June 24 - Joninės in Lithuania

Posted on June 24, 2016

Midsummer in England, above,
and Romania, below.
Many European countries are celebrating Midsummer around about
now (see Jāņi in Latvia and Midsummer in Sweden, below, for example). 

Today we will check out the Midsummer festivities in the Baltic country of Lithuania.

People sing songs and dance until the sun sets. 

Then they do some storytelling while waiting for midnight - when they search to find the magic fern blossom. 

Actually, ferns do not flower.
But an old legend says that they do - just for a few
hours at Midsummer's midnight!

Next, they light bonfires - and some people jump over bonfires! 

When the sun rises, they greet it and wash their faces with morning dew. 

Young girls float flower wreaths on whatever lake or river is nearest.

All of those colorful traditions come from Pagan times, but centuries ago, Lithuanians dropped the traditions of offerings and sacrifices to Pagan gods and goddesses and instead recast the holiday as the feast of St. John. That's why it is called Joninės.

Also on this date:

Inti Raymi (Sun Festival) in Peru

Big Numbers Day

(Fourth Saturday in June)

Last weekend in June

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June 23 – Typewriter Day

Posted on June 23, 2017

Today is the 149th anniversary of the patent for the first commercially marketed typewriter. (Or at least one of the first!) The typewriter was a wonderful invention that is now, thanks to computers / tablets / etc., pretty much defunct. 

(I'm sure that there are still some people, somewhere, who delight in pounding the keyboard on a machine that doesn't allow easy editing, saving, and sending to others... Maybe?)

One of the inventors, Christopher Latham Sholes, also invented the QWERTY keyboard - with which we seem to be still stuck today. You probably can guess that the name of this keyboard is the first six keys of the keyboard.

I know when I first learned to type (on a typewriter! Computers weren't everywhere back then!), I wondered how-oh-how we were supposed to learn where the keys were, the layout was so counter-intuitive. However, looking at the way typewriters work and reading about the history of the invention gives you a great explanation:

The QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow down typing!

You see, the typewriter keys were attached to little arms which would fly up, when their keys were pressed, causing the metal characters to strike first an inked ribbon and then a piece of paper. 

And if the typist was typing too fast, the little metal arms would clash with one and another and jam together!

The solution was to separate letters that were often found near one another, so that there would be fewer jams. Sholes did a lot of experimenting to find out a good keyboard layout, and he may have also consulted telegraph operators for their experiences.

Now that we no longer use keyboards attached to moving, jammable arms, it's hard to get rid of a keyboard that so many folks are used to. 

Here are two possible keyboard layouts.

But some suggest that we should let little kids learn with a better keyboard, and then slowly bring on more and more devices with that keyboard, until finally the QWERTY keyboard is has been phased out. 

Also on this date:

Anniversary of Antarctica being set aside for science

(First Friday after Father's Day U.S.A.)

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June 22 – HVAC Technicians Day

Posted on June 22, 2017

Today we honor the people who keep us comfortable - keep us warm in winter, cool in summer, and breathing fresh, clean air. 

It's HVAC Technicians Day, the day we thank the people in the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning industry.

Becoming a technician is something to consider. You will be helping people, working with your hands, and every day will be a different from the one before. There are a lot of different brands of furnaces and air conditioners and thermostats to learn about - so the job would be challenging, too. And even people who have a tight budget will fix their heating and ventilation systems, so you should always have steady work!

I read that this special day was started by ARS Rescue Rooter. But if you look up HVAC, you will find that there are a lot of trade schools that offer training.

Here's an infographic that teaches a very simple version of how HVAC systems work.

Also on this date:

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