Current Event Friday #92

A day to celebrate groundhogs is apparently dangerous to groundhogs

February is upon us and with it, Spring will soon be approaching. Many will turn to rodent meteorologists this weekend, but not everybody is looking forward to that. Why one group is denouncing the practice of Groundhog Day is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 131st celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (Associated Press)
Punxsutawney Phil, being shown to the crowd by his handler from the Groundhog Club on Groundhog Day

As every February 2 comes and goes, if the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this weekend in the small Pennsylvania town, he will retreat, and winter will continue for six weeks. If Phil does not see his shadow, spring will be here soon. Maybe not the most scientific system since we’ve basically agreed that March 21/22 is the vernal equinox regardless maybe Groundhog Day is a strange practice. The folks at PETA tweeted about the practice and believe it’s not only odd but it’s dangerous for Phil.

PETA argues that Phil’s artificial habitat for 364 days out of the year doesn’t provide him with true environments to be a groundhog. Not only that, being picked up, shown to crowds, and photographed like a Hollywood celeb is scary and unnerving for Phil.

As a possible solution, PETA has suggested using a robot groundhog that could predict the weather thanks to artificial intelligence. Using this animatronic groundhog, PETA argues would still celebrate groundhogs and drive tourists to Punxsutawney, PA for the celebration. The Groundhog Club president Bill Deeley responded to PETA’s suggestions that people want to see Phil, a living, breathing, actual groundhog and not some robot.

Frankly, I’m surprised PETA hasn’t made this push before. It’s not a recently created event, so they’ve had decades to protest the celebration and suggest a different approach. Maybe, the advances in robotics would have prevented that until now but can’t imagine that PETA really cares whether there’s a robot or not. Like many others, looking at a calendar and doing some quick math is a lot more realistic than watching a groundhog see its shadow.

Although, I may not celebrate Groundhog Day like those in Punxsutawney or other locations celebrating the day, I’m not going to be a jerk about it. PETA like many other ‘woke’ or PC organizations and groups have become unbearable and lacking nuance in their arguments, appealing to emotional manipulations and insults rather than discussion. So, instead I’ll just treat Groundhog Day like any other obscure holiday and live it like any regular Sunday in the year.

Should Groundhog Day celebrations include a robot groundhog instead of a living one?

Poetry Wednesday 87

As “January on the Doorstep of February” is upon us that’s today’s Poetry Wednesday

“January on the Doorstep of February”

Time passes and the month of January must move on

Old habits you’ve tried to lose, your resolutions all undone

Night seems to last forever, it’s that way all winter long

Long time before the sun comes back this way, when it does I’ll break out in song

 

Without you by my side, can’t sleep; it’s just me and the moon

But soon the groundhog will tell us the earth is about to change its tune

Strangest first month in a while, about to have the floods coming day after day

Why is the spring like you, feeling so far off? Yet you’re both a kiss away

 

Plotting and planning a getaway to somewhere the girls and the weather are warm

Time is passing me by, just like I pass through airports in Chicago, Charlotte, and Atlanta

Know that I’d be lonelier and colder if I was stuck in Montana

Why can’t I have a girl to hold my hand, surely there’s no harm

When the Summer stretches on and I am burning up and hot

Snow and cold we’ve missed this month won’t be my wish, perish that thought
© Ryan Stroud 2020

History Monday #88

Limiting the use of outer space for military use is overshadowed on this day by tragedy in Florida.

Another week begins and it’s time for #HistoryMonday again. That of course means I choose a historical event that occurred on this day and offer my thoughts about that event. Today provides an opportunity for a double-header both dealing with outer space.

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The Apollo 1 crew. From left to right: Edward H. White II, Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and Roger B. Chaffee.

On this day in 1967, the AS-204 command module catches on fire at the launch pad while program tests were being conducted at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The fire resulted in deaths of astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. Investigators believed a faulty wire sparked in the oxygen-rich environment of the

Astronauts Grissom and White had already flown space missions during Project Gemini, while Chaffee was expecting to make his first spaceflight with the launch of the AS-204 spacecraft. North American Aviation was responsible for the construction of the spacecraft. Shortly before the spacecraft was delivered to Florida, the crew expressed concern of the plentiful use of flammables such as nylon netting and Velcro that were usually used to secure tools and equipment. Skepticism about the timeline of the program led the crew to jokingly remind the construction manager for the spacecraft that maybe divine intervention was necessary.

