Slinky Day

What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs
and makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing!
Everyone knows it’s Slinky.

Yes, August 30 we celebrate the springy toy that has brought so much fun to children. Richard James, a naval engineer, invented the slinky. In 1943, he accidentally knocked a torsion spring off a workbench and watched the spring “walk” along the floor. Intrigued, he decided to see if he could create just the right steel and tension to turn it into a toy. After months of experimentation, he decided he had found the right wire and design, took out a loan of $500 and had a local machine shop make 400 of the toys. He priced them at $1 a toy. His wife Betty gave the toy its name, a Swedish word meaning sleek and graceful.

When Gimbels in Philadelphia allowed him to set up an inclined plane in their toy department during the Christmas season, he sold out of his entire stock in 90 minutes, and a toy classic was born. James quit his day job and went into full-time production, setting up a shop in Philadelphia. His wife came up with the jingle, which you can see and hear in several versions on YouTube.

In 1999, the United States Postal Service issued a Slinky postage stamp. The Slinky was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2001, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania made Slinky the Official State Toy of Pennsylvania.

Slinkys now come in both metal and plastic, and in various colors, but still provide simple joy to children (and the adults who remembered playing with the toys when they were young) If you are intrigued, there is a marvelous history of the toy here.

Quotes about slinkys and toys in general

I met this wonderful girl at Macy’s. She was buying clothes and I was putting Slinkies on the escalator.–Steven Wright

If time is a staircase, reality is a Slinky.–Louis Menand

I’ve kind of fashioned my life after a Slinky. Bend me in a million shapes, and eventually I’ll spring back to what I originally was.–Sylvester Stallone

Time is the continuous loop, the snakeskin with scales endlessly overlapping without beginning or end, or time is an ascending spiral if you will, like a child’s toy Slinky.–Annie Dillard

I have three step brothers and one step sister. It’s like a staircase, and I am the slinky.–Jarod Kintz

Give children toys that are powered by their imagination, not by batteries.–H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

A toy has no gender and no idea of whether a girl or boy is playing with it.–Letty Cottin Pogrebin

I like to do nice things for my grandchildren – like buy them those toys I’ve always wanted to play with.–Gene Perret

No matter how old you are, if a little kid hands you a toy phone… you answer it.–Dave Chappelle

Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys, showing that nothing else in life need to be taken seriously, and that Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive.–Robert Wilson Lynd

To a real child anything will serve as a toy.–John Cowper Powys

The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent.–Sam Levenson

Sports is the toy department of human life.–Howard Cosell

You get to relive your childhood when you have a baby and you see these toys and these books you read when you were little – the innocence that you are able to maintain because you have to find that again in order to connect with your child keeps you in a special state of mind.–Idina Menzel

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Bow Tie Day

How could I be a Doctor Who fan and not celebrate Bow Tie Day on August 28? I love how Days of the Year begin their remarks about this holiday: “A whirling noise in the distance, followed by a male in a bow tie and a female in a summer dress running out of a blue police box. A small wooden puppet with a large blue bow tie that is still there when the puppet comes to life. Or a sharply dressed man hunting around for information in order to save the world from annihilation. … Whether it be the Doctor from Dr. Who, Pinocchio, or James Bond, each wears a bow tie very well, and accentuates it for that very character.” I must admit, however, that the second person I think of wearing a bow tie is Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

Before there were bow ties, in the 17th century, soldiers in Croatia wore cravats to tie their shirts together. The French soldiers saw this during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and brought the idea home, but it didn’t really catch on until 1886 when a tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard wore one with his new style of formal wear to the Tuxedo Club. He made a hit, and from then on, bow ties became part of men’s formal wear. If you want to learn to tie a proper bow tie, you can find the instructions on a site called

In modern day, bow ties can be seen as eccentric, as fashionable, or as a throwback to another era. It’s up to the wearer to carry off the image he wants to present. As is put in the essay, “In Defense of the Bow Tie,” by Ellis Perry, “Don’t wear a Bow to stand-out. Wear it to be Outstanding.”

Quotes about bow ties

Wearing a bow tie is a statement. Almost an act of defiance.–Rick Kaplan

To its devotees the bowtie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bowtie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. BowTies are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.–Warren St. John

When you wear a bow tie, doors open for you. Your posture is a little more erect; your shoulders are a little further back; your style is a little more dynamic. It’s about the reestablishment of the gentleman.–Dhani Jones

See the bowtie? I wear it and I don’t care. That’s why it’s cool.–Steven Moffat

Read about a few men who wear (or wore) bow ties as an act of defiance, and check out a tie that makes a strong statement. Bow ties are cool.–Matt Smith

You can’t dribble on bow ties.–Dr. Seuss

As a southern man, there’s two things I’m definitely not scared of: bow ties and white pants.–Justin Townes Earle

I was a show-off as a kid. I was wearing bow ties and matching coloured trousers.–Mika

My father was a very good Boy Scout. He was very skilled with knots, and he showed me how to tie a bow tie.–Bill Nye

I was a ‘Laurel and Hardy’ nut. I got to know Laurel at the end of his life, and it was a great thrill for me. He left me his bow tie and derby and told me that if they ever made a movie about him, he’d want me to play him.–Dick Van Dyke

A gentleman can never have too many bow ties.–Justin Timberlake

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Women’s Equality Day

In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. Bella Abzug championed the declaration to commemorate the anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, added in 1920, which gave women the right to vote. The push for the right to vote was first begun in 1848, so it took 72 years of efforts by women to make it come to pass.

Time and Date reports, “Opposition to voting by women was widespread and the amendment did not get to the see the light of the day again until 1914 when it was once gain brought up in the US congress. In May 1919, two-thirds of the Congress voted in favor of the amendment and it was sent to the states for ratification.”

Days of the Year says about this: “Over the last century, great women have proved [stereotypes about them] wrong as the world has witnessed just what women are capable of achieving, from the likes of Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt fighting for civil rights and equality to great scientists such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin and Jane Goodall. The last century has shown more than ever what both women and men are capable of achieving, given the opportunity.”

Not only does this day celebrate the right to vote, but also draws attention to the ways women have yet to achieve full equality. This is alas, still true in the United States, but even more so in other parts of the world. There is much work to be done in this area. If we are to become a more just world, women need access to education, health care, child care, and equal pay for equal work, among others.

Quotes about gender equality

Too often, these are called women’s issues. Well, I am a proud lifelong fighter for women’s issues, because I firmly believe what’s good for women is good for America.–Hillary Clinton

I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.–Maya Angelou

A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.–Gloria Steinem

When God created man and woman, he was thinking, ‘Who shall I give the power to, to give birth to the next human being?’ And God chose woman. And this is the big evidence that women are powerful–Malala Yousafzai

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.–Kofi Annan

Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.–Ban Ki-moon

I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.–B. R. Ambedkar

I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.–Audre Lorde

I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.–Mary Shelley

Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.–Charlotte Whitton

Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.–Amelia Earhart

Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.–Susan B. Anthony

How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?-—Emma Watson

We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.–Sheryl Sandberg

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Can Opener Day

Each year on August 24, we celebrate Can Opener Day. Peter Durand invented canned food in 1813. The patent for a can opener was obtained in 1855 or 1858, depending on whom you consider the inventor. How did people open canned food before the can opener? The instructions on an 1824 can of roast veal read, “Cut round on the top near to the outer edge with a chisel and hammer.”

The reason why there is a debate as to when the can opener was invented is that the idea came separately to a Brit and an American. First in Britain was Roberts Yates, who made knives and surgical instruments. His patent for “lock and lever knives,” was given on July 13, 1855. He did not specifically design his tool for canned food, but for opening cases, and anything else that might need that type of opening tool.

In 1858, Ezra J. Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut, became the first American to patent a can opener. He proved to be the right man at the right time, as the US military adopted his invention for use during the Civil War. Both of these openers stabbed the can, then worked like a lever to open it. To bring the invention closer to what we might think of as a modern can opener, William W. Lyman added a wheel for continuous operation in 1870.

The first electric can opener was patented in 1931 and modeled after the cutting-wheel design. Those openers were produced in the 1930s and advertised as capable of removing lids from more than 20 cans per minute without risk of injury. However, they were not popular. They were reintroduced in 1955 and had more success.

For a long time it was considered lazy for a woman to cook with food from a can, but fighting that image was Poppy Cannon, who said about herself, “Armed with a can opener, I become the artist cook, the massive creative chef.” So whether your can opener is a fancy electric one, or one of the manual kinds, get it out tonight to help make dinner.

Quotes about can openers and canned food

This cookbook solves the problem of those who demand gourmet cooking in short-order time. The menus and recipes show how the hurried and even inexperienced cook, using the prepared mix, the jar, the frozen-food package, or the canned product as a base, can produce delectable, impressive dishes.–Poppy Cannon

Our cooking ideas and ideals have their roots in many lands and cultures, but our new way of achieving gourmet food can only happen here – in the land of the mix, the jar, the frozen-food package, and the ubiquitous can opener.–Poppy Cannon

At one time a badge of shame, hallmark of the lazy lady and the careless wife, today the can opener is becoming a magic wand…–Poppy Cannon

It is exciting to discover electrons and figure out the equations that govern their movement; it is boring to use those principles to design electric can openers. From here on out, it’s all can openers.–Neal Stephenson

She’s the only museum curator I know who can take a beer-can opener and a frying pan and make a marvelous exhibition out of it.–Thomas Sokolowski

I live out of cans a lot. But I try to indulge only in healthy canned food.–Dwight Yoakam

Canned food is a perversion, Ignatius said. I suspect that it is ultimately very damaging to the soul.–John Kennedy Toole

I read everything, including the labels on canned food.–Robert Anton Wilson

Is there anything sadder than the foods of the 1950s? Canned, frozen, packaged concoctions, served up by the plateful, three meals per day, in an era in which the supermarket was king, the farmer’s market was, well, for farmers, and the word ‘locavore’ sounded vaguely like a mythical beast.–Jeffrey Kluger

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Be an Angel Day

Started to encourage people to do random acts of kindness, Jayne Howard Feldman first proposed this celebration on August 22, 1993. We have all had experience with those who have helped us when we needed it the most. Even just a kind word can make all the difference sometimes. Ms. Feldman calls people who do those angels, but you don’t need to believe in literal angels to celebrate this day.

Today is a day to be alert to those around you, and to offer aid where you may, whether that’s physical, emotional, or any other kind. Though its original purpose is to celebrate random acts of kindness, you can also do things you have been thinking about for a long time.

It would be great for folks to be kind to those they interact with today, from coworkers to family members to those who serve us, such as sales people, restaurant workers, and all those who work in service industries. It could also be a day to step up and support a charitable organization that regularly gives help to others or helps animals or the environment. I think it is particularly appropriate to do something kind anonymously so that no one but yourself knows the good deed you have done.

By the way, Cute Calendar says, “research has shown that acts of kindness do not only benefit receivers of the kind act, but also the giver, as a result of the release of neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of contentment and relaxation when such acts are committed.”

Some suggestions for today are Fill a random parking meter, mow your neighbor’s lawn, or send an unexpected note to a loved one. Listen to someone with the intention of understanding. Volunteer at a community program of some kind. Plant a tree. Clean up litter. There are as many ideas as there are people, but don’t let this day pass by without being kind in some way.

Quotes about kindness

You may be sorry that you spoke,
sorry you stayed or went,
sorry you won or lost,
sorry so much was spent.
But as you go through life, you’ll find–
you’re never sorry you were kind.–Herb Prochnow

You have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.–Ruth Smeltzer

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write your name in kindness, love and mercy on the hearts of the thousands you come in contact with year by year, and you will never be forgotten.—-Thomas Chalmers

When you carry out acts of kindness, you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, “Yes, this is how I ought to feel.”–Harold Kushner

When you are kind to someone in trouble, you hope they’ll remember and be kind to someone else. And, it’ll become like a wildfire.–Whoopi Goldberg

When one begins to purposefully perform acts of kindness, the spirit changes and soon doing good deeds becomes a focal point for our life; doing good begins to be the same as feeling good. The periods of emptiness when we search for the “meaning of it all” begin to fill with acts of kindness.–Gary Ryan Blair

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.–Abraham Heschel

Try to make at least one person happy every day. … If you cannot do a kind deed, speak a kind word. If you cannot speak a kind word, think a kind thought. Count up, if you can, the treasure of happiness that you would dispense in a week, in a year, in a lifetime!–Lawrence G. Lovasik

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H. P. Lovecraft

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island, an only child. A sickly child, he was often too ill to go to school and was mainly self-taught. When he was 18, Lovecraft had a nervous breakdown, and never finished high school.

Along with Edgar Allen Poe, Lovecraft was a father of the modern horror story. His stories have a bleak view of life, perhaps influenced by the fact that he was prey to night terrors. They are some of the first stories to be about aliens, who generally did not wish mankind well. He also wrote of people who meddled in things best left alone, with terrible consequences.

Lovecraft was not a great writer. He published mainly in pulp magazines and had little success during his lifetime. So why am I promoting him in this blog? First, because there is something in his stories that can draw in the reader. His most mature work At the Mountains of Madness is a gripping tales of an expedition in Antarctica, which finds the remains of a non-human city buried for thousands of years, and what happens to those who dig too deeply. And his Cthulhu/the great old ones mythology is extensive and fascinating. Though as with Burroughs, a near contemporary, you have to overlook his racism, I like is that he never glorifies s evil, but always treats is as banal and degenerate.

However, his real contribution is not his stories themselves, but the influence he had on other writers, as diverse as Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, who wrote “A Study in Emerald,” that references Lovecraftian mythology. His influence on visual media is even greater, with The Thing from Another World, and Alien, probably being the most obvious, but from Batman to Doctor Who to role playing games, his inspiration is always there.

Quotes by Lovecraft

As for the Republicans – how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, [and] steel their emotions against decent human sympathy.

I felt myself on the edge of the world; peering over the rim into a fathomless chaos of eternal night.

The ignorant and the deluded are, I think, in a strange way to be envied. That which is not known of does not trouble us, while an imagined but insubstantial peril does not harm us. To know the truths behind reality is a far greater burden.

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

No new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace.

If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.

The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown

For I have always been a seeker, a dreamer, and a ponderer on seeking and dreaming…

The greatest human achievements have never been for profit.

Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.

I could not write about “ordinary people” because I am not in the least interested in them.

Pleasure to me is wonder – the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.

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Helium Discovery Day

During a total eclipse of the sun on August 18, 1868, French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen observed a strange yellow line in the spectrum of the sun. At first, he assumed it was sodium, but it didn’t match up to that wavelength. He had discovered helium, though he didn’t realize it at the time. On October 20th of that same year, English astronomer Norman Lockyer observed a yellow line in the solar spectrum which he concluded was caused by an unknown element in the Sun. Lockyer and English chemist Edward Frankland named the element helios, after the Greek word for the Sun.

Today we tend to think of helium as the gas that does strange things to your voice (to hear a silly demonstration of that go to this YouTube video or as the gas that makes balloons rise. However, it has many more uses. According to Universe Today, helium is used for a wide range of scientific and medical applications. The greatest use is in cryogenic applications, where liquid-helium acts as a coolant for superconducting magnets in MRI scanners and spectrometers. It is also a component of rocket fuel and used in the Large Hadron Collider.

Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, second only to hydrogen. However, it is rare on Earth, only found in small quantities during gas and oil drilling. However, a huge field of ancient helium was found in 2016 in the Rift Valley in Africa, which could make a big difference. I was able to find several articles announcing the discovery, but none more recent than that to tell whether anyone had been able to actually make use of it. Hopefully, by now, they have been able to tap this significant new resource.

Quotes about helium

Nuclear fusion of light elements like hydrogen or helium would permit approaching the speed of light. It seems very attractive to refuel your space ships where the fuel is.–Wilson Greatbatch

A hot air balloon requires a great deal of fuel to keep it aloft, so that you can’t fly it even for one day. A gas balloon, which usually uses helium, has the problem that the helium cools at night when the sun is not on it, and you have to throw ballast overboard to keep it from going to the surface.–Steve Fossett

The helium which we handle must have been put together at some time and some place. We do not argue with the critic who urges that the stars are not hot enough for this process; we tell him to go and find a hotter place.–Arthur Eddington

I quit my job at the helium gas factory. I didn’t like being spoken to in that voice.–Stewart Francis

We, all of us, are what happens when a primordial mixture of hydrogen and helium evolves for so long that it begins to ask where it came from.–Jill Tarter

Our entire universe emerged from a point smaller than a single atom. Space itself exploded in a cosmic fire, launching the expansion of the universe and giving birth to all the energy and all the matter we know today. I know that sounds crazy, but there’s strong observational evidence to support the Big Bang theory. And it includes the amount of helium in the cosmos and the glow of radio waves left over from the explosion.–Neil deGrasse Tyson

You see, the chemists have a complicated way of counting: instead of saying “one, two, three, four, five protons”, they say, “hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron.”–Richard P. Feynman

I’ve read short stories that are as dense as a 19th century novel and novels that really are short stories filled with a lot of helium.–Lynn Abbey

Love is a helium-based emotion; Love always takes the high road.–Augusten Burroughs

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