November 30 - Cities for Life Day

Posted on November 30, 2019

I thought that "Cities for Life Day" was probably about planning cities so we can have good, healthy lives. You know, rooftop gardens, solar panels over parking lots, walkable city centers, modern electric people movers...

But that's not today's deal at all. Instead, Cities for Life Day is about abolishing the death penalty!

On this date waaaayyyy back in 1786, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany abolished the death penalty. It was the first country in the world to do away with what we euphemistically call capital punishment

In other words, the judicial system couldn't punish a criminal by ruling "Off with his head" or "Hang by the neck" or any other form of killing.

The Grand Duchy of Tuscany made this ruling because of a treatise written by Italian Enlightenment writer and jurist Cesare Beccaria. He wrote that the criminal justice system should be based on rational principles. This treatise is considered a masterpiece and has been translated into 22 languages.

And in the more-than-two-centuries since Tuscany banned the death penalty, at least 141 other nations have abolished the death penalty. The United Nations has called on ALL nations to do so.

Wow! So many nations have banned the death penalty. What about the U.S.?

Yikes! As in so many other ways, in regards to abolishing the death penalty, the United States is out of step with most of the other developed nations. However, at least 17 U.S. states have banned it, and some that have not banned the death penalty (like my own state of California) at least have a moratorium on executions.

What would it mean to use rational principles to decide whether or not to have the death penalty?

We could ask a series of questions and then answer them using data and other kinds of evidence, or by using logic and reason. Here are some examples of good questions:

1. Does having the death penalty make people think twice about committing crimes? In other words, is it a deterrent?
No. The evidence OVERWHELMING shows that the death penalty has no deterrent effect.
2. Is the death penalty justice for a murderer, at least in an eye-for-an-eye kind of way? 

No. Data show that poor people and people of color who have been convicted of murder are more likely to be executed than are rich white people who have been convicted of murder - which is definitely not fair. Even worse, there are cases in which evidence (such DNA evidence) has proven that a person who has already been executed wasn't guilty of murder, after all!
Getting back to the Cities for Life Day...

Many important cities around the world, including many national capitals, have chosen to light up a landmark in a symbolic way on this day. We're talking more than 70 capitals and more than 1,600 other cities - everywhere from Vienna, Austria, and Bogotá, Colombia, to Dallas, Texas, U.S., and 
Mexico City, Mexico.

November 29 - Square Dance Day

Posted on November 29, 2019

Four couples form an inward-facing square.
The music starts.
The caller begins her or his rapid-fire instructions:

"Now bow to your partner,
Bow to your corner, too,
Now heads forward and back,
And sides forward and back,
Circle left!
Now swing your partner,
Allemande left,
And promenade back home."

I have learned some square dancing, and it's pretty fun - for sure good for the ole' brain, since one call can have 20 or 30 different moves. I'm talking about Teacup Chain, Load the Boat, Trade the Wave, AC/DC, and so forth.

Square dancing is often associated with senior citizens,
poofy skirts and stiff petticoats, and country music.

All of that CAN be true, but many young people square
dance, too, you can wear just about anything to square
dance, and some callers use multiple genres of music.

Some people think that square dancing should be declared the National Dance of the United States, since it is (they say) uniquely American. However, square dancing has roots in European and African folk dancing as well as in Native American dancing - so many aspects are not completely "unique" to the U.S. - and it certainly isn't more "American" than is, say, Hawaiian hula or Cherokee stomp dancing or Inuit drum dancing.

Still, square dancing is fun, it's good exercise, it's very social, and it's good for the brain!

You're Welcoming Day
(Friday After Thanksgiving)

Black Friday
(Friday After Thanksgiving)

Buy Nothing Day
(Friday After Thanksgiving)

Sinkie Day
(Friday After Thanksgiving)

(Friday After Thanksgiving)
(Friday After Thanksgiving)
(Friday After Thanksgiving)
(Friday After Thanksgiving)

(Friday After Thanksgiving)

November 28 - Turkey-free Thanksgiving

Posted on November 28, 2019

A tofu "turkey" with stuffing!

There is a lot of talk, these days, about eating less meat, or no meat. Many people are vegetarians (people who eat no meat, including fish), pescatarians (people who eat no meat except for fish), and vegans (people who eat only plant-based foods - so no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs). 

There are three main reasons to eat less or no meat: (1) for your own health, (2) for the sake of the environment, and (3) because the meat, dairy, and egg industries are cruel to animals.

All of those folks no doubt skip turkey at Thanksgiving - either as an entire family or as an individual vegetarian in a meat-eating family.

Many people who eat meat just don't love the traditional turkey meal. They'd rather have a leg of lamb or a prime rib or...?

For those who complain that we should stick with turkey because it's traditional, there is ample evidence that the original Thanksgiving featured lots of things alongside boiled or roasted wild turkey - IF there was turkey at all! Other waterfowl, such as ducks, geese were apparently more popular with the Pilgrims. Swans and even passenger pigeons are also likely. Venison (deer meat) was there for sure, and it's probable that lots of seafood was served - eels, mussels, lobster, and clams.

Of course there was a lot of other food as well - corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, turnips, carrots, chestnuts, walnuts, beechnuts, onions, garlic, corn-based porridge, and cornbread.

This "traditional" Thanksgiving meal
is mostly foods that were added
to historical tradition somewhere
along the way. These upstarts were
far from traditional when they were
first included!
But there definitely were no mashed potatoes, sweet potato casseroles, or cranberries. And there was no wheat-flour based bread, nor any pies at all. So making an argument based on tradition is a bit silly - because all of today's traditional foods were add-ons or instead-ofs to what WAS eaten. So all of us can still add-on or instead-of, all we like, and help grow the various traditions of Thanksgiving!

How about some of these lovely yummies:

Stuffed acorn squash with pecans

Pumpkin-sage stuffed shells

Veggie pot pie