Mark Twain

Called by many “the Father of American Literature,” Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. Clemens was born two months prematurely and was in relatively poor health for the first 10 years of his life. After the death of his father when he was eleven, he worked at several odd jobs in town, including printer’s apprentice. In 1857, 21-year-old Clemens began learning the art of piloting a steamboat on the Mississippi. A licensed pilot by 1859, he soon found regular employment plying the shoals and channels of the great river. It was a happy time in his life, but came to an end with the beginning of the Civil War, when most commercial voyages on the river stopped.

In 1861, he and his brother headed west. They stopped in Nevada where Clemens tried his hand at silver mining. When he failed to strike it rich, he returned to journalism, this time as a reporter. It was during this time that he became Mark Twain. In 1864, he moved to San Francisco and worked for various newspapers. When his short story “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” was published and widely circulated in 1865 by the Saturday Press of New York, Mark Twain became a nationally known humorist. His more well-known works followed soon afterwards, Innocents Abroad, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn.

Mark Twain’s last 15 years were filled with public honors, including degrees from Oxford and Yale. Probably the most famous American of the late 19th century, he was much photographed and applauded wherever he went. Indeed, he was one of the most prominent celebrities in the world, traveling widely overseas, including a successful ’round-the-world lecture tour in 1895-’96, undertaken to pay off his debts. He died on April 21, 1910, and is buried in Elmira, New York.

Quotes by Mark Twain

Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably And never regret ANYTHING That makes you smile.

Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.

Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.

It’s better to be an optimist who is sometimes wrong than a pessimist who is always right

Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.

The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.

The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.

To be great, truly great, you have to be the kind of person who makes the others around you great.

Great things can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.

There is nothing so annoying as having two people talking when you’re busy interrupting.

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

Our lives, our liberty, and our property are never in greater danger than when Congress is in session.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

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Red Planet Day

On November 28, we celebrate our close neighbor in space, the planet Mars. The date commemorates the day in 1964 when Mariner 4, a robotic interplanetary probe was launched by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mariner 4 became the first spacecraft to successfully fly by Mars. It also gave the world the first close-up images of Mars. Most people know that Mars was named after the Roman god of War, because of its red color. Its two small moons are named Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Panic).

Mars is 4220 miles in diameter, which makes it roughly half the size of Earth. A Martian year is 687 days. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars. Temperatures range from about -191 to +81 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet seems to be built similarly to the way the Earth is put together, with a solid core, but the atmosphere is very different, as Mars it ninety-six percent carbon dioxide. So although we have dreams of someday sending humans to Mars, they are always going to need suits on the surface.

The Mars Odyssey spacecraft is currently orbiting Mars, and using the Thermal Emission Imaging System or THEMIS, it constantly sends back pictures from the planet. You can see them here. Also, NASA has a large gallery of pictures from the planet, which can be seen here. Many of them are from the rovers on the ground.

Of course, once we thought Mars was inhabited, and folks like Percival Lowell, traced the “canals’ that brought water from the Martian ice caps to the civilization farther down the planet. Alas, that turned out not to be true, though scientists now believe there is indeed some water on the planet. Whether or not they are right, there should be exciting developments around the Red Planet in the near future.

Quotes about Mars

That planet has a considerable but moderate atmosphere. So that the inhabitants probably enjoy a situation in many respects similar to ours.–William Herschel (1784)

The present inhabitation of Mars be a race superior to ours is very probable.–Camille Flammarion 1892)

Speculation has been singularly fruitful as to what these markings on our next to nearest neighbor in space may mean. Each astronomer holds a different pet theory on the subject, and pooh-poohs those of all the others. Nevertheless, the most self-evident explanation from the markings themselves is probably the true one; namely, that in them we are looking upon the result of the work of some sort of intelligent beings… . The amazing blue network on Mars hints that one planet besides our own is actually inhabited now.–Percival Lowell (1894)

Mars, therefore, is not only uninhabited by intelligent beings such as Mr. Lowell postulates, but is absolutely uninhabitable.–Alfred Russel Wallac (1907)

The logistic requirements for a large, elaborate mission to Mars are no greater that those for a minor military operation extending over a limited theatre of war.–Wernher von Braun 1952)

We have your satellite if you want it back send 20 billion in Martian money. No funny business or you will never see it again.–Reportedly seen on a wall in a hall at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, after losing contact with the Mars Polar Lander, 1999

We are all … children of this universe. Not just Earth, or Mars, or this system, but the whole grand fireworks. And if we are interested in Mars at all, it is only because we wonder over our past and worry terribly about our possible future.–Ray Bradbury

‎If it’s a new planet, sign me up. I’m tired of driving around the block, boldly going where hundreds have gone before in orbit around earth — give me a place to go and I’ll go.–Neil deGrasse Tyson

It’s a fixer-upper of a planet but we could make it work.–Elon Musk

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Good Grief Day

Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip was born on November 26, 1922, and today we celebrate him and his creation. The original comic ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000. It continues today in many papers as reruns. All told, 17,897 strips were published. At its peak in the mid to late 1960s, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of around 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. Not bad for a strip which debuted in only nine papers.

Schulz’s original strip had been called Lil Folks, but when it was picked up for syndication, United Features Syndicate changed the name to Peanuts, named after the peanut gallery in Howdy Doody. Schulz was not thrilled with the name change. Instead, he wanted to call the strip “Good Old Charlie Brown.”

I loved Peanuts growing up. My favorite character was always Snoopy in all his guises – the World War I flying ace. Joe Cool, and the author who never gets published. However, Charlie Brown is the one we always think of. The poor, hapless loser speaks to all of us, at least at certain times.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, which had its first broadcast in 1965, did not thrill network executives. They expected it to be shown once, and then disappear. Their pessimism stemmed from various concerns. The special cast children to play the voices of the characters and included a monologue for Linus in which he quotes the Bible. Instead, it won an Emmy and went on to become a beloved classic.

Schulz received the National Cartoonist Society Humor Comic Strip Award, the Reuben Award, the Elzie Segar Award, and the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. Peanuts cartoon specials have received a total of two Peabody Awards and four Emmys.

Quotes by Charles Schulz

Be yourself. No one can say you’re doing it wrong.

Just thinking about a friend makes you want to do a happy dance, because a friend is someone who loves you in spite of your faults.

Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.

Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s all about the friend who comes and stands by your side in bad times.

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people… Religion, Politics, and The Great Pumpkin.

I am not concerned with simply surviving. I am very concerned about improving. I start each day by examining yesterday’s work and looking for areas where I can improve. I am always trying to draw the characters better, and trying to design each panel somewhat in the manner a painter would treat his canvas.

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’

In the Book of Life, The answers aren’t in the back.

I think I’ve discovered the secret of life – you just hang around until you get used to it.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it sure makes the rest of you lonely.

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.

Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it I wash my mouth out with chocolate.

It’s better to live one day as a lion than a dozen years as a sheep.

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I am seriously under the weather, feeling too awful to write a blog. So instead, in honor of Thanksgiving, here are a lot of gratitude quotes.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.–John F. Kennedy

The day I acquired the habit of consciously pronouncing the words “thank you,” I felt I had gained possession of a magic wand capable of transforming everything.–Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.–Brian Tracy

Everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace.–G. K. Chesterton

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.–William Arthur Ward

For today and its blessings, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.–Clarence E. Hodges

For what I have received may the Lord make me truly thankful. And more truly for what I have not received.–Storm Jameson (Journey from the North, v.2)

Give thanks for all things. All things great and small, good, bad, for all things are for a purpose.–Ann Herbstreith

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.–Cicero

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul and the heart of man knoweth none more fragrant.–Hosea Ballou

Gratitude is the memory of the heart.–Massieu

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.–Jacques Maritain (Reflectinons on America)

Gratitude is what opens the spiritual doors to all the blessings. Everything becomes clear, you see, you feel, you live.–Omraam M. Aivanhov

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.–Melody Beattie

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.–Eric Hoffer

He who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment of his debt.–Seneca

Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.–Anonymous

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.–Brene Brown

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.–G. K. Chesterton

If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.–Harold Kushner

Ingratitude is the soul’s enemy… Ingratitude is a burning wind that dries up the source of love, the dew of mercy, the streams of grace.—-Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

It is impossible to be negative while we are giving thanks.–Donald Curtis

Keep a grateful journal. Every night, list five things that you are grateful for. What it will begin to do is change our perspective of your day and your life.–Oprah Winfrey

None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.–Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Of all the “attitudes” we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing.–Zig Ziglar

One can never pay in gratitude; one can pay “in kind” somewhere else in life.–Anne Morrow Lindbergh

One of life’s gifts is that each of us, no matter how tired and downtrodden, finds reasons for thankfulness.–J. Robert Maskin

Part of growing up spiritually is learning to be grateful for all things, even our difficulties, disappointments, failures and humiliations.–Mike Aquilina (Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life)

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National Absurdity Day

November 20 is a day to celebrate the absurd in life. There are two different kinds of absurdity. On the one hand, if something is absurd, it is funny. But if we look at things like the Theatre of the Absurd, it is portraying the meaninglessness of life.

I want to look at the second definition first. The myth that best symbolizes this form of absurdity is that of Sisyphus who is condemned in Hades to forever push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down again. The premise is that there is no meaning to human life, that it is simply a series of actions ultimately leading nowhere. This period of drama was particularly popular in the years after World War II, when the horrors of that time were fresh. Samuel Beckett is one such playwright. In his play Waiting for Godot, plot is eliminated, and a timeless, circular quality emerges as two lost creatures, usually played as tramps, spend their days waiting — but without any certainty of whom they are waiting for or of whether he, or it, will ever come.

It is said that, “Language in an Absurdist play is often dislocated, full of cliches, puns, repetitions, and non sequiturs.” To me this sounds like Twitter, as well as certain politicians who shall remain nameless.

The other way to look at absurdity is much more fun. When something is just plain silly, we often call it absurd, or crazy or zany. When I think of this definition, Monty Python’s Flying Circus immediately springs to mind. So many of their sketches were the height of absurdity, such as the dead parrot sketch which you can find on YouTube, and which still makes me laugh after all these years.

So be sure to let out your silliness today.

Just for fun quotes

All you really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.–Charles Schulz

As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter a, e, or u is the proper time for chocolate.–Sandra Boynton

The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form.–Evan Esar

Do not compute the totality of your poultry population until all the manifestations of incubation have been entirely completed.–William Jennings Bryan

Don’t you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There’s one marked ‘brightness’, but it doesn’t work.—Gallagher

Every man has one thing he can do better than anyone else–and usually it’s reading his own handwriting.–G. Norman Collie

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.–Groucho Marx

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.–Robert McCloskey

I make it a policy to try never to make a complete idiot of myself twice in the same way. After all, there’s always all kinds of new ways to make a complete idiot of myself. Why repeat the old ones?–Margot Dalton

I went to a restaurant that serves “breakfast any time.” So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.–Steven Wright

I’d go to the end of the world for my husband. Of course, if he’d just stop and ask directions, I wouldn’t have to.–Martha Bolton

Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams.–Mary Ellen Kelly

The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.–Solomon Short

The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.–G. K. Chesterton

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Margaret Atwood

Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born November 18, 1939. She is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, and environmental activist. Most know her from her novels, however. The Handmaid’s Tale has recently boon in the news as Hulu recently ordered a television series based on the book, which premiered in late 2016. Many see the novel as politically relevant today, and it is certainly her best-known work. The story takes place in the near future when society has collapsed, and most women are infertile. Handmaids are fertile women assigned to households of the ruling elite theocracy in order to bear children for them. It is not an easy read.

Probably her next best-known work is the MaddAddam Trilogy, a series of three novels, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam that deal with life after an ecological catastrophe.

Margaret Atwood mainly writes what she calls speculative fiction. She distinguishes it from science fiction, in that her novels concern themselves with things that could happen if current trends in our world would take a certain turn, or go to their logical conclusion.

One of her earlier novels, Alias Grace, was made into a series in Canada and is currently showing on Netflix. It is historical fiction, based on a true story, about a young maid accused of murder, who cannot remember what happened. A young doctor tries to help her remember to prove her innocence.

Atwood’s writing, in all her chosen genres, has always been clearly connected to global and personal politics; it particularly focuses on themes of environmental degradation, women’s roles in society, and the power dynamics of social organization.

Atwood has won an impressive array of awards for her writing, including the Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Booker Prize.

Quotes by Margaret Atwood

Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.

Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.

You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.

The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.

When I was young, I believed that “nonfiction” meant “true.” But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth — there may be several truths — but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.

Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, “It can’t happen here.” Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.

“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. … “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.

All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.

Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.

War is what happens when language fails.

Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there’s no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.

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International Day for Tolerance

November 16 has been set aside by the United Nations as a day to promote tolerance. Their website explains it like this: “On the day of its fiftieth anniversary, 16 November 1995, UNESCO’s Member States adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. Among other things, the Declaration affirms that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. It is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.”

In an age that seems to be getting less tolerant all the time, it is important to recognize intolerance and to celebrate diversity. The United Nations suggests five ways to counter intolerance.

  1. Passing laws to enforce human rights, such as punishing hate crimes, and making sure all have equal access to such things as courts and other bodies which help prevent discrimination.
  2. Fighting intolerance though education. Children need to be taught about diversity, and to be open and curious, rather than fearful of those different than themselves. Education best happens in not only school, but also the home and the workplace.
  3. Fighting intolerance requires access to information. By this, they mean a free press, which presents accurate information about different groups of people.
  4. Individual awareness. Pay attention to what goes on around you at work and in other places, particularly involving stereotyping particular groups. People need to monitor their own reactions to jokes and casual remarks to keep intolerance from gaining hold.
  5. Local solutions. Tolerance begins at the local level with getting involved with organizations in the community fighting intolerance.

May we all be more aware of our prejudices and work to remove them!

Quotes about tolerance

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.–Mohandas Gandhi

Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand; with a grip that kills it.–Rabindranath Tagore

The color of the skin makes no difference. What is good and just for one is good and just for the other, and the Great Spirit made all men brothers.–White Shield

The greatest and noblest pleasure which we have in this world is to discover new truths, and the next is to shake off old prejudices.–Frederick II, the Great

Greetings, I am pleased to see that we are different. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.–Vulcan greeting

How do we create a harmonious society out of so many kinds of people? The key is tolerance–the one value that is indispensable in creating community.–Barbara Jordan

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.–Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.–Dalai Lama

It’s a universal law – intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.–Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn’t taken the time adequately to understand…–Robert R. Brown

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.-Nelson Mandela

Nothing dies so hard, or rallies so often as intolerance.–Henry Ward Beecher

Tolerance is the only real test of civilization.–Arthur Helps

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