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Signing of the Outer Space Treaty by representatives of the U.S.S.R., U.K., & U.S.

Also happening subsequently around locations in London, Moscow, and Washington D.C. the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) is signed by a plethora of UN members. The Outer Space Treaty provides the framework for international space law. Signatories to the treaty agreed that weaponizing space is not permissible according to the terms of the contract. By signing this contract and including the moon as safe zone from weaponization, the three major nations of the United States, United Kingdom, and the United Soviet Socialist Republics foresaw that reaching the moon by space travel would be soon accomplished.

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Shortly after the AS-204 failure, an investigation was launched by NASA pursuant to their established procedures after the Gemini 8 failure. The investigation determined that a pure oxygen atmosphere, flammable materials, faulty wiring, and restrictive hatch design ultimately contribute to a perfect storm of issues leading to the disaster. Congressional investigations were also launched which included reports from a previous investigation into construction delays and costs of the spacecraft. Based on the investigation of the failures, insulated wiring, fireproof coating of the nylon netting, a 60/40 mix of oxygen to nitrogen under pressure, and an outward opening hatch were to be installed on the next spacecrafts.

The widows of the astronauts asked NASA to officially designate the mission Apollo 1 which the crew had hoped to name the mission before their untimely deaths. NASA complied with this request in honor of the crew’s wishes. Although, three unmanned missions had launched before the new Apollo 1 mission they were left nameless. Of these three flights, only 2 included spacecraft and were connected to the new number sequencing. This resulted in Apollo 4 being the next launch while Apollo 2 & 3 were left unused. The mission and the crew have been memorialized in various locations around the U.S. Of course, as a Hoosier, I’ve visited Gus Grissom’s hometown Mitchell many times and seen a memorial dedicated to his memory in Spring Mill State Park. Grissom’s work at NASA likely inspired a handful of others in Lawrence County, Indiana to become astronauts as well.

The Outer Space Treaty would eventually go into effect on 10 October 1967. It has since been signed by 109 signatories the last being France in September of 1967. Many others have deposited their accession to the treaty at one of the three locations even as recently as February of last year. Follow-up agreements include: The Rescue Agreement of 1968, The Space Liability Convention of 1972, and The Registration Convention of 1976. These treaties are coordinated by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to answer relevant questions of space jurisdiction. It’s worth noting these treaties are only agreed upon by Earth parties and it isn’t known whether extraterrestrial parties will sign these treaties. More likely, the United Federation of Planets will combine elements of these treaties with treaties from other planets in order to form their government and law into founding documents next century sometime in 2161.

What do you remember about Gus Grissom and the other astronauts on Apollo 1?

Current Event Friday #91

What happens when Winter hits Florida?

As the mercury drops, and many are seeking somewhere warmer, Florida perhaps. Not so fast my friend, it’s actually cold in many places in Florida currently and it’s affecting the wildlife in the region. The effects and consequences are today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Meteorologists warned that a cold snap was set to hit South Florida this week with temperatures in the 40s. This drastic change in temperature meant that at least one day this week, towns in the Northern U.S. sharing a border with Canada were warmer than parts of South Florida.

Even more noticeable and surprising, the chilly temperatures mean cold-blooded animals become immobile and their bodies have to adjust to temperatures they’re not usually equipped to deal with. Meteorologists also added a warning that one of those cold-blooded species, the iguana might fall from trees they usually rest on when the temperatures are higher.

So, that’s a phenomenon that tourists and locals are going to be fascinated with obviously. I can remember seeing iguanas running around Key West when I visited about this time last year. Seeing iguanas lying around and inactive would be peculiar to say the least.

Even more shocking, some restaurateurs and food purveyors are catching the frozen iguanas in order to make dishes using ‘chicken of the trees’ for the more adventurous eaters. One of the more popular dishes is iguana tacos shared by University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

USDA officials warned that for those eating iguana meat at restaurants or ordering the meat online, be sure to cook it to an internal temperature of 160o F to avoid salmonella infection. So, in some respects it is like chicken. Connoisseurs of the tropical reptile meat note iguana tastes very much like alligator or snake meat. I’ve had both gator and rattlesnake and they do taste like chicken. Frog legs which I also enjoy are a little more gamy, but still close to chicken flavor. I’ll be honest eating iguana isn’t on my exotic food list. The species is a recently acquired delicacy in Latin America as they are invasive in too many habitats and a cheap source of protein. So, obviously there are people that enjoy iguana meat and would be happy to find another source.

Would you eat iguana meat?

Poetry Wednesday 86

Maybe “A Dash of Hot Sauce” is a good idea for Poetry Wednesday

“A Dash of Hot Sauce”

A dash of hot sauce

Spic es up the blandest dish

Like soup beans or eggs

 

A batch of hot sauce

Takes peppers and vinegar

And your tongue lights up

 

A dash of hot sauce

Too much for some when they eat

Dash responsibly

 

© Ryan Stroud 2020

 

History Monday #87

History is made with the first celebration of a federal holiday

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! enjoy the paid federal holiday that you have today. As it is a significant holiday, it’s worth discussing it in today’s #HistoryMonday that was first celebrated as a federal holiday on this date.

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On this day in 1986, the holiday was first celebrated as a federal holiday after being approved and signed into law on November 2, 1983. This was after the first introduction of the notion of recognizing King for his Civil Rights efforts in 1979 by Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan & Sen. Edward Brooke (R) of Massachusetts.

The passage of a bill establishing the holiday was not easily accepted despite Rev. King’s Civil Rights contributions and eventual memorials. Objections to a federal holiday included the cost of paying for employees to have a vacation and whether a private citizen merited a federal holiday. At the time of discussion of establishing a holiday honoring Rev. King, only George Washington and Christopher Columbus had been recognized with federal holidays.

Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East (both Republicans from North Carolina) led objections to passage of legislation establishing the holiday that Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t necessarily important enough to deserve a holiday. Sen. Helms added further objections that were more specious and scurrilous, accusing King of Communist sympathies which were the reasons why King questioned American involvement in Vietnam. Most Senators who promoted the holiday rejected Sen. Helms accusations and pressed forward in their efforts.

As the holiday was signed into law, it established a Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission as well as establishing the day as the third Monday of January each year. Shortly after the commission was established, Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. was appointed to the commission.

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While the holiday was first celebrated on this day in 1986 as a federal holiday, state legislatures decided individually whether they would recognize the holiday as well. Eventually each state established the day following similar guidelines laid out in the federal legislation with the last two establishing the holiday in 2000, being New Hampshire and South Carolina. New Hampshire’s passage of legislation was a technicality and named the day for Martin Luther King Jr. after celebrating the day while it was named Civil Rights Day until 1999. South Carolina did allow citizens to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. or one of three Confederate holidays which creates a unique dichotomy.

Southern states of course had some challenges celebrating the day given their negative involvement with Martin Luther King Jr and other Civil Rights leaders and already established holidays dedicated to Gen. Robert E. Lee, born on January 19 and Gen. Stonewall Jackson, born on January 21. As you can imagine celebrating Generals leading the Confederate Army while celebrating the hero of the Civil Rights movement creates some issues. These original holidays generally were dedicated primarily to Robert E. Lee, except in Virginia.  Eventually, most Southern states moved a celebration of Robert E. Lee to a date in October commemorating the occasion of his death. Virginia celebrates Lee-Jackson Day as the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Many public-school systems decide whether to celebrate at a local level. Growing up in Southern Indiana, which is 97% in most communities will opt to conduct classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, except in more diverse school districts who use it as a snow makeup day if needed. Personally, there is more education about Martin Luther King when school is in session than when kids are home on vacation and pay little attention to the holiday’s namesake. This is typically true of most public schools around the nation and not just in my neck of the woods.

Does your community do anything special for Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Current Event Friday #90

Cancel culture has a humongous issue with a celebrity weight loss trainer

One of the stars of The Biggest Loser didn’t have to take the DNA test, but according to backlash from music fans and online critics, Jillian Michaels is 100% a word that rhymes with witch. So, there’s a new target for cancel culture and the outrage mob in today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Jillian Michaels, former trainer on The Biggest Loser

Last week, Jillian Michaels appeared on a talk show hosted by BuzzFeed to talk about her ongoing projects and offer some sort of expertise about fitness and healthy living. While talking about pop culture somehow the topic turned to Lizzo and Ashley Graham. Born Melissa Jefferson, an R&B star using the stage name Lizzo has become known for her body positivity as well as Graham, a plus-size model was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2016. The host mentioned the body positivity angle espoused by Lizzo and Graham, when Jillian Michaels commented that while a healthy attitude about body image is good and she enjoys Lizzo’s music for her artistic ability and that the body shape was irrelevant. The host pushed back on Michaels, who said why was the body image so important and that celebrating Lizzo’s weight was misguided as Lizzo is dangerously obese. Michaels joked that dying early of diabetes shouldn’t mean that Lizzo’s body image positivity was more important.

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Lizzo, performing at a recent awards show

Naturally, everyone connected to pop culture moved to cancel Jillian Michaels for her harmful and hateful comments towards Lizzo. Complaints that Michaels was fat-shaming Lizzo were leveled by many on social media who pointed out that it’s the 21st Century and we have moved beyond such bullying.

Thankfully, Lizzo hasn’t responded on her social media to Michaels’s comments about her weight. Michaels posted a throwback photo of herself on Instagram from her teenage years with a caption stating, “Here’s me at 5’0 tall and 175 lbs. If I can do it – anyone can.” Michaels’s post was her attempt to show that weight loss can be safe and healthy.

You can probably guess that I agree with Jillian Michaels on this. We now live in a culture where saying a person who is 300+ pounds is celebrated for being happy at that weight. The only person we should expect to be happy being that rotund is Santa Claus. Shows like My 600-lb Life or Hot & Heavy are produced by TLC to show the dangers of unhealthy weight and are guilty pleasures for people who are entertained by the odd and unusual. Even The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club, and other shows that promote healthy weight loss are popular as Americans realize that the Land of Plenty is sometimes a blessing and a curse and being healthy promotes longer lives. Honestly, I know that my eating habits could be better and the best way to change my habits is to eat meals while watching television shows featuring people at unhealthy weights in order that I might put down that next morsel.

Cancel culture and the outrage mob exemplify where we are that telling objective truth is to be shamed and what was shameful before is now celebrated whether it’s obesity, infidelity, abortions, gender dysphoria, or many other issues that are now so politically charged.

Was Jillian Michaels correct that Lizzo’s weight is unhealthy and the music should be the particular focus?

Poetry Wednesday 85

“I’m Just Saying” what I think on Poetry Wednesday

“I’m Just Saying”

Things are getting to the point that no matter what happens I’m in hot water

Enlightened folks say I’m dealing with too much baggage, there’s no room to totter

These same folks say I should follow the old ways and be leaving

Dramatic folks would like for me to spill it, ready for rumors they’ll be believing

 

Been all around the world with stops in China, Japan and Ceylon

Got loaded and sent to the next port on the tour, the captain shouting, “Sail on!”

Soaking in all the atmosphere around me, only giving up a little of what makes me bitter

Waiting for my time to be up, watching for that time like a babysitter

 

Want me to relax on a dark and rainy day or winding down on a cool winter’s night

I’d be better if honey was pouring into me, voice is gone; no way I can shout or scream

Rumor is the Brits want to give me some sugar or make me pale with some cream

Holding on in the heat of the moment, yet I’m chained down or strung along like a kite

Can you guess what would hit the spot and sounds good right now to me?

Hard to know what’s brewing in my head, but the kettle on the stove is a sign for hot tea

© Ryan Stroud 2020

History Monday #86

An important event happens when you bring Cash to a prison

♪ I’m stuck in Folsom Prison and time keeps dragging on ♪ These popular lyrics were penned by Country music legend Johnny Cash who only spent two days in the prison but captured the desperation of its residents. Today’s #HistoryMonday is all about Cash’s more important day in the prison.

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On this day in 1968, Johnny Cash performed a concert at Folsom State Prison as a nod to his popular song “Folsom Prison Blues” which he had written nearly a decade and half earlier. Although having been arrested for minor offenses with drugs and alcohol, Cash had only spent a few days in local jails and was inspired by a documentary about Folsom Prison.

Having played at the prison in 1966 to a smaller crowd, Cash realized that recording a live album might draw help re-start his career. As predicted, the concert drew large media attention which reinvigorated Cash’s success in the musical market and the album At Folsom Prison hit number 1 on the charts.

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Johnny Cash had been encouraged by a local preacher to meet with the prisoners for the 1966 concert in order to help deal with struggles in Cash’s life. Through that concert, Cash began correspondence with many of the prisoners. He soon realized the unorthodox recording at a prison would help him recover his career after several high-profile divorces and substance abuse struggles which hurt his image.

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Johnny Cash was moved by stories of the prisoners and personal observation of their lives at Folsom prison and began to advocate for prison reform. This push for prison reform eventually led him to a meeting with Pres. Nixon to change the way prisons were run in the United States.

From the success of At Folsom Prison, Cash recorded a live album at San Quentin shortly after which also met with similar success. A prisoner at San Quentin was inspired by Cash’s performance and upon his release, started a Country music career of his own. Following the same outlaw genre of Cash, Merle Haggard wrote and performed songs telling tales of a prisoner’s desperation and encounters with the law.

This concert also has inspired other artists who realize that prisoners are worthy of human rights and deserving of hope. Most recently Lauren Daigle and Kanye West performed at prisons while promoting Christian music and attempting to bring something encouraging and hopeful to the inmates. A fictional concert in the movie, Airheads sees the main characters record a live album while being inmates serving time for being convicted of kidnapping after taking a radio station hostage in order to get their unsolicited single played.

Have you listened to At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash?

Current Event Friday #89

Move over, U.K. the U.S. will soon have their own Duke and Duchess

Almost 250 years ago, Americans declared independence from the United Kingdom and news has hit the wires that members of the Royal Family are declaring their own independence from the United Kingdom. This surprising news is today’s focus on #CurrentEventFriday.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping away from their activities with the royal family and moving back to America where Meghan is originally from. The couple will split their time between America and England. This comes as Meghan has prioritized the couple’s lifestyle to reflect progressive policies including environmental consciousness and social justice concerns.

As the couple made this announcement on social media, and everyone began commenting on the trending topic #Megexit, the Royal Family wax statues of the Duke and Duchess removed from Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.

Seemingly, as the Duke and Duchess are not exactly high on the line of succession this move is not of that much consequence. Upon the passing of Queen Elizabeth, the throne would be assumed by Prince Charles, and upon his death to Prince William, the oldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. With Prince William and Duchess Kate having their own kids, Prince Harry has at least three people ahead of him. Assuming that any of the other royals pass away or are unable to ascend to the throne, Prince Harry might have a shot but it’s not exactly likely. Of course, with the monarchy’s limited role in government except as a figurehead and ceremonial agent, it doesn’t hold that much sway.

Personally, as an American I still don’t understand the appeal of the royals. We are no longer British citizens and haven’t been for awhile so paying attention to what goes on with either Princes William, Harry, or their wives is odd to me. Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry possibly missed the opportunity to mirror art with a parallel to the film King Ralph. The film features John Goodman as the last living heir to the royal line after a wild tragedy to the royal family, but given that Goodman’s character is Las Vegas showman taking over as King with little to no training as a royal provides for missteps and entertainment with the learning curve he must endure. Whether Meghan would’ve struggled like Ralph, I’m not sure but it would’ve kept my attention on her story more.

Does it matter that Prince Harry and Meghan are pulling back from their activities with the royal family?