August 31 - National Cowgirl Day

Posted on August 31, 2019

(Saturday of Labor Day Weekend)

It seems that everybody's heard about cowboys - partly because of the Westerns (movies and TV) put out by Hollywood for years and years.

However, the "Old West," which refers to the Western frontier of the United States in the late 1800s, had strong, active women as well as men. Many women were businesswomen, but some were prospectors, journalists, performers, sharp shooters, and cowgirls. 

Sometimes these professions overlapped. For example, Ethyle and Juanita Parry were twin cowgirls who were skilled at roping and riding - and they performed for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and later for Barnum & Bailey's circus. Cowgirls AND performers. 

Another old-time cowgirl, Lucille Mulhall from Missouri, was a skilled rider who was declared - at age 14 - the "first cowgirl" by none other than Theodore Roosevelt (then Governor of New York, later President of the US). She won lots of competitions and ended up hosting a Wild West show.

Mulhall said, "Be so good, they can't ignore you!"

Since the early 1900s at least, there were rodeos that were open to female as well as male competitors. 

Unfortunately, in 1936 many events were suddenly closed to women. After WWII, things got a bit better, but women were not allowed to compete in most events, but instead acted as "sponsor girls" or as horsemanship exhibitors. In 1948, cowgirls showed that they weren't going to take being sidelined; a group of 38 women formed the Girls Rodeo Association. And from then on, things have been getting better and better for cowgirls.

August 30 – Constitution Day in Kazakhstan

Posted on August 30, 2019

Parades! Fireworks! Concerts and ceremonies and celebrations!

Many nations celebrate their Independence Day as their most important patriotic holiday...but in Kazakhstan, the biggie is apparently Constitution Day. 

My guess is that people enjoy festivities more in the summer than in winter - and Kazakhstan's Independence Day is in December. 

It might also be that Independence Day is the anniversary of the nation's break-away from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Constitution Day is more recent, harkening back to 1995. Or it might be that Kazakhstan wasn't all that eager to break from the USSR. It was, after all, the very last of the "republics" to declare independence. And it segued from a highly controlled society to...a highly controlled society. Kazakhstan's first president ruled for almost three decades and was considered an authoritarian. He violated human rights and suppressed free speech and freedom of the press. He finally stepped down in March of this year.

I suppose that we'll soon see if the nation moves toward democracy!

Kazakhstan is the ninth largest nation (by area)
in the world. Do you know which nations
are larger?
Maybe the map can help you figure it out...
Answers below:

(1.Russia - 2.Canada - 3.China - 4.United States - 5.Brazil
6.Australia - 7.India - 8.Argentina)

Did you know...?

Kazakhstan is the location of the world's first space launch site - and the largest space launch site - and probably the most used space launch site! The Kaikonur Cosmodrome is on lease to the Russian Space Agency until 2050.

I was so used to American-style "splash-downs" after spaceflight, and then Space Shuttles' plane-like landings, that I was pretty shocked to realize that Soviet / Russian Soyuz space capsules landed with a thump on the barren land of Kazakhstan. Fifteen minutes before landing, four parachutes are deployed, and about seven feet above the ground, four rockets at the base fire to soften the landing. Another thing that helps astronauts land safely is the individually molded seats.

These photos show cosmonauts shortly
after landing on the flat, barren lands
of Kazakhstan.

By the way, it's not just Russian cosmonauts that use the Cosmodrome; American astronauts and astronauts from all over the world use it, too. NASA astronauts commonly join cosmonauts on the Russian Soyuz to go up to the International Space Station and to later return to Earth.

August 29 – Happy Birthday, John Locke!

Posted on August 29, 2019

Thinking about thinking...

Wondering about existence. Pondering what we know about life, the universe, and everything - and pondering what "to know" really means!

Philosophy can be a bit hard to define, and some people will listen carefully to any definition and then decide that this sort of meta-thinking is useless. Or maybe even nonsense.

But philosophy is actually quite important to humans, and John Locke was very important to philosophy!

Born in England on this date in 1632, Locke studied at university and became a doctor. He served as the personal physician of an important politician - Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. Because he was surrounded by political talk and, later, by talk of trade and economics, he ended up thinking and writing about these topics. Because his boss was a founder of the Whig movement, which was all about a king or other monarch having a limit on his or her powers, Locke ended up thinking about things like human rights, constitutions, and even democracy.

You see, in Locke's youth many rulers could have someone punished without any sort of trial, for any reason, imprison someone, exile someone, or execute someone for any reason or even no reason! That is called absolute monarchy, because the king (or queen, or emperor, etc.) could do absolutely anything.

And Locke was against it.

Locke's writings got him in trouble, and he fled to the Netherlands for five years. He returned to Britain after the Glorious Revolution made a big change in that nation: Parliament was more powerful than whoever was queen or king. 

(By the way, after the Glorious Revolution, the "whoever" that was queen was the former king's daughter, Mary II, and the "whoever" that was king was her Dutch husband, William of Orange. Have you heard of "William and Mary"?)

There is a famous college named William
& Mary in Virginia; chartered in 1693, long
before the U.S. was an independent nation,
it claims to be the first university in the nation.

Locke's most important ideas include:

  • Religious tolerance - the idea that governments and societies should allow people to hold beliefs in any religion (or no religion), and should be able to practice their religion (as long as such practices don't break laws)
  • Limitations on governmental powers - the idea that a written constitution (or something like) should spell out what the government can and cannot do
  • Separation of governmental powers - the idea that different parts of the government should exist so that no one person or group has unchecked power - that the different branches of government would provide checks and balances for one another
  • Revolution as an obligation - if people are oppressed, and if their rights are violated, they can and SHOULD rebel
  • Government serves the people - not the other way around - and people should be able to choose their representatives 
  • Government must protect life, liberty, and property
  • People have natural rights that governments cannot morally take away and therefore should not infringe on - thus they are "inalienable" rights
Can you see that many of Locke's important ideas inspired the American Revolution, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and many other representative democracies?