George Stephenson, the Father of Railways

George Stephenson was born June 9, 1781, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was the second child born into a poor family who had no money for schooling. At 17, he became an engineman at Water Row Pit in Newburn. At that point, deciding to get an education and paid to study at night school to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. After marrying, and then losing his wife, he moved with his young son, coming to work at the Killingworth coal mine. In 1811, the pumping engine at the mine was not working properly and Stephenson offered to fix it. He did so with such success that he was promoted to engine-wright for the collieries at Killingworth, responsible for maintaining and repairing all the colliery engines, and thus became an expert in steam engines.

He also created a safety lamp for miners, though he was not given a patent for it, mainly because the patent board couldn’t believe someone with such a thick northern accent could have possibly come up with the design on his own.

Stephenson built his first locomotive in 1814, which was designed for hauling coal on the Killingworth wagonway. In 1821, he was appointed engineer for the first public railway, the Stockton and Darlington, followed by the Liverpool to Manchester Railway. In October 1829, the railway’s owners staged a competition to find the best kind of locomotive to pull heavy loads over long distances. Stephenson’s locomotive ‘Rocket’ was the winner, achieving a record speed of 36 miles per hour, and making him famous. In addition, his rail gauge of four feet eight and a half inches became the global standard gauge.

As a person who loves to ride on trains, and who rode all over Britain on them a couple of years ago, I salute George Stephenson this day.

Quotes about railways

Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.–E. M. Forster

Most men who have really lived have had, in some share, their great adventure. This railway is mine.–James J. Hill

I lived at home and I cycled every morning to the railway station to travel by train to Johannesburg followed by a walk to the University, carrying sandwiches for my lunch and returning in the evening the same way.–Sydney Brenner

Railways are irresistible bazaars, snaking along perfectly level no matter what the landscape, improving your mood with speed, and never upsetting your drink.–Paul Theroux

I can never think of the time I spend idling in railway stations as lost; it’s a waiting liberated from the three temporal vices of regret, anticipation or boredom, the weak echo of that bliss spent between lifetimes.–Eric Morecambe

There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.–H. G. Wells

I don’t think I stand in need of planes or of railways or of cars.–Jorge Luis Borges

Before you ridicule, remember somebody on a railway platform who seems to be train spotting may actually be writing poetry.–John Hegley

So far I had been travelling alone with my handbook and my Western Railway timetable: I was happiest finding my own way and did not require a liaison…–Paul Theroux

Libraries are fascinating places: sometimes you feel you are under the canopy of a railway station, and when you read books about exotic places there’s a feeling of travelling to distant lands–Umberto Eco

Most of my recent plays were written in the railway train between Hatfield and Kings Cross. I write anywhere, on the top of omnibuses or wherever I may be; it is all the same to me.–George Bernard Shaw

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Chocolate Ice Cream Day

How could I pass up a day to celebrate chocolate of any kind, let alone ice cream! Every year on June 7, we celebrate Chocolate Ice Cream Day. According to those who know, chocolate is the second most popular flavor of ice cream, after vanilla. Personally, given a choice, I’ll take chocolate any time – either just plain chocolate, or containing other delicious things like nuts or marshmallow, or fudge.

According to Punchbowl, which is a greeting card site, Thomas Jefferson took a fancy to ice cream while living abroad as the Ambassador to France during the 1780s. They believe it is likely that he is responsible for bringing ice cream to the United States.

No one seems to know who started this holiday or why, but the speculation is that it was likely an ice cream manufacturer to bring them business.

Of course, you know that chocolate ice cream is made by combining cocoa powder with eggs, cream, vanilla, and sugar, then freezing it, preferably while it is being constantly stirred, to help prevent ice crystals from forming. I remember more than one time when I was young turning the crank on our manual ice cream maker. Delicious and worth the work.

One statistic I ran across while researching this is that an average dairy cow can produce enough milk in her lifetime to make a little over 9,000 gallons of ice cream. Sounds good to me!

My father lived on a farm when he was young, and one of the stories he told about his childhood is one time when they were not able to get the milk to the dairy. It had to do with the train not running, though I can’t remember why. They took the milk with all the cream and made ice cream out of it. Apparently, it tasted heavenly.

