Yellow Pig Day

We have celebrated July 17 as Yellow Pig Day since the 1960s. I’m not sure I entirely understand it myself, but here’s the scoop from Time and Date: “The unofficial holiday was created in the early 1960s by Princeton mathematics students, David Kelly and Michael Spivak, while working on the special properties of the number 17. It is unclear why the day was called Yellow Pig Day or what a yellow pig has to do with the number 17, though legend has it that it is in reference to David Kelly’s collection of yellow pigs.”

The number 17 is significant mathematically because it is not only a prime number (divisible only by itself and one); it is also the sum of the first four prime numbers, 2, 3, 5, and 7. However, what this has ultimately to do with yellow pigs is obscure, to say the least! At any rate, it is nice to have a holiday for mathematicians.

I must admit I had never heard of this holiday in spite of working for nearly twenty years on college campuses, but if the Web is to be believed, Yellow Pig Day is an important part of the academic calendar and is celebrated with cake, parades, and general revelry. There are even yellow pig carols, which you can find on yelowpigs.net. There we have such songs as “March of the Yellow Pig,” sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “The Seventeen Days of Yellow Pigs,” based on the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” There are, of course, seventeen songs on that page.

By the way, if all the talk of pigs and numbers has made you a bit queasy, you might want to know that the fear of the number 17 is called heptadecaphobia.

To most outsiders, modern mathematics is unknown territory. Its borders are protected by dense thickets of technical terms; its landscapes are a mass of indecipherable equations and incomprehensible concepts. Few realize that the world of modern mathematics is rich with vivid images and provocative ideas.–Ivars Peterson

If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.–John Louis von Neumann

I never did very well in math – I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn’t meant my answers literally.–Calvin Trillin

Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.–Carl Sandburg

Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost.–W. S. Anglin

Although he may not always recognize his bondage, modern man lives under a tyranny of numbers.–Nicholas Eberstadt

I used to love mathematics for its own sake, and I still do, because it allows for no hypocrisy and no vagueness….–Stendhal

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.–Albert Einstein

Pure mathematics is the magician’s real wand.–Novalis

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.–Winston S. Churchill

Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.–George Bernard Shaw

I never met a pig I didn’t like. All pigs are intelligent, emotional, and sensitive souls. They all love company. They all crave contact and comfort. Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop.–Sy Montgomery

The paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings.–G. K. Chesterton

Saint Swithin’s Day

July 15 is the feast day of Saint Swithin. I must confess I knew little of him before today, but I loved the name. In Miracle Mile by Margery Allingham, the rector of the parish is known fondly as Saint Swithin, so I was curious to read about the real saint.

Swithin (or Swithun) lived during the Anglo-Saxton time in England. We don’t know when he was born, and only that he died July 2 sometime between 862 and 866. He was bishop of Windsor when alive, and the patron saint of the same after his death. He was a friend of King Æthelwulf, and tutor of the king’s son. He apparently led a fairly quiet life when he was alive. His passion was opening new churches, and restoring those that had fallen into disrepair. I like the fact that, although a friend of the king, he didn’t put on airs. Swithin made his diocesan journeys on foot; when he gave a banquet, he invited the poor and not the rich. He requested that when he died, he be buried outside the church where passersby would walk over him and the rain fall on him.

In 971, Bishop Ethelwold moved Swithin’s remains to a new shrine, commissioned by King Edgar, in Winchester Cathedral, which became a place of pilgrimage as miracles were worked at the tomb. Today we remember him for the weather rhyme associated with his name. Apparently, when his bones were moved inside against his wishes, there was a great storm, which is why it is said that whatever the weather is on his day, it will be the same for the next forty days, whether rain or shine.

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.–John Ruskin

One need only think of the weather, in which case the prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible.–Albert Einstein

A cloudy day or a little sunshine have as great an influence on many constitutions as the most recent blessings or misfortunes.–Joseph Addison

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.–Mark Twain

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.–George Carlin

It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it.–Amelia Barr

Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.–Kin Hubbard

For the man sound of body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.–George Gissing

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.–Patrick Young

Suddenly all the sky is hid As with the shutting of a lid, One by one great drops are falling Doubtful and slow, Down the pane they are crookedly crawling, And the wind breathes low; Slowly the circles widen on the river, Widen and mingle, one and all; Here and there the slenderer flowers shiver, Struck by an icy rain-drop’s fall.–James Russell Lowell

Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.–Oscar Wilde

We consider it tedious to talk of the weather, and yet there is nothing more important.–Berthold Auerbach

You can’t get mad at weather because weather’s not about you. Apply that lesson to most other aspects of life.–Douglas Coupland

July 13 is the day to celebrate being a geek. The first question I asked myself about this day, is “What is the difference between a geek and a nerd?” A Web search told me that different people define them differently – in fact, what one site calls a nerd, the next site calls a geek. So feel free to call yourself whichever one fits your fancy. There does seem to be some consensus that a geek is more academically inclined, but it seems to be a distinction without a difference.

