National Periodic Table Day

February 7, we celebrate the periodic table. We celebrate it on this day because it is the day a man named John Newlands first published a table of the elements in 1863. It is a new holiday, first conceived by Mr. David T. Steineker, author, inventor, and chemistry teacher at Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky in 2016.

The periodic table as we know it today did not spring up readymade but was developed over many years from the earliest elements humanity knew – gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, tin, mercury, sulfur and carbon, which were all known before the first century of the common era. By 1809 there were 47 discovered elements. (By the way, for those who have forgotten their chemistry from school, elements are the building blocks of the universe. Water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen, hence H2O.)

People tried putting the elements together in a logical order in various ways. If you are into chemistry, it’s a fascinating story, and you can read all about it on the Website of the National Periodic Table Day Foundation. It was finally formalized in pretty much the form we know now by Glenn T. Seaborg in 1945. The table groups elements in families according to how they react with other elements or chemicals and according to their atomic mass.

So all this may seem academic and not very related to daily life, but the table gave chemists a way to predict how elements would react, thus making experiments easier. It has also provided a means for predicting new elements to be found, so if you are a chemist, it is a very useful tool indeed.


Quotes about chemistry

Engineering, too, owes its most useful materials to the achievements of chemists in identifying, separating, and transforming materials: structural steel for the framework of bridges and buildings, Portland cement for roadways and aqueducts, pure copper for the electrical industries, aluminum alloys for automobiles and airplanes, porcelain for spark plugs and electrical insulators. The triumphs of engineering skill rest on a chemical foundation.–Horace G. Deming

Chemistry itself knows altogether too well that – given the real fear that the scarcity of global resources and energy might threaten the unity of mankind – chemistry is in a position to make a contribution towards securing a true peace on earth.–Kenichi Fukui

Few scientists acquainted with the chemistry of biological systems at the molecular level can avoid being inspired.–Donald Cram

I try to show the public that chemistry, biology, physics, astrophysics is life. It is not some separate subject that you have to be pulled into a corner to be taught about.–Neil deGrasse Tyson

Biochemistry is the science of life. All our life processes – walking, talking, moving, feeding – are essentially chemical reactions. So biochemistry is actually the chemistry of life, and it’s supremely interesting.–Aaron Ciechanover

I can’t explain chemistry. I really can’t. I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about. It just happens. It’s like falling in love. You can’t explain why you fall in love or explain why it’s this particular person.–Elaine Stritch

Now in the 21st century, the boundaries separating chemistry, physics, and medicine have become blurred, and as happened during the Renaissance, scientists are following their curiosities even when they run beyond the formal limits of their training.–Peter Agre

My eyes are constantly wide open to the extraordinary fact of existence. Not just human existence, but the existence of life and how this breathtakingly powerful process, which is natural selection, has managed to take the very simple facts of physics and chemistry and build them up to redwood trees and humans.–Richard Dawkins

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Weatherperson’s Day

February 5th is National Weatherperson’s Day. This day was chosen to honor John Jeffries who was born on this date in 1744. A scientist and surgeon, he was one of the United States’ first weather observers, keeping meticulous notes from 1774 to 1816. In fact, he was the first to use a balloon to make weather observations in 1784.

The purpose of this holiday is to honor all individuals in the fields of meteorology, weather forecasting, and broadcast meteorology. Volunteer storm spotters and observers are also recognized on this day as well as any others that work in the weather field.

We often take weather reporting for granted. Turn on your television, check your phone, or fire up the computer – the data is always there. We seldom think about all the people working behind the scenes who spend their days analyzing patterns to bring us the most reliable data possible. And though that is very helpful for planning our days, the purpose of the National Weather Service is to save lives when weather threatens them with floods, storms, tornados, or other such. According to the NWS Website, “Nationwide, more than 11,000 volunteer Cooperative Observers take regular measurements of temperature, precipitation, and other data, which is used by forecasters and climatologists. Nearly 300,000 volunteer storm spotters are trained by the NWS to provide visual reports of severe weather conditions to forecast offices and local emergency management officials. Volunteer amateur radio operators provide critical emergency communications during severe weather.” So next time you complain when you get wet on a 20% chance of showers day, think of all the people who are involved behind the scenes making the best prediction they can of a system that can change in unpredictable ways. (Weather is determined by chaos theory, and therefore by definition cannot ever be 100% accurate)


Quotes about the weather

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

Weather is a great metaphor for life — sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella or choose to dance in the rain!–Terri Guillemets

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

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 in 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

It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain.–Mark Twain

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.–Alfred Wainwright

On cable TV they have a weather channel — 24 hours of weather. We had something like that where I grew up. We called it a window.–Dan Spencer

I will praise the English climate till I die—even if I die of the English climate. There is no weather so good as English weather. Nay, in a real sense there is no weather at all anywhere but in England.–G. K. Chesterton

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not.
–Author unknown

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else–Oscar Wilde

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Spunky Old Broads Month


February is the month to remind ourselves that just because we might be old enough to join AARP, we don’t need to fade into the woodwork but can get out there and live life to the fullest. Celebrate with me Spunky Old Broads Month. There are many ways to approach this, including the poem called “Warning,” but more often known by its first line: “When I Am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple.” (see the full poem below, below in the quotes) This poem was part of the impetus behind the Red Hat Society, a group for older women to connect and have fun. You can also check out the book entitled Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History, written by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Harvard professor.

But what I want to feature today is a reclaiming of the term “crone.” It has fallen into disrepute, and if you look up the definition in the dictionary, it will talk about mean spirited old women. Originally, however, crone was merely part of the trilogy which described a woman’s life: maiden, mother, crone. A crone is a woman past childbearing years, who is wise in the ways of the world, and ready to share that wisdom with her younger sisters. As it is put on Crones Council page, “A Crone is a woman concerned with housing, social security, pensions, healthcare, her relationships with children, grandchildren, and siblings. A Crone is a retired woman, a soon-to-be retired woman, a widow, an empty nester who desires good health, energetic living, and independence. A Crone is a woman who is adapting constructively, often gracefully, to the process of aging. A Crone is a woman who is comfortable with her spiritual self, her intuition, and her creative power.”

This sounds like a good way to live!


Quotes about aging

Warning by Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.–Florida Scott-Maxwell

As soon as you feel too old to do a thing, do it!–Margaret Deland

The hard thing when you get old is to keep your horizons open. The first part of your life everything is in front of you, all your potential and promise. But over the years, you make decisions; you carve yourself into a given shape. Then the challenge is to keep discovering the green growing edge.—-Howard Thurman

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Saint Brigid’s Day

February 1 is celebrated in the Celtic calendar as St. Brigid’s Day, also known as Imbolc (i-MOLG). It marks the official first day of spring in Ireland, and is one of the four major “fire” festivals. The other three festivals are Beltane (May Day), Lughnasadh (LOO-ne-se) which marks the beginning of harvest, and Samhain, which we know better as Halloween.

This is an old, old festival, which comes to us out of Ireland’s distant past. There are disagreements about the history of Brigid and this day. Some believe that she was originally a fire goddess, whose story was folded into Christianity as that religion took over the island. Alternatively, a woman named Brigid was born into slavery on February 1, 450. As she grew, her purity and generosity became legendary. She and her mother were eventually freed from slavery, and she founded a monastery in Kildare, where her shrine is today. She died on February 1, 525. Probably the truth is in some combination of facts and legends since like St. Patrick, nothing was written about the woman Brigid until long after her death.

At any rate, similar to many religions, Imbolc is the spring festival, celebrating new life. In fact, the word imbolc means “in the womb” and refers to the pregnant ewes, soon to drop new lambs.

In alphabetical order, St. Brigid is the patron saint of babies, blacksmiths, boatmen, cattle farmers, children whose parents are not married, children whose mothers are mistreated by the children’s fathers, Clan Douglas, dairymaids, dairy workers, fugitives, Ireland, Leinster, mariners, midwives, milkmaids, nuns, poets, the poor, poultry farmers, poultry raisers, printing presses, sailors, scholars, travelers, and watermen.

Legend says she wove rushes into the shape of a cross to explain Christianity to a dying man. Today the St. Brigid’s cross is a distinct symbol of Irish Christianity. You can find directions for making it here.

St. Brigid with her cross
St. Brigid with her cross

Since St. Brigid was known for her generosity, some quotes about that.

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.–John Bunyan

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.–Simone Weil

It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.–Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Money is but one venue for generosity. Kindness is an even more valuable currency.–Alan Cohen

Being generous often consists of simply extending a hand. That’s hard to do if you are grasping tightly to your righteousness, your belief system, your superiority, your assumptions about others, your definition of normal.–Patti Digh

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.–Fred Rogers

You are so fortunate, but what are you giving back to make this world a better place for others?–Catherine Pulsifer

Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else’s life forever.–Margaret Cho

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.–Calvin Coolidge

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.–Elizabeth Bibesco

Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.–Barbara Bush

We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.–Seneca

Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.–Thornton Wilder

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.–Buddha

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