March 23 – Day of the Sea in Bolivia

Posted on March 23, 2019

When you hear that a nation celebrates "Day of the Sea," I bet you picture people going to the beach or the rocky seashore for activities based around the ocean.

"Mar Para Bolivia" means
"Sea / ocean for Bolivia."
But...Bolivia doesn't have contact with any sea or ocean! It's landlocked. No beaches, no coast, no seashores.

So why does this nation celebrate a Day of the Sea?

Well...BECAUSE it's landlocked!

You see, Bolivia used to have access to the Pacific Ocean, but it lost its coast and became landlocked as a result of the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific with Chile. Every year it celebrates a Week of the Sea, during which officials again state their claims for ocean access. Semana del Mar ends on March 23 with a special ceremony dedicated to Eduardo Abaroa, Bolivia's hero in the war. (That's a statue of Abaroa in the photo at the top of the page.)

Before, above: Chile, in dark green, eventually took over the narrow coastal
strip belonging to Peru (orange) as well as the bit of ocean access belonging
to Bolivia (yellow).

After, below: In 1883, the familiar borders we see today were adopted.

What does Bolivia restating its claims to oceanfront property look like?


And protests...

Notice that the Bolivians above are not only holding up a "Ocean for
Bolivia" sign, they're also holding up little pictures of ocean...

The Bolivians below are holding up a long, long, looooong
blue banner to represent the ocean that they feel should be
accessible to them.

By the way, the chunk of coast that Bolivia lost was part of the famous Atacama Desert. I should say "famous and gorgeous" - just check it out!

The statue "The Hand of the Desert" (above) rises 36 feet
out of the sand of the Atacama Desert - in what is now
Chile. It was sculpted by the same artist that sculpted
"The Hand" (below) on the other side of the South
American continent, in the sands of Uruguay.

March 22 – International Talk Like William Shatner Day

Posted on March 22, 2019

Two different people - completely independently! - decided to honor actor William Shatner on his birthday by declaring the day International Talk Like William Shatner Day!

They apparently had this very same idea the very same year: 2009.

Maurice LaMarche (a voice actor featured on Futurama, The Simpsons, Pinky and the Brain, Frozen, and more) and Doug Van Horn realized that they were both trying to promote the exact same thing at the exact same time. At first they battled - each sure that he was the first one who'd thought of such a thing - but then they decided to join forces and promote their holiday together.

What does it mean to talk like William Shatner?

According to LaMarche, who has studied how William Shatner talks in order to imitate him while playing various roles, first you have to talk as if you are completely important, obviously the most important person in the room. By which I mean *every* room. 

Second, you must pause a great deal. LaMarche says, the more inappropriate the pause is, the better.

Third, you should do a sharp, audible intake of breath at the end of what you wanted to say - as if the next thing you were going to say was super-duper important - but then there is no next thing!

Of course, Shatner's most famous role is Captain James T. Kirk on the starship Enterprise, on the Star Trek television show and movies. 

Here is Seth McFarlane talking like William Shatner.

And here is Jim Belushi talking like William Shatner. 

March 21 - Happy Birthday, Guillermo Haro

Posted on March 21, 2019

Today's famous birthday is known partly for his scientific findings and partly for promoting science in his nation.

Guillermo Haro de Barraza, born in Mexico City on this date in 1913, went to university to study philosophy and law, not science. He ended up becoming a reporter, not a professional scientist.

But then his life took an unexpected turn:

In his work as a newspaper reporter, Haro interviewed an astronomer and became interested in astronomy...

Interested enough that he was hired as an assistant at an observatory in the Mexican state of Puebla...and then trained at four U.S. observatories (including Harvard College Observatory), and then did original astronomical research.

Haro 11
He discovered loads of planetary nebulae, T Tauri stars, flare stars, novae. He discovered one supernova and one comet. His name has been given to a galaxy: Galaxy Haro 11. And his name, along with the name of his co-discoverer, has been given to a new type of large planetary nebula: Herbig-Haro objects.

Check out this animation of a Herbig-Haro object.

Haro became the youngest person to become a member of a Mexican honor society, and he became the first person elected to the Royal Astronomical Society from Mexico.

This is an artist's drawing
of a young T Tauri star.
With Haro's enthusiasm for and accomplishments in astronomy, he was able to foster the development of that science in Mexico. He founded the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and became its first president, and he also founded Mexico's National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics. 

All I can say is, hooray for unexpected turns!