We often think of geeks as anti-social, or socially inept, interested in esoteric subjects, loners, and other unflattering descriptions. But the truth is, though those we usually think of as geeks or nerds are likely intelligent – one definition I read is “one whose IQ exceeds his or her weight” – anyone can be interested and enthusiastic about a particular subject. So we have computer geeks, but we also have sports geeks, wine geeks, or mystery geeks. As those who have read my blogs regularly know, I am a Doctor Who geek. If I meet someone remotely interested in the show, I can talk and talk for hours, though as a rule, I am pretty quiet in company.

So what are the benefits of being a geek or a nerd? They are often creative and inventive. One tongue in cheek definition is “a four-letter word, but a six-figure income,” referring to such folks as Bill Gates. Geeks have a great time when they get together with others of their fandom. If you ever want to see that in action, go to the big San Diego Comic Con, which celebrates many of the worlds of geeks. Or observe a group watching the Super Bowl. They are every bit as enthusiastic as those of us who are into more fantasy or science related geekdom. In many ways, being a geek or nerd gives us a family. I interact with other Doctor Who fans all across the world via social media.

So wherever your enthusiasm lies, today is the day to celebrate it. Embrace your inner geek and let your enthusiasm show.

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.–Bill Gates

So you’re a little weird? Work it! Different? Own it! Better to be a nerd than one of the herd!–Mandy Hale

Everyone’s a nerd inside. I don’t care how cool you are.–Channing Tatum

Nerd. One whose unbridled passion for something defines who they are as a person, without fear of other people’s judgment.–Zachary Levi

In Europe they call geeks ‘smart people,’ and frankly I think we live in a culture that doesn’t value intelligence enough; so I am very proud in saying that I am a geek.–James Marsters

Being a geek is a great thing. I think we’re all geeks. Being a geek means you’re passionate about something and that defines your uniqueness. I would rather be passionate about something than be apathetic about everything.–Masi Oka

Why is being a nerd bad? Saying I notice you’re a nerd is like saying, ‘Hey, I notice that you’d rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you’d rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Linsey Lohan.–John Green

When I was a kid, it was a huge insult to be a geek. Now it’s a point of pride in a weird way.–J. J. Abrams

Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. … Being a geek is extremely liberating.–Simon Pegg

Cheer Up the Lonely Day

July 11 is a day to remember those who are lonely. All different kinds of people can be lonely, from those who know no one because of being in a new situation, to those who have lost a significant loved one, to those in nursing homes, to empty nesters. Whatever the reason, today is a day to remember them. Francis Pesek of Detroit, Michigan created this special holiday. His daughter, L.J. Pesek reports that he “was a quiet, kind, wonderful man who had a heart of gold. The idea came to him as a way of promoting kindness toward others who were lonely or forgotten as shut-ins or in nursing homes.”

All of us have been lonely at some time in our lives. Surely, we all know someone right now who is lonely. Today is a day to look around and think about those we interact with each day. A new neighbor might welcome a plate of cookies. A newcomer at work might welcome a lunch invitation, or just someone to talk to. A person who fights depression can especially use a listening ear. If no one of your acquaintance fits the bill, plenty of folks in nursing homes would welcome a visit. My Mother lives in a nursing home, and all of us siblings are too far away to visit very often. She has friends there, but she misses family. Though we can be lonely at any age – children too – older folks have a different loneliness, as they have seen so many friends and family pass away. New friends are good, but you never stop missing the old ones.

So the assignment today is to acknowledge someone who is lonely, preferably in person, but a card, phone call, or email is also a way to show you care. As an introvert, however, I do feel the need to point out that there is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness. Some of us cherish that alone time, and do not need cheering up! But all will welcome a kind word and a plate of cookies – or healthy food if you must.

