International Polar Bear Day

February 27 is International Polar Bear Day, sometimes called National Polar Bear Day or simply Polar Bear Day. It is organized by Polar Bears International to raise awareness about the impact of global warming and reduced sea ice on polar bear populations. The day encourages people to find ways to reduce their carbon output, such as by turning down their thermostat or driving less. It’s also a good day to visit your local zoo and observe this magnificent creature.

Polar bears can reach a height of 9 feet and a weight of 1400 pounds. They have large front paws, which are slightly webbed, that are used to paddle as they swim. The polar bears have a warming layer of fat which is covered by their thick coat of insulating fur which helps them live in the colder environments. They are one of nature’s most impressive hunters and the world’s largest carnivore. Polar bears live in the North Pole region and are native to Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia.

Polar bears need ice for survival. Their diet consists almost exclusively of seals, and ice acts as a platform to hunt and trap them. Ice enables polar bears to roam and stalk their prey. Decreased ice cover, especially during the summertime, means increased distance between platforms. A longer summer of ice-melt, means a shortened seal-hunting season. As a result, polar bears are having difficulty meeting their dietary needs – up to 100 pounds of food in one sitting, They are now classified as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature

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Quotes about polar bears

There’s a Polar Bear In our Frigidaire–
He likes it ’cause it’s cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws In the buttery dish,
He’s nibbling the noodles,
And munching the rice,
He’s slurping the soda,
He’s licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he’s in there–
That Polary Bear In our Fridgitydaire.
–Shel Silverstein

There’s no point bleating about the future of pandas, polar bears and tigers when we’re not addressing the one single factor that’s putting more pressure on the ecosystem than any other, namely the ever-increasing size of the world’s population.–Chris Packham

Don’t buy society’s definition of success. Because it’s not working for anyone. It’s not working for women, it’s not working for men, it’s not working for polar bears…–Arianna Huffington

Well, my son really loves wildlife. And every time he draws a polar bear I want to tell him there probably won’t any by the time … he’s my age. That’s kinda hard to deal with.–Thom Yorke

I’m cooler than a polar bear’s toenails…–Big Boi

Deeper than temperature and the extinction of the polar bear is the idea that we all share this beautiful, ailing planet, Democrats and Republicans alike.–Sheryl Crow

For humans, the Arctic is a harshly inhospitable place, but the conditions there are precisely what polar bears require to survive – and thrive. “Harsh” to us is “home” for them.–Sylvia Earle

Let me tell you something about polar bears. They’re endangered but you have to be careful because a polar bear is one of the few animals that will stalk a human. If you go to where polar bears live, it might stalk you and when you’re on the plane going home, it might be behind you reading.–Craig Ferguson

I think that I was slightly naive. I thought that if I showed people the beauty of the Arctic and the beauty of the polar bears that they would care so much that they would stand up and try to make a change.–Lewis Gordon

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National Women Inventors Month

What do windshield wipers, non-reflective glass, dishwashers, coffee makers, Kevlar, chocolate chip cookies, brassieres, CCTV, car heaters, fire escapes, ice cream makers and square bottom paper bags have in common? They were all invented by women. National Women Inventors Month is the perfect time to remember their contributions.

Though usually not as well-known as their male counterparts, women have been busily creating things to make like safer and easier for all. Let me feature a few.

In 1910 Mary Phelps Jacob — later known as Caresse Crosby— decided she was sick of her bulky, uncomfortable corset, and created the first bra out of two handkerchieves and some ribbons. She received a patent in 1914 and founded the Fashion Form Brassière Company to manufacture and sell her invention. As biography.com says, “women have literally breathed easier ever since.”

Margaret Knight (b. 1838) was sometimes called the lady Edison because she was so prolific with inventing things. Her first invention was a safety device for textile looms, after seeing a fellow worker injured by faulty equipment. She got her first patent in 1871 for a machine that cut, folded and glued flat-bottomed paper shopping bags, thus eliminating the need for workers to assemble them slowly by hand. All told, she received 27 patents.

Melitta Bentz (b. 1873) created the machine that became the coffee maker, using a filter system she invented. She received her patent in 1908, and founded a company that still exists today.

Katharine Burr Blodgett (b. 1898) was the first woman to receive a Ph.D in physics at England’s Cambridge University. She did a lot of work for the military during World War I, but the invention that has helped the most people is creating non-reflective glass, sometimes called invisible glass. Today it is used for computer screens, car windshields, and eye glasses.

Stephanie Kwolek (b. 1923) was a chemist working with synthetic fibers. She developed a new fiber which her employer DuPont turned into Kevlar, most well-known for bullet-proof vests, but is also found in work-gloves, sports equipment, fiber-optic cables and building materials.

There are so many others: Mary Anderson who patented the equipment that allowed the invention of windshield wipers, Josephine Cochran who created the first dishwasher, Bessie Nesmith Graham, who invented white out, for which those of us who typed papers before computers thank her profusely, Ruth Wakefield, who invented chocolate chip cookies – the world owes her a great debt! – and my own personal hero, Grace Hopper who created the first computer language that could be easily used by humans, COBOL, as well as being credited for inventing the term “bug” for computer problems, though that’s probably apocryphal.

Creative women, I salute you today!

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Quotes by some of the women inventors above

Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.–Grace Murray Hoppe

If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.–Grace Murray Hopper

I hope I’m saving lives. There are very few people in their careers that have the opportunity to do something to benefit mankind.–Stephanie Kwolek

I didn’t have a fellow at the time, so I had to do it all myself. I had to … appreciate that as a woman, I was strong, complete, adequate.–Bessie Nesmith Graham

If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.–Josephine Cochran

I couldn’t get men to do the things I wanted in my way until they had tried and failed on their own. …they insisted on having their own way with my invention until they convinced themselves my way was the better, no matter how I had arrived at it.–Josephine Cochran

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W. E. B. Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois was born February 23, 1868, Great Barrington, MA. He is known for his pursuit of social justice, for his literary imagination, and for his pioneering scholarly research. The first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard, he taught history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Du Bois’ passion was for full civil rights for blacks in America. He strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment. He was a prolific writer; his collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk about what it meant to be Black at the turn of the 20th century, is still in print. He believed that capitalism was one of the forces behind racism, and became active in social causes such as peace, women’s rights, and nuclear disarmament. He was a controversial figure, mainly because he held fast to his ideals of full and equal rights for all against the prevalent views of his day. During the McCarthy era, he was put on trial for refusing to register his Peace Information Center with the federal government (which alleged it was working as an agent for a foreign government), but the trial was dismissed when Albert Einstein offered to appear as a character witness. Nevertheless, the government confiscated his passport and held it for several years.

He died on August 27, 1963—one day before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington—at the age of 95, in Accra, Ghana, while working on an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora.

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Quotes by Du Bois. It’s a shame so many of them are still applicable today.

Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.

There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.

Strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities.

Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.

Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.

We must complain. Yes, plain, blunt complaint, ceaseless agitation, unfailing exposure of dishonesty and wrong – this is the ancient, unerring way to liberty and we must follow it.

Oppression costs the oppressor too much if the oppressed stands up and protests. The protest need not be merely physical-the throwing of stones and bullets-if it is mental, spiritual; if it expresses itself in silent, persistent dissatisfaction, the cost to the oppressor is terrific.

When in this world a man comes forward with a thought, a deed, a vision, we ask not how does he look, but what is his message?. . . The world still wants to ask that a woman primarily be pretty. . . .

It is the growing custom to narrow control, concentrate power, disregard and disenfranchise the public; and assuming that certain powers by divine right of money-raising or by sheer assumption, have the power to do as they think best without consulting the wisdom of mankind.

I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong.

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National Sticky Bun Day

February 21 is National Sticky Bun Day. These sweet treats are made from regular yeast dough but are put into a pan with brown sugar and butter in the bottom. You can add other things like cinnamon or honey or orange zest or nuts of some kind, but only the first two are actually needed. Most of the information on the Web shows these made much like cinnamon rolls, with brown sugar and butter and cinnamon placed on rolled out dough, then formed into a log shape and cut off, putting the buns on top of the brown sugar and butter in the pan. I suppose that must be the official way, but that’s not the way my mother made them. She put the brown sugar and butter and walnuts in the bottom of the pan, but then she cut about two inch round balls from the main dough, and rolled them out and formed them into a pretzel shape to lay in the pan. They were wonderful. Though I do a lot of baking myself now, I have never been able to recreate my mother’s sticky buns. But oh, I can taste them now!

The actual origins of the first sticky bun are unknown, but it looks like it came to the United States with the German settlers to Pennsylvania. They were originally called schnecken. Even now Philadelphia is known as the place to find a sticky bun. Some folks say it is only another name for cinnamon roll, but they are wrong.

You can find many recipes on the Web if you would like to try your hand at these. Simply enter “sticky bun recipe” into your favorite browser, and there you are.

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Needless to say, there aren’t really any quotes about sticky buns, so here are some about bread.

There is not a thing that is more positive than bread.–Fyodor Dostoevsky

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.–James Beard

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.–M.F.K. Fischer

If I survive, I will spend my whole life at the oven door seeing that no one is denied bread and, so as to give a lesson one is denied bread and, so as to give a lesson of charity, especially those who did not bring flour.–Jose Marti

Without bread all is misery.–William Cobbett

Avoid those who don’t like bread and children.–Swiss Proverb

With a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.–Russian Proverb

Rather a piece of bread with a happy heart than wealth with grief.–Egyptian Proverb

Better dry bread in peacetime than meat in wartime.–Hungarian Proverb

I judge a restaurant by the bread and by the coffee.–Burt Lancaster

I like reality. It tastes like bread.–Jean Anouilh

Man does not live by bread alone, even presliced bread.–D. W. Brogan

Bread is a staple article of diet in theory, rather than in practice. There are few who are truly fond of bread in its simplest, most pure, and most healthful state….Is there one person in a thousand who would truly enjoy a meal of simple bread of two days old?–William Andrus Alcott

…is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?–Frank McCourt

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Library Lovers Month

February is Library Lovers Month. There are many different kinds of libraries. Colleges and universities have large research libraries. Towns and cities have public libraries, holding more fiction and popular books, though there are materials for research as well. Businesses have special libraries of materials helpful to their employees. Often these are in the form of periodicals in the area of the business, as well as database access. Law libraries hold volumes of old court decisions to help lawyers as they prepare cases. Schools have school libraries to serve the children in their care. My own local library also has collections in the senior center and the jail. Each of these will hold different kinds of materials for different needs.

Contrary to popular belief, librarians don’t spend their time reading. They are likely to be helping patrons, choosing books, evaluating newer kinds of materials, purchasing items, applying cataloging information so that the books on a particular topic can be found shelved near each other, and many other tasks. Within that world, only those with a master’s degree in library science or closely related field are actually called librarians. Others receive on the job training and do some of the more mundane tasks such as checking out books, shelving materials, getting books ready to be used by the public and other such. But all have the same goal, which is to best serve the patrons, so they can be connected with the information they need, whether that’s looking up an arcane law, getting the latest Stephen King book, participating in a book club, watching a film, doing genealogy, bringing a child to story time, or much, much more.

It is very appropriate to celebrate libraries in this day and age when so many are closing from lack of funds. There are multiple reasons. People with the means are likely to just purchase what they need, or use Google. But as Neil Gaiman says, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” So show your local library some love this month.

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Quotes about libraries

The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.–Albert Einstein

A library of wisdom, is more precious than all wealth, and all things that are desirable cannot be compared to it. Whoever therefore claims to be zealous of truth, of happiness, of wisdom or knowledge, must become a lover of books.–Richard de Bury

To ask why we need libraries at all, when there is so much information available elsewhere, is about as sensible as asking if roadmaps are necessary now that there are so very many roads.–Jon Bing

The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community.-–Paula Poundstone

We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth.–John Lubbock

A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.–Caitlin Moran

What in the world would we do without our libraries?–Katharine Hepburn

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.–Lady Bird Johnson

The library houses thousands of imaginations, thoughts of the living and the dead. A good day in the library means you see the world differently when you depart.–Robin Ince

More than a building that houses books and data, the library has always been a window to a larger world–a place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward.–Barack Obama

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Champion Crab Races Day

Yes, it’s true. February 17 is Champion Crab Races Day. If you read about this online, many of the posts are quite snarky about people gathering to watch hermit crabs race. But it doesn’t seem any hokier to me than the rubber duck races down the Willamette River that happen in Oregon. It used to be part of the Rose Festival, as a way to raise money for charity. People would pay $5.00 and be given the number of their duck. Then a huge truck would park on one of the bridges and dump out thousands of yellow rubber ducks into the water, where they would be carried away by the current. People would run alongside the river yelling “Go number 54!” and other such. It was good fun.

Anyway, the crab races seem more to involve children than adults. The owners bring their hermit crabs in their colorful shells which mark them as individual. They may also be given a number. In groups of about ten by the looks, crabs are held under a plastic container on a round table. The container is lifted, and the crabs scatter. The first across the yellow line near the edge of the table wins and advances to the next race. The prizes are small – up to about a hundred dollars and a ribbon. You can see a video of it here. I’m not quite sure what the ASPCA would have to say about it, but the folks watching the race are certainly having fun.

The National Crab Racing Association has a website, with all the information you could ever want to know. Their headline reads “Welcome to the Unique World of Professional Crab Racing.” The racing can be done at any time of the year and can be used to raise money.

