Global Astronomy Month

According to the Astronomers Without Borders Website,  “Global Astronomy Month (GAM), organized each April by Astronomers Without Borders, is the world’s largest global celebration of astronomy. Every year GAM brings new ideas and new opportunities, bringing enthusiasts together worldwide to celebrate Astronomers Without Borders’ motto One People, One Sky.” Their page lists events happening this month in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. If nothing is happening near you, they also have a list of online events, so if you are interested, visit their website for more information.

The Seti Institute also has a list of events. Some are already past, but two you can still get involved in are the Lyrid Meteor Shower which will be active from April 16-26, and particularly active on April 22 and the art project OPTICKS will transmit images to the moon and back as radio signals in real time on April 30.

If this sounds interesting to you, you can join the NASA Night Sky Network on Facebook, or Twitter or for pictures check them out on Instagram.

We are lucky to be living in the twenty-first century when we are learning so much about space, and what is in it. We have the gorgeous pictures from the Hubble Telescope, and those sent back by unmanned ships we have sent to our nearest neighbors. Not only is this new information pouring in, but astronomy is full of interesting discussions, such as about dark matter, gravity waves, and the possibility that other universes exist. If nothing else today, take a look at the gallery of pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope,  and marvel at this universe we live in.

Quotes about astronomy

Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.–Socrates

Do not look at stars as bright spots only. Try to take in the vastness of the universe.–Maria Mitchell

Astronomy taught us our insignificance in Nature.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.–Arthur C. Clarke

The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, or falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.–Carl Sagan

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

To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.–Stephen Hawking

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away, if your car could go straight upwards.–Sir Fred Hoyle

Space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space.–Christa McAuliffe

The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons.–Edwin P. Hubble

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.–Neil Armstrong

The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right.–Larry Niven

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Draw a Bird Day

April 8 is a day to draw a bird. As celebrated now, it’s simply a fun day to sit down and create a picture of one of our feathered friends – from sparrows to owls to penguins – you name it! And it can be in any style from cartoon to beautiful and polished.

However, the origin of this day is quite touching. I’m going to include a long quote from the official Website, Draw a Bird Day. “In 1943, Dorie Cooper was a 7 year old living in England. Her mother took her to a hospital in to visit her uncle who was wounded in the war. While they were there, Dorie’s uncle was very distraught, having lost his right leg to a land mine. In an attempt to cheer him up, she asked him “Draw a bird for me, please” Even though he was unwell, he decided to do as Dorie asked. He looked out his window and drew a picture of a robin.

“After seeing her uncle’s bird picture, Dorie laughed out loud and proclaimed that he was not a very good artist, but that she would hang the picture in her room nonetheless. Her uncle’s spirits were lifted by his niece’s complete honesty and acceptance. Several other wounded soldiers also had their day brightened by the event and every time Dorie came to visit thereafter, they held drawing contests to see who could produce the best bird pictures. Within several months, the entire ward’s walls were decorated by bird drawings.

“3 years later, Dorie was killed after being struck by a car. At her funeral, her coffin was filled with bird images that had been made by soldiers, nurses and doctors from the ward where her uncle had been. Ever since then, those men and women remembered the little girl that brought hope to the ward by drawing birds on her birthday, April 8th.”

So there you have it! Draw a bird today in honor of Dorie, even if your drawing is not very good.

Quotes about birds

Birds have wings; they’re free; they can fly where they want when they want. They have the kind of mobility many people envy.–Roger Tory Peterson

Birds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain.–Douglas Coupland

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.–William Blake

In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.–Robert Lynd

A bird is three things: Feathers, flight and song, And feathers are the least of these.–Marjorie Allen Seiffert

I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.–Joseph Addison

Have you ever observed a humming-bird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers – a living prismatic gem … it is a creature of such fairy-like loveliness as to mock all description.–W. H. Hudson

God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages.–Jacques Deval

Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.–Author unknown

A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.
~Dixon Lanier Merritt

The little owls call to each other with tremulous, quavering voices throughout the livelong night, as they sit in the creaking trees.–Theodore Roosevelt

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.–Chinese Proverb

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National Twinkie Day

April 6 has been set aside as National Twinkie Day. Wikipedia tells us that Alexander Dewar, a baker for the Continental Baking Company, created Twinkies in 1930. “Realizing that several machines used to make cream-filled strawberry shortcake sat idle when strawberries were out of season, Dewar conceived a snack cake filled with banana cream, which he dubbed the Twinkie.” The banana cream was soon replaced by vanilla, and the new snack cakes were a hit. Though they are full of preservatives, the company calls it a myth that Twinkies have an indefinite shelf life. However, you can read about a 40-year old Twinkie in Maine. The report done by the Chicago Tribune is here. One of the more interesting things I found while looking for information on Twinkies, is this old commercial from Howdy Doody, from the 1950s.

But the real reason I wanted to mark this day is that one of the very earliest pages on the Web was about experiments run on Twinkies by some students (who obviously had too much time on their hands!) at the University of Maryland. The Twinkie Tests consist of Exposure, Radiation, Extreme Force, Extreme Cold, Extreme Heat, and Immersion. I really encourage you to read the page. It’s silly and very funny.

Reading through the tests again after several years brought back memories of those early days online when the height of excitement was the fish cam. It actually consisted of still pictures taken at intervals, and I don’t think the original is in operation anymore, but you can see a beautiful one of tropical fish swimming peacefully here. One of my favorite early pages was Sad Mr. Wu’s Send a Pickle. The page still existed when I first found it, but it was out of business even then. Apparently, the market for mailing pickles was not great!

And finally, if you need some joy in your day, check out one of these pages. The Doo Wop Horses is an interactive page where a quartet of horses sings. You can vary which one(s) are singing by clicking on each one separately. And I mustn’t miss the Random Pig Generator, which answers the question “Can pig fly?” They are Sandra Boynton pigs, so are, of course, amusing to watch.

Quotes about Twinkies

“Fried twinkies?” Paris nodded. Only once, I’ve never forgotten the experience. It’s like heaven in your mouth, man.–Gena Showalter

We are entertained, not nurtured. We are given Twinkies for our mind, things that amuse but do not enlighten. It tickles our taste buds, but it does not enrich us.–James Rozoff

She had a heart like a Twinkie, full of oversweet goo, yes, a real junk-food heart.–Jean Thompson

It feels like … spurious art to me, the spiritual equivalent of junk food; it may look like an éclair, but it’s really a Twinkie.–Nancy M. Malone

The best way to catch my attention is to throw a Twinkie near my face.–Patrick Carney

Once you change, change happens. This is a big lesson. Expecting someone else to change is like pleading with a manufacturer to turn Twinkies into a green smoothie.–Sadiqua Hamdan

I love Twinkies, and the reason I am saying that is because we are all supposed to think of reasons to live.–Stephen Chbosky

Somewhere between beef jerky and Hostess Twinkies is the secret history of America.–Tom Robbins

Real Programmers don’t eat quiche. They eat Twinkies and Szechwan food.–unknown

Advertising is selling Twinkies to adults.–Donald R. Vance

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Vitamin C Day

On April 4, we celebrate Vitamin C Day. Vitamin C as found in fruits and vegetables has been around as long or longer than humankind has. However, no one realized the health benefits of it until the nineteenth century. People had known about scurvy for thousands of years. Even Hippocrates the great Greek physician had written about it. Until the nineteenth century, it was one of the real dangers of a long sea voyage. However, in the late eighteen hundreds, Sir Thomas Barlow found the correlation between vitamin C and the prevention of the dread disease.

According to Dr. Weil’s Website, “Vitamin C helps to repair and regenerate tissues, protect against heart disease, aid in the absorption of iron, prevent scurvy, and decrease total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. Research indicates that vitamin C may help protect against a variety of cancers by combating free radicals, and helping neutralize the effects of nitrites (preservatives found in some packaged foods that may raise the risk of certain forms of cancer). Supplemental vitamin C may also lessen the duration and symptoms of a common cold, help delay or prevent cataracts, and support healthy immune function.”

You can find vitamin C in citrus fruits, of course, but also in other things such as apples, asparagus, berries, broccoli, cabbage, melon, cauliflower, kiwi, fortified breads, grains, and cereal, dark leafy greens, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. Personally, I am a great believer in vitamin C. I used to get bronchitis every January, until I began taking vitamin C supplements years ago. I haven’t had it since.

As with most things, you need to be careful you don’t overdue. Vitamin C can also interact with other drugs, such as Coumadin, so it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before upping the dosage of any vitamin.

Quotes about vitamins

It’s so important to take vitamins. People always get ill on tour because of the close proximity in the bus with everyone.–Ellie Goulding

The excitement of vitamins, nutrition and metabolism permeated the environment.–Paul D. Boyer

All those vitamins aren’t to keep death at bay, they’re to keep deterioration at bay.–Jeanne Moreau

Millions of Americans take vitamins safely every day, including me. Vitamins and mineral supplements taken in recommended doses are safe. It’s the designer supplements that are worrisome.–Dick Durbin

I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and similar chlorophyll. Any dietitian will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans.–S. J. Perelman

Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can – not more than the people around you but not so much less.–Sharon Olds

When you start organizing a person’s vitamins in the morning because you love them. “Hey, don’t forget to take your vitamin C.” That’s love.–Matthew Moy

No matter how many vitamins you take, how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys, your hair and your memory.–Ellen Bass

There is absolutely no nutrient, no protein, no vitamin, no mineral that can’t be obtained from plant-based foods.–Michael Klaper

Some guy invented Vitamin A out of a carrot. I’ll bet he can’t invent a good meal out of one.–Will Rogers

If a potato can produce vitamin C, why can’t we? Within the animal kingdom only humans and guinea pigs are unable to synthesize vitamin C in their own bodies. Why us and guinea pigs? No point asking. Nobody knows.–Bill Bryson

Drink lots of water, get lots of sleep, and take vitamin C!–Georgia May Jagger

If taking vitamins doesn’t keep you healthy enough, try more laughter: The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed.–Nicolas Chamfort

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Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, on April 2, 1805. His father died when he was quite young, leaving him and his mother alone. Andersen’s first schooling was for poor children, but he later gained the attention of more wealthy people and finished school at a much higher class place. He worked as a weaver and a tailor, before ending up as an actor in Copenhagen.

Andersen’s first writing was for adults, not children. Later he began rewriting some of the fairy tales his father had read to him as a child, publishing his first collection in 1835. However, his work went mostly unremarked in Scandinavia. It wasn’t until he met Charles Dickens and his stories were translated into English that he began to receive notice. Over time, people came to recognize the genius of this amazing author. He died from a serious injury suffered in a fall in 1872.

Today, Andersen’s fairy tales have been translated into countless languages, and have appeared in many and varied media, and have influenced other writers for children such as A. A. Milne, and Beatrix Potter. I had a book of his fairy tales when I was young. I don’t remember who the illustrator was, only that some of the pictures terrified me! But the stories: The Snow Queen, Little Mermaid, the Steadfast Tin Soldier, the Ugly Duckling and others have always stayed with me in my imagination.

Why talk about a writer of fairy tales? As Neil Gaiman reminds us, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Quotes by Hans Christian Andersen

The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.

Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.

Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale.

Nothing is too high for a man to reach, but he must climb with care and confidence

Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.

Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.

To be of use to the world is the only way to be happy.

My life will be the best illustration of all my work.

Where words fail, music speaks.

The wiser a man becomes, the more he will read, and those who are wisest read most.

Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up.

We cannot expect to be happy always … by experiencing evil as well as good we become wise.

But shouldn’t all of us on earth give the best we have to others and offer whatever is in our power?

When the bird of the heart begins to sing, too often will reason stop up her ears.

Happy domestic life is like a beautiful summer’s evening; the heart is filled with peace; and everything around derives a peculiar glory.

My life is a lovely story, happy and full of incident.

Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.

It is out of reality that the most peculiar tale of all is born … Some call me the Elder Granny, others – the Dryad, but my real name is Memory. It is I who sits on a tree that keeps on growing, and growing, it is I who reminisces and tells stories.

Each time I think that the song is ended … something higher and better begins for me.

I covet honour in the same way as a miser covets gold.

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Imagination

Besides creativity, one of the things that has always fascinated me is the act of imagination – how new things can be created out of thin air, so to speak, or perhaps more accurately out of memory and thought, looking at the world a little differently. As a writer, I’ve been startled more than once by passing someone that is so much like a character from my imagination, that I’ve been tempted to call his or her name. It’s a mysterious and creative force.

