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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On August 12, 1981, IBM introduced the IBM5150, the first personal computer inexpensive enough for the public. Though at the time $1500 was a lot of money, it was far less than most business computers, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars and needed to be kept in certain temperature conditions, often requiring a large staff to maintain them.

The IBM5150 used an Intel 8088 processor and ran on Microsoft DOS. It had no hard drive and only 64K of RAM. I am old enough to remember using, if not this exact model, one very similar. In the library where I worked, we had two programs, Lotus 1-2-3, version 1.0, a spreadsheet, and Wordstar, the precursor to Word. You used a five and a half inch floppy to load the program, then removed that and put in another floppy that allowed you run the program, then entered the floppy you wanted to save your work on. The computer itself had a small screen, with a black background and either gold or green lettering. It was clunky, it was inconvenient, and it was wonderful.

The 5150 was developed in only a year, using microchips from Intel, and an operating system from Microsoft. This was both its strength, and its weakness. By combining already existing hardware and software, it made the machine less expensive. But it also meant others could do the same thing, and it wasn’t too many years before IBM lost the PC market.

The new technology put more computing power on the desktop than in many of the older, larger mainframes. It also led finally to the Internet, without which no one could read this blog. Today we salute the day when the first IBM PC went on the market and changed the world. Without them, we would not have the better, faster, more versatile machines of today.

Quotes about computers

The question of whether computers can think is like the question of whether submarines can swim.–Edsger Dijkstra

If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 MPG.–Bill Gates

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.–Joseph Campbell

To err is human – and to blame it on a computer is even more so.–Robert Orben

A computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mind.–Joseph Weizenbaum

The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That’s where we come in; we’re computer professionals. We cause accidents.–Nathaniel Borenstein

One of the most feared expressions in modern times is “The computer is down.”–Norman Ralph Augustine

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.–Isaac Asimov

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.–Pablo Picasso

Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog.–Doug Larson

To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.–Paul R. Ehrlich

First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure.–Douglas Adams

Computers are good at following instructions, but not at reading your mind.–Donald Knuth

Buying the right computer and getting it to work properly is no more complicated than building a nuclear reactor from wristwatch parts in a darkened room using only your teeth.–Dave Barry

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Seneca Falls Convention

The first convention for women’s rights was held at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19, 1848. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized it. Estimates vary from 100 to 300 women attending, which seems astonishing to me, given the times, and the fact that Seneca Falls is quite a ways from any kind of a city. The conference stretched over two days, with the first day supposed to be strictly for women, though there is some indication that men came both days. One of the prominent male supporters of the cause was Frederick Douglass. The abolitionist movement and the women’s rights movements were closely aligned in those days, and the temperance movement was allied as well, as alcoholism was seen as a male problem that affected women. This is close to my own heart, because not only are women’s rights important to me as a woman but also Quakers, of which I am one, were active in the movement. Mott, for instance, was Quaker.

At the conference, a Stanton read the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” which she had drafted, and had based on the Declaration of Independence. You can find it in pdf format here. It was adopted on the second day of the convention, along with 12 resolutions. Interestingly, the one resolution that nearly didn’t pass was the one advocating a woman’s right to vote. Only after Douglass argued for it did the convention pass it.

Two weeks later a much larger convention happened in Rochester, New York, where I was born and raised, this one with Susan B. Anthony. Although conventions were held annually after that, it was not until 1920 that women were actually granted the right to vote. By the way, women suspended their fight for rights during the Civil War, opting to spend all their energy during those years towards the abolition of slavery.

Quotes by Stanton and Mott

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.

A government is just only when the whole people share equally in its protection and advantages.

The best protection any woman can have … is courage.

To deny political equality is to rob the ostracised of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work…

Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman’s thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government.

I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.

Progress is the victory of a new thought over old superstitions.

To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect.

Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.

The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.

I have no idea of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave. I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity.

The legal theory is, that marriage makes the husband and wife one person, and that person is the husband.

It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ.

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Weed Your Garden Day

This year, the area where I live had a cold, wet spring. For someone who hates being cold as much as I do, that meant I didn’t get outside to work in the yard, but the weeds had themselves a field day. The result is that now that the late spring flowers are blooming, I still have a lot of weeds vying for attention in the yard. I have actually been doing a weed your garden day every day for the last few weeks, but today, June 13 is the official day to get out in that yard and pull those pesky, unwanted plants.

There is a lot of debate about what is and isn’t a weed. One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower. In fact, there is much to admire about weeds. They grow under conditions that plants that are more delicate will not. They are hardy and resist being eradicated. And often they have lovely flowers.

There is a children’s book written and illustrated by Aliki about the life of George Washington Carver called A Weed Is a Flower. You can hear this read on YouTube. Very interesting story about a man who loved all plants, even weeds, which he said were simply flowers planted in the wrong place.

Of course, if you are not one who loves weeds, here are some suggestions to keep them from taking over. They are from the National Day Calendar

  • Cover the soil along rows and between plants with mulch.
  • Make sure to keep all weeds away from young plants.
  • It is okay to plant your plants closely together to leave less room for weed growth.
  • Have soil weed-free before planting.
  • Make sure you do not let any of the weeds go to seed.
  • Keep the edges of your yard mowed low to lessen the invasion of weeds onto your property and into your garden.

Quotes about weeds – the first is my favorite.

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.–Doug Larson

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people’s idea, not nature’s.–Author Unknown

What is a weed? I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions. For me, a weed is a plant out of place.–Donald Culross Peattie

But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last.–Robert M. Pyle

They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I’ve concluded weeds must have brains.–Dianne Benson

What we call a weed is in fact merely a plant growing where we do not want it.–E. J. Salisbury

Criticizing another’s garden doesn’t keep the weeds out of your own.–Author Unknown

Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
But they don’t get around
Like the dandelions do.
~Slim Acres

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.–A. A. Milne

Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony. It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative’s latest example of unreasonableness.–Christopher Lloyd

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.–Author unknown

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Easter and Other April Holidays

This year, April 16 is Easter for both Western, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The celebration of Jesus rising from the dead is the holiest Christian holiday or festival of the year. It is, however, not the only religious celebration of April.

In Hinduism, there is the festival of Hanuman Jayanti, celebrating Lord Hanuman. He is often called the son of the Wind God. The festival is the day when the Vanara god is believed to have taken birth. Known for his strong will, grit, and physical energy, Hanuman was able to assume any form. Devotees worship him and his magical strengths to ward off evil and any other troubles that have been affecting them.

In Buddhism, mainly in Southeast Asia, an April celebration is Theravada New Year. It is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. Theravada is from the Sanskrit and means “school of the elder monks.” In Burma and Laos, there is a custom to buy live fish and release them into the wild, thus showing compassion for living beings

In Judaism, the festival is called Pesach or Passover. This, of course, celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Back when Israel had been conquered by Rome, this was the day when nationalistic fervor ran highest, and the Jews hoped for deliverance from the Empire. Later in the month is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we remember all those Jews who died in the camps in World War II.

The Baha’i faith celebrates the 12 days of Ridvan this month. It was during the Festival of Ridvan that Baha’u’llah, for the first time, publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God, as the Promised One foretold in all the world’s religions. He brought with Him a Revelation that heralded a new era – the beginning of the Baha’i Faith.

Lailat al Miraj is a Muslim holiday that commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s nighttime journey from Mecca to the ‘Farthest Mosque’ in Jerusalem where he ascended to heaven, was purified, and given the instruction for Muslims to pray five times daily.

And at the very end of the month on April 30 at moonrise begins Beltane, the Celtic/Pagan spring festival, rejoicing in the returning fertility of the earth.

Quotes about April and Spring

April is hope.–Gladys Taber

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.–T. S. Eliot

April is a promise that May is bound to keep, and we know it.–Hal Borland

Suddenly a mist of green on the trees, as quiet as thought.–Dorothy M. Richardson

Spring would not be spring without bird songs.–Francis M. Chapman

Spring was running in a thin green flame over the valley.–Ellen Glasgow

Spring still makes spring in the mind
When sixty years are told.
Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
And we are never old.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Spring slides gradually into the farmer’s consciousness, but on us city people it bursts with all the relish of a sudden surprise, compensating for much of what we lose.–Mrs. William Starr Dana

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”–Robin Williams

It was a perfect spring afternoon, and the air was filled with vague, roving scents, as if the earth exhaled the sweetness of hidden flowers.–Ellen Glasgow

In spring, nature is like a thrifty housewife … taking up the white carpets and putting down the green ones.–Mary Baker Eddy

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoyed the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done.–Matthew Arnold

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Cat Herders Day

December 15 is Cat Herders Day. No, it isn’t literally about herding cats, not in the same sense as a shepherd herds sheep. Rather it refers to a seemingly futile or difficult task. The general consensus seems to be that the phrase was at least made popular, if not originated with the IT expert Dave Platt when he said that “managing senior programmers is like herding cats.” But all we really know for sure is that the holiday was invented in the last ten years or so. If you have ever tried to actually herd cats, you will know that it is a very appropriate phrase for an impossible situation.

There are other phrases out there which also express the same idea. My own personal favorite is “like nailing Jell-O to a tree.” An old tried and true saying is “like getting blood from a stone,” and another, “like catching lightning in a bottle.” One I had not hear before, but find amusing is “like playing darts with spaghetti.” I had a friend who was a teacher, who would have said, “like trying to herd preschoolers.”

So those of you who work in difficult situations, I salute you this day. Whether those be customer service, preschool, retail, caring for nursing home residents, high school teacher, or just anyone with an impossible situation or boss or coworkers or family situation, this day is for you. If you know someone in such a job, be sure to tell them today how much you appreciate all they do. And especially this Christmas season, be kind to all the folks dealing with shoppers in stores. Not a job I would want!


Quotes about difficulties

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.–Horace 65-68 B.C.E.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.–M. Scott Peck

Adversity creates heroes.–Picabo Street

As you go along your own road in life, you will, if you aim high enough, also meet resistance…. But no matter how tough the opposition may seem, have courage still–and persevere.–Madeleine Albright

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has. Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, and the most gripping stories.–Billy Graham

Don’t be afraid of opposition. Remember, a kite rises against–not with–the wind.–Hamilton Mabie

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.—Moliere

He that struggles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.-Edmund Burke

The miracle is, in fact, that given the overwhelming odds against women, or blacks, that so many of both have managed to achieve so much sheer excellence in those bailiwicks of white masculine prerogatives like science, politics or the arts.–Linda Nochlin

Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition such as lifting weights, we develop our character muscles by over-coming challenges and adversity.–Stephen R. Covey

To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence.–Arthur Schopenhauer

When you struggle, that’s when you realize what you’re made of, and that’s when you realize what the people around you can do. You learn who you’d want to take with you to a war, and who you’d only want to take to lunch.–Chamique Holdsclaw

Out of difficulties grow miracles.–Jean de la Bruyere

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.–Peter Marshall

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World Play-Doh Day

Who can resist those tubs of brightly colored soft modeling clay? September 16 is the day to celebrate and create something cute and squashy.

Play Doh was originally created in the 1930s as a product for cleaning wallpaper.  At that time it was an uninspiring off-white. People could remove soot and dirt from their wall coverings by simply rolling the wad of goop across the surface. The inventor was Joe McVicker. Joe learned from a teacher that kids usually found modeling clay too hard to manipulate. Discovering that the squishy cleaning product he manufactured could substitute, McVicker shipped some to the school. After teachers and kids raved, he offered to supply the product to all Cincinnati schools. More rave reviews followed.

But Play-Doh’s big break came when Captain Kangaroo began to feature it on his children’s show. Sales picked up and have never gone down. Play-Doh now comes in a wide variety of colors, with some being Paradise Purple, silver and gold. Since its inception, two billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold. If you took all of that Play-Doh ever made and wadded it into a giant ball, it would weigh as much as 2,000 Statues of Liberty, or be long enough to reach to the moon and back three times.

If this has whetted your creativity, go to your local toy store or check out Amazon’s offering.


One quote about Play-Doh, and a few about clay.

Once Play-Doh colors are mixed, there’s no going back.–Dee Ann Stewart

All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.–Jorge Luis Borges

Clay and people interact on a daily and continuous basis.–Tessie Naranjo

We throw clay to shape a pot, But the utility of the clay pot is a function of the nothingness inside it.–Tao Te Chin

Your life is a piece of clay, don’t let anyone else mold it for you.–Unknown

I like having my hands in the clay. I like the movie-making process.–Matthew McConaughey

I love to create, and to me, the ultimate freedom of expression is a blank canvas or a block of clay to capture whatever emotions your imagination gives it.–Daniel Boulud

Gold like the sun, which melts wax, but hardens clay, expands great souls.–Antoine Rivarol

I like doing clay work. It’s different from drawing on a page because you have something to mold into different shapes. It’s quite visual, it’s a thing you can hold and feel, and that makes it different from drawing.–Bonnie Wright

My mom’s the one I look up to for everything. I feel like I’m a lump of clay and she’s moulding me into a woman.–Chloe Grace Moretz

When you have clay in your hands, it’s hard to avoid making birds.–Eva Zeisel

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