of sorts) being reinvented all over again!

Many non-human animals, even, can dance. And it's not just animals that have been carefully trained, either. Scientists have determined that bonobos, sea lions, cockatoos, and other animals can make motion in synch with a beat—and without any training to do so, they will adjust their motions to keep up with the beat if the beat gets faster or slower! 

April 29 has been International Dance Day ever since 1982, when the International Dance Council announced the new holiday. I have a feeling that the holiday's creators would be pleased with the popularity of dancing and of dance shows, these days, especially “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars.”

How do you celebrate a day like today?

  • Dance (of course!) – either put on some music and just move and groove to the beat, or get together with some friends and hold a dance party.
  • Learn to dance – there are amazing numbers of YouTube videos you can use to learn country, ballroom, or jazz dancing, or hundreds of other sorts of dance!
  • Watch a dance movie.
  • Or enjoy dance through videos. Again, there are soooooo many to choose from; the difficulty won't be finding dances to watch, it will be choosing which of the thousands you want to watch...

Check out a variety of dance forms.

Also on this date:

Chemist Harold Urey's birthday

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April 28 – Biological Clock Day

Posted on April 28, 2014

A time to sleep, a time to awake,
A time to work, a time to relax,
A time to eat, a time to refrain from eating...

Your body knows when it is time to do things like go to sleep, wake up, and eat, because it has a biological clock! Other animals, too, have biological clocks – as do plants, fungi and even cyanobacteria!

The biological clock we associate with daily routines such as sleeping and eating is called “circadian rhythm.” There are other “biological clocks” associated with seasonal or yearly rhythms. We even refer to a biological clock “ticking” when we talk about adults' ability and desire to have children.

I couldn't find out why today, of all days, is Biological Clock Day, but I do think it's a great excuse to learn more about this intriguing topic!

The biological clock has three parts.

The first part is the ability to sense changes in light and temperature; these cues are used to set the biological clock. As you can guess, our eyes and nerve endings are used to sense light and temperature. But it's interesting to note that blind animals that live in dark cave environments with steady temperatures still have circadian rhythms. Also, if you deprive people and other animals of light, you can disrupt their circadian rhythms to some extent, but they will develop new rhythms in absence of the usual cues.

The second part of the biological clock is what we can call “clock genes.” Scientists are trying to understand exactly how they work. New discoveries in this area will help us to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, and they may also help us fight cancer, because clock genes are used in cell production and cell suicide – and uncontrolled cell production and failure of cells to commit suicide are basically what defines cancer.

The third part of the biological clock is the genes that help the biological clock control the activity of other genes. Brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and many other biological processes are all coordinated by the biological clock with the coordinating power of these genes.

Staying up all night, flying into another time zone, and using special “sun” lamps are all ways of messing with your biological clock. Jet lag and seasonal affective disorder (SAD, a problem many people have during sunless winters) are both examples of problems people experience with their circadian rhythms. Hopefully we will someday know enough about clock genes and the genes that help them control our bodily functions to develop better medicines and treatments of these and other problems.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of Maryland's statehood 

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April 27 – World Tapir Day

Posted on April 27, 2014

The official website for World Tapir Day says, “Regardless of whether you are a hardcore tapir fan or whether you have only just discovered the world of tapirs, you will find a wide range of information on this site about World Tapir Day.

Man! I love writing about holidays and birthdays and such – I am always learning something new! Today I learned here are hardcore tapir fans in the world!!???

Tapirs are mammals, of course, and herbivores (plant eaters). Of all the other mammals alive today, they're most closely related to rhinos.

Tapirs live in rainforests (and sometimes drier sorts of forests) – but in two very far-flung areas of the globe: Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. Why are the different species so isolated from one another? It turns out that tapirs used to live in North America, too, and much of the Northern Hemisphere (Europe and Asia), but they died out in those regions. The populations who had crossed from North America to South America over the Panamanian land bridge (about two million years ago) have flourished more than their northern cousins.

Right now there are five species of tapirs, four of which live in Central and South America.

The Malayan tapir has such unusual coloration!

The smallest of the extant (still alive) tapir species is the kabomani tapir. It is interesting to read about this species even though little is known about it. Found in the Amazon rainforest, apparently living in the same region as the Brazilian tapir, the kabomani tapir was introduced to the world in 2013, the first odd-toed ungulate (hooved mammal) to be discovered in a century!

(As you may have guessed, the people who live in the Brazilian rainforest had long ago “discovered” the kabomani tapir! For one thing, they've been eating it!)

The mountain tapir lives in the high “cloud forests” of the Andes Mountains. This is one of the most endangered tapir species, but they are all under threat because their habitat, the rainforests, is being destroyed or “developed.”

The Baird's tapir is the largest land mammal in Central and South America. It is about six and a half feet long (2 m) and almost four feet high (1.2 m). It weighs from 330 to 880 pounds (150-400 kg).

Ooooh! Aren't baby tapirs cute? 

Gosh, no wonder there are hardcore tapir fans!

I read that the “proboscis” (or snout, or short trunk) only evolved in the past few million years...but that doesn't seem quite right to me since all it is a characteristic of all five species! At any rate, this trunk is very strong yet very flexible—it can move in all directions—and it allows the tapir to grab foliage that is out of range of its mouth.

Find out more about tapirs here or here.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the discovery of hahnium

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April 26 – Burial of the Sardine in Spain

Posted on April 26, 2014

It's a parade.
It's a festival.
It's a fireworks show.
It's a huge fiesta.

It's...a funeral? For a fish?

The Burial of the Sardine Festival is a very popular event in Murcia, Spain. It is the last event of the Carnival / Lent / Easter season, and it dates back to 1850, when a group of students paraded through the streets with a sardine.

I'm not sure if that long-ago group used a real sardine—which is, let's face it, small and stinky—or if they used a larger papier-mache sardine, but these days Spaniards use a papier-mache effigy.

Many groups of street entertainers have make the city merry in the days before the festival. Last night “Lady Sardine” read a humorous speech from the balcony of town hall.

Today the street entertainers are making a cavalcade (parade) that winds through the streets with “giants” and “big heads” and bands. There are also Brazilian samba groups and torch bearers and men dressed up as women, pretending to be widows mourning the sardine. Best of all, there are floats dedicated to the Olympian gods; people on the floats throw thousands of toys out into the crowd!


"Big Heads"
Floats - the "gods" throw
hundreds of thousands of
euros' worth of toys into the
After the parade, the sardine is not buried—it's burned! I guess the sardine represents fasting and abstinence—but does its cremation mean “we're done with all that now”? Actually, I gather that the destruction of a symbol by fire means putting away the problems and faults of the past, and putting away the excesses of Carnival time, and starting anew.

Along with the burning of the sardine is the fireworks display. And then the people party!

(By the way, there are “Burials of the Sardine” in other Spanish cities as well. Murcia's festival is unusually big, wacky, and late in the year compared to others.)

Also on this date:

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