Quotes about chocolate ice cream and ice cream in general

Scoops of mint ice cream with chips of chocolate cows.–Jim Bishop

I love chocolate. I love chocolate ice cream. I love chocolate candy. The darker the better.–Nancy Pelosi

A good night sleep, or a ten minute bawl, or a pint of chocolate ice cream, or all three together, is good medicine.–Ray Bradbury

Everything was chocolate ice cream and kisses and wind.–Francesca Lia Block

I thought of all the different kinds of love in the world. I could think of ten without even trying. The way parents love their kids, the way you love a puppy or chocolate ice cream or home or your favorite book or your sister.–Carol Rifka Brunt

When I have bad days, I just eat lots of chocolate ice cream and dance to the Lion King soundtrack. It’s really odd, but it’s true.–Blake Lively

I’m helping launch the new Milky Way Chocolate Ice Cream Bar. I play an astrophysicist on television, and the name of the bar is Milky Way, so put two and two together, and here I am.–Kunal Nayyar

Summer would not be summer without Ice-cream. Ice-cream is the favorite currency of love.–Puck

Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.–Jim Fiebig

I go running when I have to. When the ice cream truck is doing sixty.–Wendy Liebman

Not to like ice cream is to show oneself uninterested in food.–Joseph Epstein

Ice cream cravings are not to be taken lightly.–Betsy Cañas Garmon

So yes, I do want to try and keep things going if I can. I have a few things brewing… And if it doesn’t happen, I did buy an ice cream van a while ago. So I always have that to fall back on.–Rupert Grint

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Hot Air Balloon Day

June 5 is Hot Air Balloon Day. We celebrate it on this date because the first “manned” flight was made this day in 1783. There’s some debate about just what creatures made this first flight, but the most likely were a pig, a duck, and a rooster. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph and Etienne did experiments with smaller balloons, working up to the one carrying the animals. This first balloon was made out of sackcloth and paper. The five hundred pound balloon went aloft 6,000 feet and stayed in flight for ten minutes. The animals all survived.

Today balloons are made out of nylon or polyester. They usually consist of 1200 to 1500 square yards of fabric, 2,500 feet of tape, and 6-8 miles (yes, miles) of thread. Modern balloons generally weigh between 200 and 350 pounds, plus the weight of the fuel tanks.

I have always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon – not the ones at a fair, which just go up a few feet and then come down again, but the kind that actually goes somewhere. It’s one of those things on my bucket list that probably won’t ever happen. Still, I can dream!

If you love watching the colorful balloons, you can find a list on the Web of places in the US which are having hot air balloon festivals. Unsurprisingly, the site is called HotAirBalloon.com.

If you are a fan of Bill Nye the science guy, you can see him doing a simple demonstration of creating a hot air balloon . It’s definitely geared towards kids, but he’s always amusing to watch.

Quotes about hot air balloons and balloons in general

We should all have personal hot air balloons and drift serenely through the clouds.–Rhys Bowen

My grandmother flew only once in her life, and that was the day she and her new husband ascended into the skies of Victorian London in the wicker basket of a hot-air balloon. They were soon to emigrate to Canada, and the aerial ride was meant to be a last view of their beloved England.–Alan Bradley

The balloon seems to stand still in the air while the earth flies past underneath.–Alberto Santos-Dumont

Well, the odds must be against anybody being able to fly around the world in a balloon on the first attempt. All of us who are attempting to go around the world in balloons are effectively flying in experimental craft because these craft cannot be tested.–Richard Branson

Life is like a balloon; you must put something into it to get the best possible results.–William Cranch Bond

Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.–A. A. Milne

Imagination is like a lofty building reared to meet the sky; whereas fancy is a balloon that soars at the wind’s will.–Gelett Burgess

We buy balloons, we let them go.–Bret Easton Ellis

If I were mayor, I’d invite everyone to have free boat trips on the river and free balloon rides over the city. I’d let the elderly in residential homes wander free.–Jane Birkin

It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common every-day beauty.–John Muir

When I am holding a water balloon, so many things look so unnecessarily dry.–Demetri Martin

There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.–Terry Pratchett

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Repeat Day

June 3 is Repeat Day, sometimes called National Repeat Day. I’m not sure how I feel about this holiday. For a kid, repeating things can be all sorts of fun, and a good way to annoy the grownups in your life. But at the same time, it’s also a little disturbing. By far the scariest story of the reboot of Doctor Who is “Midnight,” where we never see the monster, because it inhabits someone’s body from where it repeats everything another person says. At first, it simply repeats something after the person says it, then works up to speaking at the same time, and then it begins to say what the person was about to say before he or she could say it. Very creepy.

Obviously, a movie on this topic that springs to mind is Ground Hog Day, with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, where as you probably know, Bill Murray’s character lives the same day over and over. Apparently, some people always watch that movie on this day. Personally, I save it for February 2.

But really, this is meant to be a light-hearted day, when you eat two breakfasts or do any number of other things twice. It’s also a day to revisit places where good things have happened to you. Since Donut Day was yesterday, it could be a good day to repeat that!

It could also be a good day to practice mirroring, which is when you repeat something back to someone, but in your own words, to make sure you understood what the other was saying. This is an especially helpful technique in times of problems between two people, when you try to understand, instead of simply stating your own position more forcefully. Could be useful in the political arena in this day and age, when all too often we don’t listen to anyone on the other side of an issue, assuming we know why they hold the opinions they do.

Whatever you do today, I hope you find this an amusing holiday!

Quotes about repeating

I often repeat repeat myself,
I often repeat repeat.
It gets me in a jam a jam,
but that’s the way I am I am,
in fact I think it’s neat it’s neat
to to to to repeat repeat-
I often repeat repeat myself,
I often repeat repeat.
–Jack Prelutsky

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.–Joseph Goebbels

Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.–Willa Sibert Cather

We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods.–Virginia Woolf

There is no absurdity so obvious that it cannot be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to impose it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity.–Arthur Schopenhauer

You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in their struggle for independence.–Charles Austin Beard

Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.–Ambrose Bierce

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National Say Something Nice Day

Each year on June 1, we celebrate by saying something nice to others. Did your mother tell you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” Today is the day to practice that. According to what I found on the Web, this holiday originated in Charleston, South Carolina from the South Baptist Convention and the Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery and was proclaimed by Mayor Keith Summey in 2006. According to some, the originators of the holiday were inspired by Mitchell Carnell’s book, Say Something Nice – Be a Lifter @ Work. The aim of this special day is to fight against unkindness, bullying, and the lack of politeness, with the hope that the attitude will expand to many more days in the year.

We all know that there are times to speak truth to power, which often involves not being nice at all, but most of us can use the reminder to be kind to others. So be aware today especially of those you meet and deal with, whether they are coworkers, the checker at the lunch counter, the gas station attendant, the janitor who cleans the building, your teachers, your students, your parents, your children, your spouse. For those of us on social media, it can also be a challenge to post nothing negative today – including replying to that annoying relative who posts the hateful comments, or that politician who spouts rhetoric that is obviously a bunch of baloney.

In the spirit of the day, all you who read these posts, and especially you who take the time to respond, I appreciate you!

Quotes about being nice

Not only do I think being nice and kind is easy but being kind, in my opinion, is important.–Dwayne Johnson

It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges.–Mike Davidson

No person in the world ever lost anything by being nice to me.–Lillie Langtry

Being nice to someone you have an issue with doesn’t mean you are fake … it means someone taught you how to be polite.–Author Unknown

Being nice to people you don’t like isn’t called two-faced … it’s called growing up.–Bernajoy Vaal

Do not take me for granted, being nice is not a matter of weakness, it is a matter of choice.–Abhishek Tiwari

Be nice to everyone, always smile and appreciate things because it could all be gone tomorrow.–Ed Sheeran

Be nice. And if you can’t do that, just don’t be mean.–Richelle E. Goodrich

Be nice to the environment. Be nice to animals. Be nice to people. If you do that, you will leave a mark on the world.–Enock Maregesi

Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home.–Phyllis Diller

Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.–Wilson Mizner

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

Being nice doesn’t necessarily mean you’re weak. You can be nice and be strong at the same time. That’s a character trait that we need more in Washington.–Shelley Moore Capito

We’re [women] always bending over backwards being extra nice. And I don’t know if being nice is my legacy.–Kathleen Hanna

I tell my kids… you’re not going to be the tallest, fastest, prettiest, the best track runner, but you can be the nicest human being that someone has ever met in their life. And I just want to leave that legacy that being nice is a true treasure.–George Foreman

For one thing, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being nice. There is nothing uncool about it; there’s nothing wrong with being kind.–Jack McBrayer

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