January 31 – Celebrating Composers

Posted on January 31, 2018

One of the most famous composers in the world, Austrian Franz Schubert, was born on this date in 1797.

But other composers celebrate their birthdays today, as well:

François Devienne was a French flute player who wrote music; he was born on January 31, 1759.

Lunalilo was a Hawai'ian king who also dabbled in composing music; he was born on January 31, 1835.

Norm Prescott was an American animator and producer who also wrote music; he was born on January 31, 1927.

Justin Timberlake is an American singer-songwriter and actor; he was born on January 31, 1981.

Kota Yabu is a Japanese idol, model, actor, and singer-songwriter; he was born on January 31, 1990.

Check out some of these musicians works with YouTube:

Norm Prescott helped to compose the opening song of this cartoon.

January 30 – Croissant Day

Posted on January 30, 2018

I think of croissants as a French thing - of course the word croissant is itself French for crescent - but crescent-shaped cakes go back to ancient times, and crescent-shaped bread goes back at least as far as the Renaissance in Austria, when bakers made and sold Kipferi.

Modern croissants are made with dough that is layered with butter, rolled and folded and rolled again in a way that is like puff pastry. It creates layered, flaky bread that is oh-so-yummy!

A lot of croissants are now made in factories and frozen. Even many French bakeries and patisseries sell croissants baked from frozen dough!

Vary it!

Actually, croissants cannot be beat, but on croissant day, you might want to eat a few in some different ways.

Breakfast - a croissant plain with juice or tea is often considered the perfect continental breakfast

Lunch - of course, croissant sandwiches!

Dessert - Try a chocolate or almond filled croissant, or make one of these recipes.

January 29 - Freethinkers Day

Posted on January 29, 2018

Today is Freethinkers Day.

Way back when, I mentioned that October 12 is Free Thought Day

Freethought (or free thought) isn't just thinking any old thing, whatever you want, whimsically flitting from playful thought to fun conspiracy theory to mysterious belief to comforting assurance.

Instead, a freethinker is someone who bases her or his ideas on rational thought, on evidence, on science, on reason -  as opposed to basing ideas on tradition, authority, or revelation.

The reason that we celebrate freethinkers today is because it is the birthday of Thomas Paine, whose impactful pamphlet Common Sense is credited with inspiring the American Revolution, when the 13 American colonies declared independence from Britain. Paine wrote other essays about ending slavery and promoting human rights. He was ahead of his time...and he pushed the world into becoming a better place!

Check out the earlier post about Paine (link above) for more on this great freethinker. Or delve into freethought by reading or listening to these completely different yet identically named items:

Here are some questions for you. Three of these things really happened to my daughters when they were kids, and one of them happened to me when I was a college student.

  1. Would you believe your teacher's claim that Egyptian pharaohs lived in the pyramids?
  2. Would you let your friend's mom pour melted wax into your ear to purify your body from toxins?
  3. Would you believe your good friend's statement that dinosaur fossils were buried by the Devil to trick people?
  4. Would you believe people who experienced a revelation from God that a pregnant woman in the Bible study group was NOT going to give birth to a human baby, but instead to something new and special and different?

Here's how these events panned out for my family:

My daughter had heard several times that the Egyptian pyramids were burial places for ancient kings - not houses where they lived. When her teacher taught the latter to the class, she questioned the teacher. The teacher got embarrassed but seemed to double down on her statement. My daughter was puzzled. She let it drop in class, but she wondered if her previous knowledge (pyramid = burial place and monument, not house for living, breathing pharaoh) was wrong.

But she remembered the diagrams of the secret doors, the burial chambers, and so forth. She thought about the fact that the pyramids had no windows or ordinary doors. She was sure that her teacher was wrong - even though she was the teacher! After class she told me about her concerns. I discussed the matter with the teacher, but I made sure to allow the teacher to save face and claim that my daughter had misunderstood her (even though another student confirmed my daughter's version).

The point here is, don't assume that an authority figure is always right. Question statements that fly in the face of everything you thought you knew - but do consider the possibility that the new statement MIGHT be correct, and the old "knowledge" wrong. Use further research, observation, experiment, or reason to figure out which is more likely.

My daughter had been taught not to put things in her ears, in general. If a bug crawls or flies into an ear, she knew from MY bad experience, we could pour cooking oil into the ear to gently flush it out. But by and large, we don't stick objects or substances into our ears.

Also, my daughter was really skeptical about wax in an ear canal being able to do anything about poisons inside the body. Yes, our bodies make wax in our ears to keep the canals moist and infection-free, and to make sure dust and other bad stuff doesn't get too deep in the ear - but the ear canal ends in the eardrum. If there were something bad (like snake toxin?) in someone's bloodstream, neither his own natural earwax nor wax from a candle would do a thing to save his life! If someone ate food that had gone bad, or the wrong kind of mushrooms, or weed killer - again, any sort of wax in the ear canal can't do a thing to help!

The point here is that there is a lot of B.S. about health, nutrition, and medicine.

My daughter suspected that this candling practice was an example of "alternative medicine" that didn't stand up to its claims. 
So she said no, thank you, and later she told me about the incident. I was able to show her a magazine article with results of experiments about candling - and it showed my daughter that her B.S. detector was in working order!

My daughter knew that different families and individuals have different religious traditions and beliefs - and that most (or all?) religious beliefs are based on faith, not evidence. My daughter knew that there was LOTS of evidence about evolution and about dinosaurs, including many different sorts of fossils (not just fossilized bones) - but she also knew that many religious groups were upset and negative about the concept of evolution.

In this particular case, my daughter didn't argue or even discuss her friend's claim. She shrugged it off and continued

to enjoy the museum exhibits of dinosaur fossils. The point here is, even if a really good friend believes something that goes against evidence, you don't have to follow him or her into that belief.

I was bewildered about all these smart, cool young adults believing that the pregnant woman wasn't growing a human baby. 

Back in those days, there was no ultrasound technology to image the baby in the womb, but there were kicks and a heartbeat, and the doctors assured the woman that her pregnancy was normal.

It was clear to me that she was having a baby.

But thirty or more people clung to the idea that it was going to be something else, something more miraculous yet strange. Something not human. And they thought that because one member claimed that he'd had a revelation from God.

I shook my head over the situation for months. Finally, the baby was born.

A healthy HUMAN baby.

At that point the young man who had had the original revelation finally had another revelation telling him that the first revelation was wrong - and yes, this was a perfectly ordinary baby after all...

The point here is that revelation isn't a reliable path to the truth.  

Also on this date: