Kublai Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Those words, which begin the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Coleridge Taylor, have always fascinated me. Since September 23 is Kublai Khan’s birthday, I decided to write about him today.

The grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan was born in Mongolia in 1215. He was a general and an administrator when his brother died in 1260 when he named himself Great Khan and took control of the empire, which at this time stretched from the Caspian Sea east to the Pacific Ocean. After a civil war with another brother, Kublai eventually emerged victorious in 1264. Ariq Böke surrendered in Shangdu (also known as Xanadu) to Kublai. Kublai moved the capital to near modern-day Beijing, where he was a mainly benevolent ruler, setting up an administrative structure in keeping with local customs, improving infrastructure, implementing religious tolerance and introducing paper money for economic transactions.

Always fascinated by Chinese culture, in 1267 he set out to fulfill the dream of his grandfather and unite China, by subduing the Song Dynasty in southern China. It was a long campaign and involved learning new kinds of warfare, but by 1279, all China was under his control. However, this caused problems, since if he acted like a barbarian foreign conqueror, the Chinese would reject him, but the more he set things up on the Chinese model, the more he alienated his Mongol base. Consequently, the Yuan dynasty that he set up did not long survive his death in 1294. By 1368, they had gone back to Mongolia, but their legacy of a united China remained.

If the stories of Marco Polo are true, he met the Great Khan on his travels.

There don’t seem to be quotes by Kublai Khan, so here are some from his grandfather Genghis. I think they were much of a kind.

If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you

If you’re afraid – don’t do it, – if you’re doing it – don’t be afraid!

The strength of a wall is neither greater nor less than the courage of the men who defend it.

Not even a mighty warrior can break a frail arrow when it is multiplied and supported by its fellows. As long as you brothers support one another and render assistance to one another, your enemies can never gain the victory over you. But if you fall away from each other your enemy can break you like frail arrows, one at a time.

An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure.

I hate luxury. I exercise moderation… It will be easy to forget your vision and purpose one you have fine clothes, fast horses and beautiful women. [In which case], you will be no better than a slave, and you will surely lose everything.

A leader can never be happy until his people are happy.

Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.

There is no good in anything until it is finished.

Even when a friend does something you do not like, he continues to be your friend.

One of the joys of travel is visiting new towns and meeting new people.

Heaven grew weary of the excessive pride and luxury of China… I am from the Barbaric North. I wear the same clothing and eat the same food as the cowherds and horse-herders. We make the same sacrifices and we share … our riches. I look upon the nation as a new-born child and I care for my soldiers as though they were my brother.

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World Gratitude Day

Quoting from the official site of World Gratitude Day: “The official beginning of World Gratitude Day was in 1965 at the East-West Center in Hawaii at a Thanksgiving dinner honoring grantees hosted by Sri Chinmoy, a meditation guru.  As director of the United Nations Meditation Group, he suggested the idea as a globally unifying holiday. Each person pledged to hold a gratitude gathering each September 21 in his or her own country. The United Nations Meditation Group formally celebrated World Gratitude Day on September 21, 1977 at the New York Headquarters.”

In today’s world, it may seem at times like we have little to be thankful for. From natural disasters to political disasters to intolerance, poverty, war – you name it – the world can seem a dark and frightening place sometimes. Yet there is hardly ever a day when we can’t find something to be thankful for, even if it’s only life itself, food, shelter, health, or family.

Showing gratitude is helpful in so many ways. It makes the day so much more pleasant for the person giving gratitude and the person receiving it. It helps create positive mental health, and a better outlook on life. It helps create bonds between people. It also helps to keep us from taking things for granted.

Gratitude Habitat suggests these six ways to show gratitude today. I’m sure you can think of many more.

  1. Be courteous and kind. Do something nice for someone.
  2. Say thank you.
  3. Start a gratitude journal.
  4. Write thank you notes, either ones you have been putting off, or to someone who has helped you in the past.
  5. Give back
  6. Pay it forward, or have some have called it, do a random act of kindness.

I’m grateful for all who read these posts. So thank you!

Quotes on gratitude

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

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.–Oprah Winfrey

Each moment a blessing of abundance, each breath a prayer of thanksgiving.–Michael Rawls

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

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

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

Gratitude is the memory of the heart.—Massieu

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

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

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

No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.–John Greenleaf Whittier

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

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.–A. A. Milne

Take full account of the excellencies which you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.–Marcus Aurelius

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.–W. J. Cameron

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International Talk Like a Pirate Day

September 19 is a day you either love or hate. Perhaps I spent too much time around the young men who worked at Amazon, but I find International Talk Like a Pirate Day very amusing.

Technically, this celebration started in 1995 when two friends John Baur and Mark Summers were playing racquetball. For some reason, they began doing a running commentary of their game in pirate vernacular. On their official Web page, they describe it thus: “By the time our hour on the court was over, we realized that lapsing into pirate lingo had made the game more fun and the time pass more quickly. We decided then and there that what the world really needed was a new national holiday, Talk Like A Pirate Day.”

For several years, only the two men and a few friends celebrated the holiday, but they happened upon Dave Barry’s email address and suggested he should back the day. (If you don’t know Barry, he is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald, who is widely syndicated.) In 2002, Dave Barry wrote a column, which you can read here, and Speak Like a Pirate Day blossomed into the holiday it has become. Today, it is celebrated around the world as a way to raise funds for charity organizations, such as Childhood Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

So how do you celebrate this important day? Obviously by talking like a pirate, with plenty of “arrrs,” and “ahoy mateys,” and other such. Some folks actually dress like pirates today. Or for a lower keyed celebration, watch a pirate-themed movie, or read a pirate-themed book.

So, me hearties, be sure t’ celebrate this day, and natter on like a pirate!

Quotes about pirates

Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.–Terry Pratchett

There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I asked. A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said and then he pulled his eye patch down and turned and sailed away.–Brian Andreas

I’m no longer a child and I still want to be, to live with the pirates. Because I want to live forever in wonder…. That is what the pirates know. There is only seeing and, in order to go to see, one must be a pirate.–Kathy Acker

If England had not used the services of privateers and pirates during its long struggle with Spain, there is some likelihood that people today in North America would be speaking Spanish rather than English.–Robert Earl Lee

First rule of a pirate’s mate, keep yer eye on yer destination, not yer doom.–Lisa Kessler

A very old man once told me a pirate is always chasing after the horizon, fooling himself into believing he can reach it. It might be gold, it might be freedom, it might even be a girl he’s looking to impress. Always it beckons, beautiful and glorious, but no matter how hard a pirate pushes his ship, it remains just out of grasp.–Matt Tomerlin

“Why would you go on a pirate dinner cruise?” He had to know. Her jaw dropped. “Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t you go on a pirate dinner cruise? There’s pirates and dinner. And you get to say ‘argh’ and ‘matey’ while drinking lots of rum without anyone looking at you funny.” Her breath caught. “Maybe one of them will even have a real parrot!”–Elle Rush

Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.–Mark Twain

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Apple Dumpling Day

September 17, we celebrate Apple Dumpling Day. Though dumplings were originally filled with meat to make an inexpensive meal, people began experimenting with them using fruit. Some of the fruit they put inside them were pears and plums. When people came to the U.S. from northern Europe, they brought their recipes with them, but at first didn’t have access to the fruit they were used to using. So it was in the States that specifically apple dumplings were born. The recipe is often found in Amish cookbooks.

Originally, apple dumplings were boiled and steamed, and the word itself comes from German dampf, meaning steam. Now it is typically baked using Granny Smith or other cooking apples, previously cored and peeled. The crucial spice is cinnamon.

Dumplings are sometimes thought of as little personal apple pies, but at least in traditional recipes, there is a difference. The dough is slightly different, and there is a sauce added to the dumplings as they bake. For a recipe that takes some time, but looks definitely worth it, look on the King Arthur Flour site. The sauce is made by simmering the apple peelings with brown sugar. It can be finished off with a scoop of ice cream on the warm dumpling.

Apple dumplings may be served for either breakfast or dessert. In the U.K., a suet pastry is often used, although shortcrust is also common. (Shortcrust pastry is based on a “half-fat-to-flour” ratio that is, twice as much flour as fat by weight. The fat may be butter, lard, or shortening.).A filling of dates, sultanas, or raisins is often inserted into the cavity left by removal of the core.

So do celebrate today by making or buying apple dumplings, and make this a delicious day.

Quotes about apples

Coleridge holds that a man cannot have a pure mind who refuse apple-dumplings. I am not certain but that he is right.–Charles Lamb

I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream… I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.–Mark Twain

You cannot sell a blemished apple in the supermarket, but you can sell a tasteless one provided it is shiny, smooth, even, uniform and bright.–Elspeth Huxley

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.–Carl Sagan

Why not upset the apple cart? If you don’t the apples will rot anyway.–Frank A. Clark

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.–Robert H. Schuller

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.–Martin Luther

When the apple is ripe it will fall.–Irish proverb

Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye.–Henry David Thoreau

Why do we need so many kinds of apples? Because there are so many folks. A person has a right to gratify his legitimate taste. If he wants twenty or forty kinds of apples for his personal use…he should be accorded the privilege. There is merit in variety itself. It provides more contact with life, and leads away from uniformity and monotony.–Liberty Hyde Baily

I’m not smart, but I like to observe. Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.–William Hazlitt

With an apple I will astonish Paris.–Paul Cezanne

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International Dot Day

When I saw that September 15 was International Dot Day, I was intrigued. I thought it must be a day to celebrate the wearing of polka dots. I was wrong!

Instead, the inspiration behind this day is the children’s book The Dot  by Peter H. Reynolds. Teacher Terry Shay introduced the book to his classroom on September 15, 2009, and the idea caught on.

According to the official website,  “The Dot is the story of a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark”. What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing…”

The idea behind this day is that we are all creative in some way, and sometimes it takes another’s belief in us to give us the courage to take that first step, no matter how small. In the story, Vashti discovers she is an artist, but art isn’t the only way to express creativity. Whether you long to try art, or music, or quilting, or cooking, or dancing, or writing – there is a spark in you waiting to be fanned into flames. If you want to encourage a child, or need a push yourself, this book is well worth the few minutes it takes to read. The best part of the story to me is that not only has Vashti found her own confidence, but at the end, she reaches out to help another pupil find theirs.

Look into your heart and find that creative activity you have always longed to try but were afraid you weren’t good enough. Make a start, even if is as small as a dot on a paper, and see where it takes you.

Quotes about creativity

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.–Maya Angelou

Whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.–Julia Cameron

When we are writing, or painting, or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world, where colors are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize.–Madeleine L’Engle

When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on Earth. So what the hell, leap!–Peter McWilliams

We need creativity in order to break free from the temporary structures that have been set up by a particular sequence of experience.–Edward de Bono

We are born makers. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.–Brene Brown

The process of writing, any form of creativity, is a power intensifying life.–Rita Mae Brown

Life is creation. Self and circumstances are the raw material.–Dorothy M. Richardson

It is important to do what you don’t know how to do. It is important to see your skills as keeping you from learning what is deepest and most mysterious. If you know how to focus, unfocus. If your tendency is to make sense out of chaos, start chaos.–Carlos Casteneda

Imagination is the spark that ignites the fire of creativity.–Richard Laurence Peterson

Focus should be to encourage and develop creativity in all children without the ultimate goal begin to make all children inventors, but rather to develop a future generation of critical thinkers.–Faraq Mousa

Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.–Mae Jemison

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Roald Dahl Day

Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916, in Wales, to Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl. He was named after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen. He was educated in British public schools, which by the sounds were not much happier than the school attended later by his character Matilda. In World War II, he became a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force. After headaches bad enough to make him black out, he was sent as an attaché to the United States, where he helped promote British war interests.

After the war, he married actress Patricia Neal. The couple had five children, in a marriage that lasted thirty years. During this time, he became a writer. Though he also wrote tales for adults, he is mainly remembered for his children’s books. Dahl’s books are not subtle. There are the good guys – the child or children and a sympathetic adult – and the bad guys – most of the other adults. Children’s book critic Amanda Craig has said, “He was unequivocal that it is the good, young and kind who triumph over the old, greedy and the wicked.”

In 1961, Dahl published the book James and the Giant Peach. The book met with wide critical and commercial acclaim. Three years later, he published another big winner, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is my own personal favorite of his stories. Other popular stories are Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), and Matilda. He also wrote the screenplay for Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74.

On September 13, schools take part is The Dahlicious Dress up Day, which helps support Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. They provide financial aid and other assistance for seriously ill children.

Quotes by Roald Dahl

Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world. (Matilda)

Bunkum and tummyrot! You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that. Would Columbus have discovered America if he’d said ‘What if I sink on the way over? What if I meet pirates? What if I never come back?’ He wouldn’t even have started! (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator)

You should never, never doubt something that no one is sure of. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. (The Minpins)

Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable. (Matilda)

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. (The Twits)

“Anyone can ask questions,” said Mr. Wonka. “It’s the answers that count.” (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator)

Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything. Those buildings. These lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it. (James and the Giant Peach)

I’ve heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you. (The Witches)

A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place, you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

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Libraries Remember Day

September 11 is a day we remember many things about the attack on the World Trade Center and other buildings. It was Bill Erbes of Bensenville Community Public Library who started libraries Remember Day. He suggested other libraries join his being open 24 hours on September 11, from midnight to midnight, as a remembrance of not only that terrible time but of the part libraries play in preserving freedom and history.

What may not be widely known is that the American Library Association adopted a patron’s bill of rights way back in 1939. I have abridged it, but you can read the full document here.

  1. Library materials should be available to all.
  2. Libraries should provide materials presenting all points of view, not limiting them to a particular belief system.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship.
  4. Libraries should work with all groups concerned with freedom of speech and information.
  5. The library should be open to all users.
  6. Is about making library public spaces and meeting rooms equally available to all.

This has led libraries to do such things as make sure a patron’s record is private. Most library systems break the link between patron and items checked out after they are returned so that no one’s reading habits can be used against them. Libraries provide access to the Internet so that all can access available information. Libraries fight censorship in all its forms.

Libraries also preserve history, collecting source documents, cataloging, and housing them so that they are available for researchers and others. Even in this age of instant information, we need libraries to help sort the wheat from the chaff, nd to provide a long, historical view.

Neil Gaiman has called libraries “the thin red line between civilisation and barbarism.” Libraries remember even when the powers that be don’t want them to.

Quotes about libraries

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.–Ray Bradbury

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you.–Keith Richards

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.–Walter Cronkite

The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.–T. S. Eliot

To Whom It May Concern: Welcome to the library where no one will tell you what to read or tell you what to think…. Meanwhile a book over there on a shelf will be glancing at you sideways getting up the courage to ask you out make you laugh make you cry make you fall in love.–Meg Rosoff

A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them.–Mark Twain

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.–Lady Bird Johnson

Libraries are about Freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.–Neil Gaiman

The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.–Carl Rowan

Libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information.–Barack Obama

Knowledge sets us free, art sets us free. A great library is freedom.–Ursula K. Le Guin

I go into my library and all history unrolls before me.–Alexander Smith

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