September 30 – Happy Birthday, Flintstones!

Posted on September 30, 2015

Have you met Fred and Wilma Flintstone, and their friends Barney and Betty Rubble? Do you know Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm? How about Dino and Baby Puss and Hoppy?

Even though The Flintstones has been off the air for almost half a century now (which is super shocking to me, by the way!), it is still popular and was rated in 2013 as the second Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time by TV Guide. (Number 1 was The Simpsons.)

You want to know why? Check out this or this or this other

The Flintstones was first aired on this date in 1960 and continued for 166 episodes until it ended in April of 1966.

The Flintstones is all about the everyday concerns of modern life plunked into a fantasy version of the Stone Age. (Part of the fantasy is the idea of dinosaurs living at the same time as humans – which of course never came close to happening!) 

Tons of absurd pre-historic technology, such as an instant camera that works when a bird carves a picture onto a stone tablet with its beak! 

Millions of word-play “Stone Age” names, like Sand-and-Stony-o for San Antonio and Mick Jadestone and the Rolling Boulders for Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones! 

A grand mix of cavemen, wooly mammoths, dinosaurs, and split-level homes in the suburbs!

Did you know...?
  • There is Flintstones Bedrock City in Custer, South Dakota, with a train ride and a playground and dinosaur models and a theater with The Flintstones cartoons playing. There is also a Flintstones Bedrock Town in Arizona and several other Flintstones theme parks.

  • Flintstones Chewable Vitamins are definitely one of the most successful Flintstones products...but there are also Halloween costumes, t-shirts, lunch boxes, collectable figures, ViewMasters, dolls, and much much more!
  • Until The Simpsons, The Flintstones was the title holder of longest-running prime-time TV cartoon, AND of most profitable cartoon.
  • Dino, the Flintstones' pet, changed colors throughout the series. Actually, the entire cartoon changed colors—because it was first aired in black and white!

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the first tooth extraction with anesthesia

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September 29 – Mutation Day

Posted on September 29, 2015

If you were a teenage mutant ninja turtle, which would you celebrate – the anniversary of your birth as a perfectly ordinary baby turtle, or the anniversary of the mutation that caused you to be a smart, capable ninja?

I'm guessing the latter...
Well, today is the day to celebrate! In the fictional world of TMNT, today is the anniversary of Splinter's and the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' mutation.

Fans are all over this, creating art and videos and parties.

Of course, I am all over an enticing name like “Mutation Day” – I just want to wallow in the biology of it!

A mutations is a permanent change in the DNA of a plant, animal, or other organism. The change can be caused by damage to DNA, damage to RNA, a copying error, or from the bits of DNA being inserted into or deleted from a strand.

The mutation that caused the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be more human (and much more ninja) than the average pet turtle is, of course, impossible. To make changes that enormous in any one animal would require thousands of mutations – not just one!

Good...or bad?

A lot of mutations don't have any effect, so they are pretty much neutral as far as the mutated creature goes.

On the other hand, many mutations have a harmful effect, and some have a good effect. It all depends on specifically where on the DNA or RNA strand the change or copying error is as well as the nature of the change or error.

If there were no such thing as mutation,
life on Earth might be no more complex
than this. ^
Overall, if you look long-term and big-picture, mutations are good, because they are the raw materials of evolution. If there was no such thing as mutation, you and I would definitely not be here discussing mutations – the only life on Earth would be super simple one-celled creatures.

I love the recipe allegory Mr. Andersen uses to explain about mutations! Check it out.

To learn more about mutations, check out this lesson plan or thisBrain POP.

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September 28 – Bhagat Singh's Birthday

Posted on September 28, 2015

Bhagat Singh is considered by some to be one of the heroes of the Indian Independence Movement.

These two photos of Singh
have been used over and
over and over again, on
posters and t-shirts and
memes and book covers
and and and....
However, Singh's actions included violence, revenge, and even murder – and that is one reason that some uplift the pacifist Gandhi as a hero but consider Singh more of a villain.

Some people just shrug and say that, like everyone else, Singh did good things AND bad things. He is not so easy to categorize, and it is interesting that many different and contradictory movements have tried to use his popularity to further their own agendas.

Bhagat Singh was born in British India on this date in 1907. His family had been involved with revolutionary activities against the British even before Singh was born, and when he was a teenager he dabbled in ideas of anarchy (having no government at all) and Marxism (an attempt for a “classless society” by getting rid of capitalism).

An author and politician named Lala Lajpat Rai was leading a non-violent protest against British rule and was badly injured by British police officers. He ended up dying from those injuries. It was Rai's death that caused Singh to seek revenge, and he murdered a British police officer and cut his hair in order to escape capture. He also threw non-lethal bombs – along with leaflets – inside the Central Legislative Assembly. That time, he didn't elude police; he allowed himself to be arrested. He ended up gaining a lot of public support among Indians while fasting for 116 days in jail!

Singh was convicted of murder, and he was hung. He was just 23 years old.

Like I said, Bhagat Singh's legacy is mixed. He inspired a lot of Indian youth to fight for independence, back in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Even today, Singh is an idol for some, and there are memorials, statues, and movies devoted to keeping his memory alive.

..and even on money!

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September 27 – World Tourism Day

Posted on September 27, 2015

According to the official website for this United Nations holiday, every time we travel, we have an opportunity to make a positive change in the world. 

Certainly travel is enriching to each of us. On an individual level, when we travel, we see and hear things we don't see in our own hometowns. We meet new people. Perhaps we try new foods, discover new ways of doing things or new ideas. We often hear different languages, and we always, always expand our horizons.

Travel means learning. And hopefully it means greater acceptance of “different” – of “other.” Greater understanding. A more global outlook, a greater desire to protect natural spaces and wildlife, a longer view as well as a wider one.

And if enough people are learning to care about other people and other cultures and nature and ecological systems – that's a win for everyone!

Of course, there is another way that travel and tourism can be a positive force – and that is not for the people doing the travel, but for the people living in the places being visited.

Because travel and tourism usually translates to money, and jobs, and opportunities. Hotels and restaurants, airlines and tour boats, shops and museums and attractions – and so much more – all thrive with tourist dollars.

When economical growth from tourism helps endangered species and encourages conservation of wilderness, it's a win-win. When tourist dollars support local craftspeople and encourage preservation of traditions, that's a win-win, as well.

Done right, tourism can have value for human rights, for cultures, for governmental stability – as well as for economies.

This year...

  • Burkina Faso will host the official 2015 World Tourism Day celebration.
  • This year's theme is “1,000,000,000 tourists – 1,000,000,000 opportunities” – or, in words, “One billion tourists – one billion opportunities.” I read that the plan was to call it “Millions of tourists, millions of opportunities.” But -- apparently -- tourism is bigger than "just" millions!

    I am surprised that, in a world of only seven billion people, there are one billion tourists! But I read that there are – not just one billion tourists – but MORE THAN one billion INTERNATIONAL tourists EACH YEAR!

    (Naturally, some of these must be business travelers and frequent travelers. In other words, a person who travels outside of her country six times a year must surely count as six international tourists.)

  • Tourists in India can visit more than 200 ticketed monuments and museums for free today – wonderful places such as the world-famous Taj Mahal! There are similar sorts of tourism-encouraging freebies in some other nations as well.

Also on this date:

Banned Books Week 
(9/27 to 10/3)

Sukkot begins

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September 26 – Revolution Day in Yemen

Posted on September 26, 2015

When an oppressive king has ruled your nation badly – Wikipedia says that Ahmad bin Yahya, King of the Yemen, was “ruthless, arbitrary and inconsistent” – maybe having a monarchy doesn't sound so good. Maybe having a democratic republic begins to sound a bit better...

But I believe that the main reason that there was a revolution against the new king just a few days after Ahmad died – on this date in 1962 – is because Ahmad had made Yemen an enemy of Egypt. It was Egyptian soldiers who fought alongside nationalist forces to overthrow the king.

Sigh. I SO wanted Yemen to be a bit of democracy on the Arabian Peninsula, but in actual fact, the Republic of Yemen has seen civil war, corruption, abductions, torture, terrorist attacks, and rebellions! It's pretty much a mess...

We are warned NOT to travel to Yemen right now because of all the violence. So let's, instead, enjoy the beauties of the country in the comfort of our own homes:

The Shahara Bridge was created in the 1600s to connect towns at the tops of two mountains. It's super scary – but locals cross it often every day.

These weird-looking “umbrella” trees seep red sap and are therefore called dragon's blood trees. They are found on Socotra Island, which belongs to Yemen.

Also on Socotra Island, this tree is pretty ugly...for a tree!

But if you get an entire group of the “ugly” trees – and they look pretty darned cool.

I love this “rock palace,” found in Wadi Dhar.

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