Though originally merely a sentence in an Oscar Wilde essay called “The Decay of Lying,” this has always expressed something deep to me about the power of the imagination.

Dragons will wander about
the waste places,
and the phoenix will soar
from her nest of fire
into the air.
We shall lay our hands
upon the Basilisk,
and see the jewel
in the toad’s head.
Champing his gilded oats,
the hippogriff will stand
in our stalls,
and over our heads
will float the bluebird,
singing of beautiful and
impossible things,
of things that are lovely
and that never happened,
of things that are not
and that should be.

I especially like the last few lines, where the bluebird sings of “things that are not and that should be.” This is how we make changes in our situations, our lives, and our country – we imagine a new world of things that are not, but should be.

What kind of a life are you looking for? What kind of a world do you want to live in? It all starts with imagination – and then continues with action. As William Arthur Ward said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it” – especially if you find others who share your dream and can imagine with you.

Quotes about imagination

Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination
Take a look
And you’ll see
Into your imagination.
~ Josh Groban, from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life.–Daniel Boorstin

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

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.–John Dewey

The greatest discoveries have come from people who have looked at a standard situation and seen it differrently.–Ira Erwin

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.–Albert Einstein

I doubt the imagination can be suppressed. If you truly eradicated it in a child, that child would grow up to be an eggplant.–Ursula K. LeGuin

I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters, they are often more afraid. What is more, those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude through our own apathy.–J. K. Rowling

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to popular belief, is more powerful in the mature than the young.–W. Somerset Maugham

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.–George Bernard Shaw

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.–Carl Sagan

Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving out quality of life.–Sidney Sheldon

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National Cleaning Week

National Cleaning Week, sometimes called Spring Cleaning Week is the last week in March. Between the end of winter and the beginning of spring is a good time to get the process rolling on getting ready for the new life of the new season by cleaning out all the things that have accumulated during the winter.

As things begin looking fresh and green outside, it’s time to make our living places sparkle as well. It’s good to not only take the time to clean out winter’s accumulation, but it can make you feel better with everything clean – not to mention the glow of accomplishment when you are done.

Maybe you look at your house and wonder in despair where to start, or think it’s just too big of a job to handle, and so are tempted to leave it. Here are a few suggestions from HomeTeam Pest Defense.

  1. Create a schedule. Or if you prefer, create a plan. Give yourself a time limit so that you have several smaller goals to meet.
  2. Tackle one room at a time. It’s always easier to divide a job into smaller parts so that you can feel the satisfaction of seeing progress a bit at a time.
  3. Start from the top and work your way down. I forget this one as I was cleaning my refrigerator this week. I started at the bottom and went up, which meant I had to keep going back and wiping up stuff on the bottom. Don’t be like me!
  4. Don’t be afraid to move around furniture.

I would add – if you have a family, get them involved! Give them a reward to work towards, so they can have the joy of accomplishment too.

Besides the house, it’s also time to see what needs to be done outside, from cleaning up the flower gardens to making sure your yard is ready to go, to testing hoses after their winter storage, and so on.

Lastly, don’t forget your local Goodwill or other thrift shops as you weed out things that are still good that you no longer need or want. Someone will appreciate them.

Mostly humorous quotes on cleaning.

Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.–Phyllis Diller

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. –Erma Bombeck

I’m not going to vacuum until Sears makes one you can ride on.–Roseanne Barr

There was no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.–Quentin Crisp

You don’t get anything clean without getting something else dirty.–Cecil Baxter

When it comes to housework the one thing no book of household management can ever tell you is how to begin. Or maybe I mean why.–Katharine Whitehorn

There is no daily chore so trivial that it cannot be made important by skipping it two days running.–Robert Brault

I always clean before the cleaning lady comes. If not, when I come home, I can’t find anything. Cleaning ladies are always hiding things you leave out.–Celia Cruz

I have sporadic OCD cleaning moments around the house. But then I get lazy and I’m cured. It’s a very inconsistent personality trait.–Chris Hemsworth

A bright person can always think of something better to do than housework.–Ruby Lou Barnhill

Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not a piece of advice, it is merely a custom.–Mark Twain

Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?–Phyllis Diller

Housework, if you do it right, can kill you.–Erma Bombeck

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