National Honesty Day

April 30 is National Honesty Day. It seems appropriate right now with all the controversy over alternative facts and fake news. It has always been tricky to sort out truth from fiction where politicians or advertisers are concerned, but it seems especially difficult right now. Besides deliberate lying by either falsifying facts, or wildly different ways of seeing the world between conservatives and liberals, we seem to have so many people who don’t trust science and ignore the truth before their eyes.

But this day isn’t just about wishing politicians or advertisers would be honest for one day of the year, it’s also about normal folks and our standards of truthfulness. How often do we tell a white lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings? How often do we fudge the facts to make ourselves look better? How often do we feign ignorance – such as when a police officer asks how fast we were going? Or stretch the facts a little on our income tax forms? For me, the biggest challenge is small lies to save trouble when I don’t feel like arguing the point.

The author of The Book of Lies: Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds That Have Changed the Course of History and Affect Our Daily Lives, M. Hirsh Goldberg, created National Honesty Day in the early 1990s. The former press secretary to a Maryland governor selected the last day of April in contrast to all the foolishness the first of the month brings. April 30 is also the anniversary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789. The concept for the day is simple, ask direct questions without ulterior motives, and expect answers of occasionally brutal honesty. Benjamin Franklin said, “Honesty is the best policy.” It may also be the hardest to live out.

Quotes about Honesty

Almost any difficulty will move in the face of honesty. When I am honest I never feel stupid. And when I am honest I am automatically humble.–Hugh Prather

Deal honestly and objectively with yourself; intellectual honesty and personal courage are the hallmarks of great character.–Brian Tracey

The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.–Zig Ziglar

He that loseth his honesty hath nothing else to lose.–John Lyly

Hold firmly to your word.–Maimonides

Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.–Thomas Jefferson

How desperately difficult it is to be honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with other people.–Edward White Benson

I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an “Honest Man.”–George Washington

It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.–Noel Coward

No legacy is so rich as honesty.–William Shakespeare

The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.–Laura Ingalls Wilder

The test of a government is not how popular it is with the powerful and privileged few but how honestly and fairly it deals with the many who must depend on it.–Jimmy Carter

Those occupying leadership roles who completely lack integrity are what we call “Blind shepherds.” They are not really “bad” leaders, because they are not leaders at all: they are misleaders.–John Adair

To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education.–John Ruskin

You learn how to do good work by being honest with yourself.–Rodney Crowell

Honesty pays, but it don’t seem to pay enough to suit some.–Kin Hubbard

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Kurt Gödel

Kurt Friedrich Gödel was born April 28, 1906, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. According to Wikipedia, “young Kurt was known as Herr Warum (“Mr. Why”) because of his insatiable curiosity.” I can relate to that, as my younger brother was much the same way. At a certain age, the most frequent word out of his mouth was “why.”

Gödel was a mathematical genius and a friend of Einstein in their later years. I confess as more a word person than a numbers person, I don’t totally understand what he did, but here’s what the Encyclopædia Britannica has to say about his contribution to knowledge. He was a “mathematician, logician, and philosopher who obtained what may be the most important mathematical result of the 20th century: his famous incompleteness theorem.” Later it adds that he developed this theorem to show that mathematics conformed to Platonism, that is, what we see in the physical world is derived from objective ideas, such as all lions are based on the objective idea of LION. (For a fictional look at these fascinating concepts in a nonmathematical way I recommend Place of the Lion, by Charles Williams, who was part of the C.S. Lewis/Tolkien circle.)

And again from Britannica: “Gödel’s idea was that if he could prove the incompleteness theorem, then he could show that there were unprovable mathematical truths. This, he thought, would go a long way toward establishing Platonism, because it would show that mathematical truth is objective—i.e., that it goes beyond mere human provability or human axiom systems.” Though people who understand math celebrate his incompleteness theorem, the philosophy behind it is not widely accepted.

In my VERY layperson’s terms, in any mathematical proof, there is some part of it that cannot be proven but must be taken on faith, such as 2+2=4. We have to simply agree on what 2s and 4s are because there is no way to prove it.

Like too many geniuses, Gödel suffered from some mental instability most of his life, and his obsession with the idea he was going to be poisoned finally caught up with him and he died in 1978.

Einstein and Gödel

Quotes by Kurt Gödel

The more I think about language, the more it amazes me that people ever understand each other at all.

I don’t believe in empirical science. I only believe in a priori truth.

Either mathematics is too big for the human mind or the human mind is more than a machine.

I am convinced of the afterlife, independent of theology. If the world is rationally constructed, there must be an afterlife

All generalisations – perhaps except this one – are false.

The meaning of world is the separation of wish and fact.

But every error is due to extraneous factors (such as emotion and education); reason itself does not err.

The physical laws, in their observable consequences, have a finite limit of precision.

Ninety percent of [contemporary philosophers] see their principle task as that of beating religion out of men’s heads. … We are far from being able to provide scientific basis for the theological world view.

Consciousness is connected with one unity. A machine is composed of parts.

Don’t collect data. If you know everything about yourself, you know everything. There is no use burdening yourself with a lot of data. Once you understand yourself, you understand human nature and then the rest follows

Intuition is not proof; it is the opposite of proof. We do not analyze intuition to see a proof but by intuition we see something without a proof.

Philosophy as an exact theory should do for metaphysics as much as Newton did for physics. I think it is perfectly possible that the development of such a philosophical theory will take place within the next hundred years or even sooner

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National Pretzel Day

April 26 is the day we set aside to celebrate the delightful oddly shaped bread known as pretzels. Though there is no hard and fast evidence, it appears that pretzels were first invented by monks in the Middle Ages. They were given as little rewards to children who had learned their prayers. In the traditional shape, the three lobes of a pretzel represent the Trinity, and the twisted shapes represent arms folded in prayer. In Italian, pretiola means “little reward.” Alternatively, the pretzel may be based on Greek Ring Bread, which was said to have been used for communion long ago. But whatever the origin, it is likely that bakers liked them because they could easily display them on sticks, as represented by the painting The Baker, done by the Dutch painter Job Berckheyde around 1650. The painting is now located in the Worcester, Massachusetts art museum. Click on the link above to see it online. It’s a delightful picture.

For most of their existence, pretzels were soft, like you get at Auntie Anne’s now. (By the way, they give out free pretzels on this day. Read about how to do that here.) Apparently, the now more usual hard pretzels were created by accident. According to legend, in the late 1600s, a Pennsylvania baker forgot a batch of pretzels in the oven. The over-baked treats were dark and hard, but the baker sampled one anyway and liked what he tasted.

Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants brought pretzels to the U.S. in the nineteenth century, and Pennsylvania is still the center of pretzel production in this country. In fact, National Pretzel Day was declared in 2003 by the governor of Pennsylvania to recognize the importance of pretzels to the state’s history and economy. (Not sure how the governor of a state gets to declare a national holiday, but apparently that’s what happened!)

So grab a soft pretzel or a bag of what is now an over 500 million industry in the U.S. and enjoy the day!

Quotes about pretzels.

All food starting with p is comfort food: pasta, potato chips, pretzels, peanut butter, pastrami, Pizza, pastry.–Sara Paretsky

Love makes intellectual pretzels of us all.–Sarah Bird

We stock up on popcorn and candy like we’re crossing the Sierras, don’t we? I’ll have a couple of soft pretzels, a hot dog, Milk Duds, Snocaps. …Oh, and a Diet Coke.–Ellen DeGeneres

My mother always said, ‘When you’re eating pretzels, chew before you swallow’. Always listen to your mother.–George W. Bush

But you can’t just sit around the fireplace and sip Cokes and eat pretzels and get an attitude of confidence. You have to put in hard work.–Lee Haney

Today coming to work, I saw one of those only in New York scenes. It was a rat who had passed out after choking on a pretzel.–David Letterman

Chocolate covered peanuts, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate covered pretzels… Chocolate. So afraid to be alone.–Dana Gould

When my husband Jonas and I started Auntie Annes in 1988, we never expected or anticipated building an international pretzel franchise. It was the farthest thing from our minds.–Anne F. Beiler

I was so shy. Instead of waiting in line with other kids at lunch, I’d go to a corner and buy a pretzel and orange juice. I think I had that for lunch the first three years of high school.–Peter Facinelli

I have great expectations for our company; pretzels were just the beginning.–Nell Newman

The church is not going to survive if they are going to tell people that they have to twist their minds into 1st century pretzels.–John Shelby Spong

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Straw Hat Month

You might not think straw hats need an entire month to celebrate them, but it’s true. April is Straw Hat Month. We often think of straw hats as belonging to folks who work outside, from cowboys, to farmers to workers in rice paddies, though those aren’t the only places to find them. They are popular for such, however, being relatively cool because they are woven, yet they provide good protection from the sun. You may also see them in movies or TV shows of British government officials in some of their former colonies in warmer climates, or in the form of Mexican Sombreros. Some of those can be very colorfully decorated.

Straw hats have been around a long time. Click here for an example of field workers in straw hats from the Maciejowski Bible manuscript from 1250. That is just the oldest link on this delightful page organized for the Society for Creative Anachronism, for suggested straw hats for costumes for role-playing. One of my favorites this French peasant woman, from 1577. What a great hat!

Because straw hats appear in many cultures in the world, they have been made of many different kinds of materials. According to Days of the Year, “Some of the most common are wheat straw hats, most commonly found in the Italian Peninsula, rush straws, palm leaves … and of course rice straw and bamboo that are used in Asian Conical hats.”

April may strike you as an unlikely month for straw hats, because at least in my area of the country, it is not warm enough yet to wear them, but it is windy enough to blow that hat off your head. But this gives you time to find the perfect hat to wear for summer.

The graphic I have chosen is Sylvester McCoy in his trademark straw panama hat from Doctor Who.

Quotes about straw hats

Year’s end still in straw hat and sandals.–Matsuo Basho

At Dresden on the Elbe, that handsome city,
Where straw hats, verses, and cigars are made,
They’ve built (it well may make us feel afraid,)
A music club and music warehouse pretty.
Heinrich Heine

Always buy your straw hats in the Winter–Benjamin Graham

Australian schools have cool uniforms. I wish I had to wear a woven straw hat for maths.–Harry Styles

Buy straw hats in the wintertime. Summer will surely come.–Bernard Baruch

You know, for most of its life bluegrass has had this stigma of being all straw hats and hay bales and not necessarily the most sophisticated form of music. Yet you can’t help responding to its honesty. It’s music that finds its way deep into your soul because it’s strings vibrating against wood and nothing else.–Alison Krauss

The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.–Texas Bix Bender

I turned on the pillow with a little moan, and at this juncture Jeeves entered with the vital oolong. I clutched at it like a drowning man at a straw hat.–P. G. Wodehouse

Hope is a straw hat hanging beside a window covered with frost.–Margaret George

The straw hat is the typical hat Cubans use. It’s cool and keeps the sun away from your face.–Desi Arnaz

The Italians always made good wine, but you had the impression they were friendly guys in straw hats running family vineyards with slaves or something so that the vino was never more than ten bucks a bottle.–Joe Bob Briggs

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Earth Day

Since 1970, we have celebrated Earth Day on April 22 each year. In 1969, peace activist John McConnell proposed to UNESCO a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, which would be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. A bit later, Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed his own version of Earth Day, as a day to teach about environmentalism. This day was set for April 22. It went international in 1990. One hundred ninety-two nations now observe the day, coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. Some have declared it the largest secular holiday in the world.

According to the LiveScience website, “Earth Day created public support for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contributed to the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, and several other environmental laws.” Also, on Earth Day 2016, the United States, China, and some 120 other countries signed the Paris Agreement towards a climate protection treaty.

On the Earth Day Network page, you can find all different ways to get involved in this day which brings attention to our environment. In 2017, it is also the day of the March for Science. The main march is happening in Washington, DC, but you can find local actions for your area of the country or world by going to the March for Science Website. The marches are not just to celebrate science, but to do teaching about how important science is to our very lives and planet.

As they say on the Website: “In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery … can [scientists] afford not to speak out in its defense? There is no Planet B.” If you appreciate breathable air and drinkable water, I hope you will give a thought to getting involved in some way in this important day.

Quotes about nature

All the works of Nature are Miracles, and nothing makes them appear otherwise but our familiarity with them.–Samuel Butler

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.–John Muir

Except for children (who don’t know enough not to ask the important questions), few of us spend time wondering why nature is the way it is.–Carl Sagan

The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.–Ed Abbey

If I have learned nothing else in all these months in the woods, I have thoroughly learned to keep hands off the processes of nature.-Laura Lee Davidson

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.–Eleanora Duse

Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children…let us turn to them and say, this you inherit: guard it well, for it is far more precious than money…and once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.–Ansel Adams

Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.–John Ruskin

The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.–John Steinbeck

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International Cli-Fi Day

Are you wondering what in the world this could be? I did. It sounded vaguely naughty. But since my go-to page for strange holidays doesn’t go in for that sort of thing, I looked it up. Cli-Fi is a new genre of fiction, related to science fiction, but specifically speculating about what climate change might mean for the future of humanity.

I’m not certain it is celebrated on April 20. I’ve read both that it is always on this date and that it is tied to Earth Day, which will be Saturday. But whether it is officially on this day or not, cli-fi serves a useful purpose. The term cli-fi was coined by blogger Dan Bloom in 2007. It entered into mainstream use when Margaret Atwood tweeted about it in 2013.

One of the things that the writers of cli-fi hope to accomplish is to make the dangers of climate change accessible to non-scientists. Dan Bloom says, “literature has an important role to play in getting people (and especially our political leaders) to understand on an emotional and moral level just how important it is to alter our plush, gas-guzzling, CO2 emitting, coal-burning, slash-burn-consume lifestyles before it is too late.” He went on to say that he hopes for a modern day equivalent of On the Beach by Neville Shute, which awakened the world to the dangers of atomic war.

Since people are becoming interested in The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, I’ll just mention here her cli-fi trilogy, MaddAddam. Your local library probably has some other cli-fi, but you won’t find it listed under that. Some will be found by using the subject “dystopian fiction,” but that covers other kinds of disasters than those caused by climate change, and besides, not all cli-fi is dystopian. Some stories tell the tale of how humanity survives the challenges.

If you are more of a visual person, one such movie is The Day After Tomorrow

So whether this intrigues you or not, you have learned a new word today!

Quotes about climate change

All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.–Barack Obama

The warnings about global warming have been extremely clear for a long time. We are facing a global climate crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences.–Al Gore

Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity… We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet.–Leonardo DiCaprio

Climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority.–Bill Gates

Climate change is a planetary crisis. We’ve got to act, and we have to act boldly.–Bernie Sanders

As governor I have seen the tremendous changes over the last few years; the amount of land that we have lost, the trees that we have lost, the homes that we have lost, lives that have been lost, and it is due to a large extent to global warming.–Arnold Schwarzenegger

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?–Robert Redford

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National Columnists Day

April 18 is a day set aside to honor columnists. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists chose this day because Pulitzer Prize winner Ernie Pyle died on April 18, 1945. He was a well-known newspaperman in World War II, dying while covering the war in the East. The holiday highlights both the dangers faced by columnists, but also their importance. Though this started out as a day for those writing for newspapers, it now covers YouTube, bloggers, and vloggers – just about anyone who posts on any kind of media. As I read somewhere, all you need to be a columnist is access to media, and opinions.

Columnists come in various categories. Right now, probably those most in the spotlight are political columnists. Whether you are liberal, conservative, or middle of the road, you can find someone who sees the world as you do and writes about if regularly. Of course, it’s also good to read those you don’t necessarily agree with to get a more rounded view.

Second for me are those who write on religious issues. You can find the Christian viewpoint – both fundamentalist and progressive – the Jewish or Muslim viewpoint and the thoughts of those not so fond of religion, such as the secular humanist page on Facebook. All bring unique viewpoints to my day.

One of the most famous columnists of all times is Dear Abby, who gives advice about people’s problems. Originally written by Pauline Phillips, her daughter has now taken over the reins.

We also have those who write in genres, such as science fiction or mystery, and those who even write about specific shows on television. There are columnists who write about sports, about finance and business, about food and wine, about traveling or life in particular countries. Chances are there is at least one columnist you follow. So give a thought for them today and all the work that goes into producing regularly scheduled short opinion pieces.

Quotes about and by columnists

As a columnist, I realize that whatever amount of corruption I expose, half my readers will block it out, although they may get a frisson of joy in the process.–Margaret Carlson

Don’t commit to being a columnist unless you’re willing to do it right. Report your behind off, so you have something original and useful to say. Say it in a way that will interest someone other than you, your family and your sources.–Allan Sloan

The best way to get thrown out of the columnists’ club is to be uncertain about anything whatsoever on this earth.–Eric Sevareid

I was a kid who sometimes got in trouble because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, which turned out to be an advantage when I became an opinion columnist.–Anna Quindlen

It makes me cry to think that I’m a nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for one of the world’s best newspapers and my core advice comes from my black grandmother who was a nurse’s aide with just a high school education.–Michelle Singletary

I think blogging and the ability to instantaneously respond to news items has changed the way we approach all media. We’re seeing people talking back to columnists… I read almost all the media I do read online, and plenty of other people do, too.–Rachel Kramer Bussel

The wonderful thing about being a New York Times columnist is that it’s like a Supreme Court appointment – they’re stuck with you for a long time.–William Safire

When the political columnists say ‘Every thinking man’ they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to ‘Every intelligent voter’ they mean everybody who is going to vote for them–Franklin P. Adams

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people try their hand at this demanding profession (humor columnist). After a few months, almost all of them have given up and gone back to the ninth grade.–Dave Barry

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