If you are into crabs (we used to buy crab-themed gifts for my Dad – long story) you can find some suggestions here. But whatever you do to celebrate this unique day, do watch the video above. It will make you smile.

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Quotes about Crabs

Have you ever watched a crab on the shore crawling backward in search of the Atlantic Ocean, and missing? That’s the way the mind of man operates.–H. L. Mencken

So if anybody wants to get me something, get me 60 crabs – one for each year. I don’t want no diamonds, I don’t want no shoes, I don’t want no party. I want some crabs.–Patti LaBelle

Crabs walk sideways and lobsters walk straight. (lyrics of a Smothers Brothers song. Listen to it here.

You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.–Aristophanes

As the sea-crab swimmeth always against the stream, so doth wit always against wisdom.–Pythagoras

It was quite a challenge to make people eat crab ice cream.–Heston Blumenthal

We spent a lot of time on the beach when I was young so I’d also take pictures of seaweed and crabs.–Graeme Le Saux

Washington is gripped by crab-in-the-bucket syndrome. And there’s no cure in sight. Put a single crab in an uncovered bucket, and it will find a way to climb up and out on its own. Put a dozen crabs in a bucket, and 11 will fight with all their might to pull down the striver who attempts escape.–Michelle Malkin

My father was a preacher in Maryland and we had crab feasts – with corn on the cob, but no beer, being Methodist – outside on the church lawn.–Tori Amos

Think about a hermit crab, okay? And it’s a shell. It’s like, they go from one shell to the next. And that’s what I am. I’m just a hermit crab changin’ shells.–Danny McBride

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National Jell-O Week

The second week in February is National Jell-O Week. For many, this will seem like a blast out of the past, as Jell-O has decreased in popularity. It has, in fact, become a bit of a joke: looking down at someone living in a trailer park, eating Jell-O, or as an old-time traditional dish to take to church potlucks, or as shorthand for hospital food. Personally, I still like Jell-O, though now I use sugar-free, and put fruit in it to make it healthier.

National Jell-O Week started in Utah when Salt Lake City students started a petition to have the state of Utah declare Jell-O the official state snack. The product itself didn’t start there, however, but in Le Roy, New York, a charming little town in the middle of the state, where the product was created in 1897 by a carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle Bixby Wait. Two years later, he sold the rights to Jell-O for $450 to a Le Roy businessman, Orator Woodward of the Genesee Pure Food Company. The product was only marginally successful until in 1904, in a stroke of marketing genius, Woodward sent armies of salesmen into the field to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks. In less than 10 years, Jell-O was grossing $1 million a year. The brand is now owned by Kraft Foods.

Jell-O currently comes in more than 25 flavors of gelatin and 30 flavors of pudding products. Some of the more interesting discontinued flavors are: celery, coffee, root beer, Italian salad (yes, really!), mixed vegetable, maple syrup, seasoned tomato, chocolate (the gelatin, not the pudding), concord grape, and watermelon candy.

The Jell-O museum in Le Roy has a Webpage you can visit. It tells the history of the product, has a lovely selection of gifts, in case you have a Jell-O lover in your life, and offers a few recipes, including Grown-Up Cranberry Jell-O, which contains port wine.

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Quotes about Jell-O

“I don’t think Kitchen makes this. What’s it called again?” “Jell-O Surprise.” Link grinned. “What’s the surprise?” Ridley examined the red gelatin more closely. “What they put in it.”–Kami Garcia

Molded salads are best served in situations where they have little or no competition … Like television, gelatin is too often a vehicle for limp leftovers that couldn’t make it anywhere else.–Peg Bracken

It’s as if we spend our entire lives avoiding Jell-O but it is always there at the end, waiting.–John Grisham

I, for one, would much rather swoon over a few thin slices of prime beefsteak, or one small serving of chocolate mousse, or a sliver of foie gras than indulge to the full on such nonentities as fat-free gelatin puddings.–Julia Child

Whoever said nothing is impossible obviously hasn’t tried nailing Jell-O to a tree.–John Candy

The human brain is very soft, having a consistency similar to soft gelatin or firm tofu.–Unknown

What To Do When You Encounter Jell-O:

  1. Never let it see you’re afraid. Jell-O loves this.
  2. Smile. Say you are a friend, you come in peace.
  3. Reason with it.
  4. Offer it a gift.
  5. Find out what it wants.
  6. Let it see you have no weapons.
  7. If it continues to jiggle menacingly, Stab it to death with a kitchen knife and throw it in the sink.”
    –3rd Rock from the Sun: The Official Report on Earth by High Commander Dick Solomon

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