The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.–F. Scott Fitzgerald

We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.–Albert Schweitzer

The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.–Norman Cousins

Loneliness is the ultimate poverty.–Pauline Phillips

The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.–Charlotte Brontë

There is no loneliness like that of a failed marriage.–Alexander Theroux

I’m lonely. And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs.–Augusten Burroughs

This world that I live in is empty and cold
The loneliness cuts me and tortures my soul.–Waylon Jennings

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.–Anne Hathaway

Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering—and it’s all over much too soon.–Woody Allen

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.–Maya Angelou

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.–Kurt Vonnegut

The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.–Mother Teresa

Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there.–Joss Whedon

July 9 is the day to celebrate sugar cookies. One of my earliest cooking memories is helping my mother cut out and decorate sugar cookies. We did it at Christmas time and had a bell, a star, a tree, and, of all things, a chicken cookie cutter.

Sugar Cookie Day can be traced back to the Nazarene (or Amish) sugar cookie, created in the mid-1700s by the Moravians in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The invention of the cookie cutter in 1875 helped to make cookies easier with more variation and complicated shapes. In those days, tinsmiths made the cutters by hand. The cookies are so popular, that in 2001, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania adopted this as its official cookie. By the way, the word cookie comes from a Dutch word meaning little cake.

One thing that makes sugar cookies so popular, it that it is an easy recipe. Traditional sugar cookies are made with just six ingredients: sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, and baking powder. The primary flavor in the cookies is vanilla. And yet they are also infinitely adaptable since you can make them in various shapes, with various decorations. And they are an easy cookie for children to help with. Of course, you must remember to put out a plate of decorated sugar cookies and a glass of milk for Santa on Christmas Eve.

All the suggestions I saw for celebrating this day said to pick up some sugar cookies at the store, or some dough to cut and bake your own. However, with such a simple recipe, I think it’s a much better idea to make them from scratch yourself. (Though by all means buy them if you that’s the only way you will get any.) In case you don’t have that recipe, here is a link to a basic, easy one on Food.com.

America ships tons of sugar cookies to Denmark and Denmark ships tons of sugar cookies to America. Wouldn’t it be more efficient just to swap recipes?–Michael Pollan

Cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food. They are very bite-sized and personal.–Sandra Lee

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.–Barbara Jordan

Sometimes me think, “What is Friend?” Then me say, “Friend is someone to share the last cookie with.–The Cookie Monster

My grannies would both bake things like shortbreads and cookies. I think whenever I smell those kinds of things it really takes me back to my childhood.–Curtis Stone

I absolutely love making chocolate chip cookies. I mean, it’s fun. It’s exciting. Beyond the fact that I love making them, I love eating them.–Debbi Fields

I think cookies are sort of the unsung sweet, you know? They’re incredibly popular. But everybody thinks of cakes and pies and fancier desserts before they think cookies. A plate of cookies is a great way to end dinner and really nice to share at the holidays.–Bobby Flay

People have got to learn: if they don’t have cookies in the cookie jar, they can’t eat cookies.–Suze Orman

Every cookie and candy I put in the fridge, it always manages to taste better when it’s cold.–Hilary Rhoda

Don’t expect too much from yourself. What I like to do when I have a day off is make various cookie doughs and freeze them. Then I always have that on hand if I need it.–Giada De Laurentiis

I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas.–Hillary Clinton

Roswell UFO Incident

Though today is Chocolate Day, I decided to feature the Roswell UFO sighting instead, as 2017 is the 70th anniversary of the occurrence. Before I do that, though, I must point out, as a person who used to live in Washington State, that although the Roswell incident became famous, the first UFOs were sighted on June 24 of that year near Mount Rainer. Private pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed that he saw a string of nine, shiny unidentified flying objects flying past Mount Rainier at speeds that Arnold estimated at a minimum of 1,200 miles an hour. He was the first to compare the objects to saucers, and so the term flying saucer is credited to him.

Meanwhile, Roswell, New Mexico got all the fame, partly, I think, because the government was involved. According to the History Website, on July 7, “about 75 miles from the town, a rancher named Mac Brazel found something unusual in his sheep pasture: a mess of metallic sticks held together with tape; chunks of plastic and foil reflectors; and scraps of a heavy, glossy, paper-like material. Unable to identify the strange objects, Brazel called Roswell’s sheriff. The sheriff, in turn, called officials at the nearby Roswell Army Air Force base. Soldiers fanned out across Brazel’s field, gathering the mysterious debris and whisking it away in armored trucks.” The Air Force claimed it was only a weather balloon, but the explanation seemed suspicious at the time and the rumors about an alien ship crashing continued to swirl. The interest in the site has ebbed and flowed through the years but never gone away.

The Army stepped forward in the 1990s to explain that the crash had actually been a highly secret project called Project Mogul, which had to do with Cold War espionage. Some call the Roswell incident the most definitely debunked UFO story of all time, but others continue to believe the government is still covering up the truth. It certainly has been fodder for many speculations and movies and TV shows through the years, and Area 51 is synonymous with government secrecy. What really happened that day? Most likely, the mundane answer is the truth, but the alien story is much more interesting!

Quotes about UFOs. Some surprising people believe the saucers do or could exist.

I happen to be privileged enough to be in on the fact that we have been visited on this planet, and the UFO phenomenon is real.–Edgar Mitchell, astronaut

I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true. It’s hard to say whether or not you’re a believer. I’ve been interested in that subject matter, like lots of people. Perhaps foolishly, I’ve allowed some of that stuff to creep into my music.–Frank Black

‘UFO’s’ attitude toward the subject is very similar to mine. It’s not an advocacy; its philosophy is more ‘I want to believe this, but I want it proved.’–Dwight Schultz

I don’t laugh at people any more when they say they’ve seen UFOs. I’ve seen one myself.–Jimmy Carter

I occasionally think how quickly our differences, worldwide, would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.–Ronald Reagan

I feel that the Air Force has not been giving out all the available information on these Unidentified Flying Objects. You cannot disregard so many unimpeachable sources.–John McCormack

Unidentified Flying Objects are entering our atmosphere at very high speeds and obviously under intelligent control.–Rear Admiral Delmar Fahrney

While flying with several other USAF pilots over Germany in 1957, we sighted numerous radiant flying discs above us. We couldn’t tell how high they were. We couldn’t get anywhere near their altitude.–NASA astronaut, L. Gordon Cooper.

National Apple Turnover Day

On July 5, we celebrate apple turnovers. At their most basic, turnovers are pies you can hold in your hand. They are made by putting filling on dough, folding it over, sealing it, crimping it with a fork, and baking. Yum! By the way, did you know the only apple native to North America is the crab apple? Now you do!

You can make turnovers with regular pie dough or as it probably more usual, on puff pastry. I found recopies for many kinds of apple turnovers on the Web.

Here is a nicely basic on using puff pastry from AnydayGuide:

Peel and core 1 large apple, cut it into 1/4-inch dice. In a bowl, stir together apple chunks, 3 tbs dried cranberries, 3 tbs heated apple jelly, 1 tbs cornstarch, and 1/8 tsp cinnamon.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry and cut into 6 parts. You need roughly 4-inch squares. Divide the apple filling among pastry squares, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with lightly beaten egg. Cut 2 tbs cold unsalted butter into bits and dot filling with it.

Fold each square into a triangle and crimp edges, using a fork. Cut a couple of slits in top of each turnover. Brush lightly with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 °F until puffed and golden. Let cool to warm and enjoy.

There are links to different recipes at cdkitchen. Here are a couple. You can find the full recipe for those and others on the Website.

Loretta Lynn’s Apple Turnovers
Made with confectioners’ sugar, apple pie filling, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, shortening, water

Apple Cinnamon Turnovers in Sour Cream Pastry
Made with cinnamon, brown sugar, flour, butter, sour cream, water, salt, apples

So whatever you do, enjoy an apple turnover today!

I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream… I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.–Mark Twain

You cannot sell a blemished apple in the supermarket, but you can sell a tasteless one provided it is shiny, smooth, even, uniform and bright.–Elspeth Huxley

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.–Carl Sagan

Why not upset the apple cart? If you don’t the apples will rot anyway.–Frank A. Clark

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.–Robert H. Schuller

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.–Martin Luther

When the apple is ripe it will fall.–Irish proverb

Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye.–Henry David Thoreau

Why do we need so many kinds of apples? Because there are so many folks. A person has a right to gratify his legitimate taste. If he wants twenty or forty kinds of apples for his personal use…he should be accorded the privilege. There is merit in variety itself. It provides more contact with life, and leads away from uniformity and monotony.–Liberty Hyde Baily

I’m not smart, but I like to observe. Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.–William Hazlitt

With an apple I will astonish Paris.–Paul Cezanne