July 11 is Cheer Up the Lonely Day

cheer up the lonely dayToday is Cheer Up the Lonely Day, created by Francis Pesek of Detroit, Michigan. His daughter L.J. Pesek described him as “a quiet, kind, wonderful man who had a heart of gold.”

“He got the idea as a way of promoting kindness toward others who were lonely or forgotten as shut-ins or in nursing homes with no relatives or friends to look in on them.” She said he chose July 11 because it was his birthday.

What is the definition of the word lonely?
ˈlōnlē/ adjective
  1. sad because one has no friends or company.
    “lonely old people whose families do not care for them”
    • without companions; solitary.
      “passing long lonely hours looking onto the street”
    • (of a place) unfrequented and remote.
      “a lonely stretch of country lane”

The elderly can become isolated as their circles of friends grow smaller due to the illness and death of their contemporaries. They may be relocated to facilities at the fringes of their communities. Loss of physical mobility makes it a struggle to visit others; losing autonomy after lives spent caring for themselves and others takes a psychological toll that can result in depression.

Mark Twain once said, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer up somebody else.” There’s no denying that time spent face-to-face with loved ones, telling them how much they mean to us, does our hearts good. We also know what it’s like to be lonely. It can happen in the middle of a crowd. It only takes a moment to be kind to a stranger today.

Have a happy Cheer Up the Lonely Day and remember how good it feels. That way, we can keep it going tomorrow and every day after that.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 10 is Clerihew Day

clerihew day

Edmund Clerihew Bentley

Today is Clerihew Day, a holiday that celebrates the birthday of British author and journalist Edmund Clerihew Bentley (July 10, 1875-March 30, 1956), who invented the purposefully silly type of rhyming verse that bears his middle name.

A clerihew consists of four lines in AA, BB rhyming couplets. (The first and second lines rhyme with each other; the third rhymes with the fourth.) According to legend, Bentley constructed the first clerihew as a schoolboy, regarding Sir Humphry Davy.

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered Sodium.

To which we would like to add:

We’re not sure why Davy
couldn’t stomach gravy.
Was it his fault?
Did he add too much salt?

One of our favorite clerihews comes from X.J. Kennedy’s Famous Poems Abbreviated:

Once upon a midnight dreary,
Blue and lonesome, missed my dearie.
Would I find her? Any hope?
Quoth the raven six times, “Nope.”

Here’s our challenge to you, dear reader:

Why not compose a clerihew?
If you enjoy it, write a few.
Soon you will be called a poet
But none will say you didn’t know it.

Have a happy Clerihew Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 7 is Nettie Stevens Day

nettie stevens day

Nettie Stevens

Nettie Stevens Day celebrates the scientist who discovered that sex is determined by XX and XY chromosomes. On July 7, 2016, the 155th anniversary of her birth, the only reason many people learned her name was by clicking on that day’s Google doodle.

She studied mealworms and found that a male’s sperm carried both X and Y chromosomes, while a female’s eggs contained only X chromosomes. She concluded that sex determination must come from fertilization of the egg by the sperm. In 1905, she submitted for publication a paper reporting her results.

Meanwhile, Columbia University scientist Edmund Beecher Wilson had reached the same conclusion. He was asked to review Stevens’ paper prior to its publication; his own paper had reportedly already gone to press, negating any possibility of dishonesty.

Historian Stephen Brush disputes the timeline in The History of Science Society, “It is generally stated that E. B. Wilson obtained the same results as Stevens, at the same time,” he writes. But “Wilson probably did not arrive at his conclusion on sex determination until after he had seen Stevens’ results.”

In fact, Wilson wrongly asserted that environmental factors could influence sex. Stevens insisted it was all due to chromosomes. At the time, there was no way to prove either theory. But it’s been known for decades that Stevens got it right. It renders the question of who published first irrelevant.

In spite of that, Wilson and Stevens were credited with making the fully correct discovery independently.  Wilson received the lion’s share of accolades while Stevens was often mistakenly referred to as a “lab technician.”  Brush states, “Because of Wilson’s more substantial contributions in other areas, he tends to be given most of the credit for this discovery.”

The fact that Nettie Stevens had two X chromosomes certainly contributed to the lack of recognition. Her accomplishments put the lie to Brush’s assertion. She published 40 papers and was about to attain full research status at Bryn Mawr when she died of breast cancer on May 4, 1912, at the age of 50.

She—and Wilson, too—have been all but forgotten since then. In 1933, fellow scientist Thomas H. Morgan received the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in chromosomal research even though he didn’t espouse the theory until years after Stevens and Wilson published their papers.

Stevens once remarked to her students that their questions were always welcome “so long as I keep my enthusiasm for biology; and that, I hope, will be as long as I live.”

Let’s remember Nettie Stevens today. And tomorrow and the next day….

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 4 is Rube Goldberg Day

Today is Rube Goldberg Day. On July 4, 1883, Reuben Garrett Lucius “Rube” Goldberg was born in San Francisco, CA. In his 87 years on the planet, he was a cartoonist, engineer, inventor, author, sculptor and scriptwriter.

He is best known for his cartoons depicting absurdly complex contraptions used to perform simple tasks. One such device was an intricate system, triggered by the movement of a spoon, that would automatically mop one’s upper lip after taking a sip of soup as seen in the following commemorative stamp.

rube goldberg day

“Self-Operating Napkin” US Stamp, 1995

As an engineer and inventor, Goldberg often brought these cartoons to life. In 1930, he wrote and made a cameo appearance in a film called Soup to Nuts which featured some of his crazy machines and starred the men who would later become known as the Three Stooges.

In 1948, Goldberg was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartoons. Few knew his work had aroused such anti-Semitic hatred during the war that he had insisted his sons change their surnames. They chose the last name George and it has remained the family name ever since; their children run a company called RGI (Rube Goldberg Incorporated) to continue their grandfather’s name.

rube goldberg day

Goldberg was a founding member and the first president of the National Cartoonists Society, the namesake of its Reuben Award, given to the Cartoonist of the Year. He is the inspiration for various international competitions, known as Rube Goldberg Machine Contests, many of which are sponsored by his descendants through RGI.

He is also immortalized in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Rube Goldberg
adjective Rube Gold·berg \ˈrüb-ˈgōl(d)-ˌbərg\
: accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply ; also : characterized by such complex means

Happy Rube Goldberg Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays