Dragons are popular subjects for books and films as evidenced by the popularity of the book series HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and the two recent animated films of that name that brought in over one billion US dollars in earnings so far. The history of the dragon goes back to 4000 B.C. A good guess is that the dragon's reptilian appearance with scales, a long tail, and long snout with fire-breathing capabilities evolved from viewing their smaller cousins such as snakes, lizards, and crocodiles plus discovery of the bones of long dead dinosaur reptilians. Who knows. For whatever reason dragons appear in myth and fairy tales in cultures worldwide often as hoarders of treasure. Most mythical dragons must be slayed by a hero to stop them from terrorizing the countryside. The hero subsequently receives the hand in marriage of the local princess, or at least a beautiful maiden, to reward his efforts in destroying the marauding dragon. Viking raiders used the symbol of the dragon on the prow of their longships. St. George, patron saint of the United Kingdom, is famous for slaying a fire-breathing dragon and rescuing a maiden. In Japan's oldest book, Yamata no Orochi, a dragon with many heads, was slain by the warrior Susanoo, who won the hand of the maiden he saved from the dragon that had already eaten her seven sisters. In ancient Mesopotamia, the dragon Zu stole the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil, the sky god. Ninuta, the sun god, had to kill Zu to retrieve them. The list of evil dragons of all colors living in all sorts of habitats, from snow fields to swampy marshes, to forests, to deserts goes on and on. In China, as opposed to most other lands, the dragon is venerated. Yu, the rain god in Chinese myth, was a golden dragon that controlled floods as well. The Dragon dance performed on the Chinese new year is a tradition to petition the "Dragon King" to provide rain to grow crops needed for the coming year and to scare away evil spirits.
Guess It's time to talk about pirates, the "romantic" kind. That means the pirates of the 16th and 17th centuries as presented by Hollywood, who mostly plied the Caribbean in tight pants, white silk shirts open at the neck, bucket boots, red bandanas, and gold looped earrings. Gripping daggers in their teeth and holding swashbucklers' swords that glinted in the sun, they boarded Spanish treasure ships and made off with booty and sometimes the ship itself. Perhaps the unfortunate crew of the Spanish galleons were made to walk the plank. A popular subject for children's books, these pirates are also popular with adults who read those same books when they were young. Truth be told, the real pirates were just as fascinating as the Hollywood variety. We all love the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films with Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew of characters, and we are all looking forward to their next adventures in DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES to be filmed along the coast of Australia. To prepare for the next installment you might want to read PIRATES, the book by John Matthews that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about pirates and give you access to pirate memorabilia such as a guide to grisly pirate flags like the Jolly Roger, a book of pirate slang, and, of course, a treasure map.
Disasters happen every day everywhere. Little disasters and, God forbid, big ones. Be prepared. Be a survivor. How? Start by reading up on the subject. There are survival books for practically all types of disasters in all types of environments.
Humankind lives in fear of disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, terrorism and wars to name only a few. The list is endless. Even a simple electric outage needs preparedness. Everyone must have a radio with batteries handy as well as flashlights, bottled water, and food that does not require refrigeration. You know the list. Know more. Plan for your survival or at least have some books on hand to help you survive if you are suddenly confronted with a disaster whether large or small. A book like SURVIVAL FAMILY BASICS is listed as The Beginner Prepper's Guide for When Disaster Strikes. It focuses on family planning. Perhaps you live in an urban area, so something like SURVIVING DOOMSDAY: A GUIDE FOR SURVIVING AN URBAN DISASTER might be helpful. If you are facing disaster in an outdoor setting, you might find HAWKE'S GREEN BERET SURVIVAL MANUAL: Essential Strategies For: Shelter and Water, Food and Fire, Tools and Medicine, Navigation and Signaling, Survival Psychology and Getting Out Alive! a very useful addition to your library.
I took this photo of the stuffed animals that belonged to the boy Christopher Robin and became characters in the original Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne. They are among the objects on display as part of an exhibition at the New York City central library called THE ABC OF IT. The display considers the history of children's books and stories and attempts to answer the question of why children's books matter. What do they teach children, and what do various books and stories tell us about the societies that produced them? How did the books and stories themselves help to shape the societies? I was surprised to see how dingy the toys had become over the years since they were owned by Christopher Robin as a boy in the 1920's. Pooh was based on the stuffed teddy bear in the photo. Eeyore, the old grey donkey, was also based on the fairly large stuffed animal in the photo presumed to be a donkey. The character of Tigger was based on the stuffed tiger, and Kanga, the female kangaroo, based on the other stuffed animal in the photo. Piglet was apparently suggested by the tiny figurine placed in front of Pooh in the exhibit. It looked like clay to me, a rather pathetic rendering of the character in the Pooh stories that is supposed to be the best friend of both Pooh and Christopher Robin. As I recall, the photo in the picture I snapped is that of A.A. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin. The more modern Pooh cookbooks sound somewhat intriguing. I wouldn't mind trying some of the recipes such as Poohanpiglet Pancakes. Reviewers also lauded the chocolate cake from the WINNIE-THE-POOH TEATIME COOKBOOK.
Can you become addicted to chocolate? Harvard Health Publications editor Dr. Michael Craig Miller says yes. Brain studies show volunteers drinking chocolate milkshakes exhibited brain activity similar to that caused by addiction to some drugs. Not surprising. Chocolate contains lots of phenylethylamine, the chemical produced in the brain when you are in love. The term "chocoholic" comes to mind. Although usually said in jest, chocolate can be said to be addictive because It can create an intense craving for a substance with high levels of fat and sugar and a unique and pleasant taste that makes overindulgence hard to resist for many chocolate lovers. First cultivated around 1500 B.C by the Olmec tribe in southern Mexico, the cacao plant that produces chocolate was used by the elite classes of both Mayans and Aztecs, who called cocoa, the raw product produced by the plant, the food of the gods. Tonacatecuti, ancient Mexican goddess of food, and Calchiuhtlucue, goddess of water, were said to be the guardian goddesses of cocoa. Each year human sacrifices were allegedly performed for them after the victim had eaten a last meal of cocoa. Hot chocolate and much of the chocolate we eat today is not real chocolate produced from the cacao plant and therefore does not contain the beneficial ingredients that cocoa contains. A bit confusing. I suggest you check the ingredients panels on the "chocolate" products you buy to make sure you are getting a product containing cocoa and not just fat, sugar, and artificial flavors.
This is a good illustration of the collision paths of our Milky Way galaxy and its neighbor Andromeda that is rushing towards us at the rate of 250,000 miles an hour according to NASA's calculations using data from the Hubble telescope. Both galaxies, now from 2 to 2.5 million light years apart, are elliptical in shape. The smaller Triangulum galaxy, which is also shown in the picture, may join in the smashup as the two larger galaxies merge into one huge elliptical-shaped galaxy. The smashup is expected to begin in approximately 4 billion years, but the complete merger will take another 2 billion years to complete. In the picture our Sun is located on one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy. Our Sun and solar system will probably survive the smashup and merger since even though they may be clustered together somewhat in galaxies, most stars still remain positioned far apart from one another in space even while their galaxies are colliding. (Credit for picture: NASA; ESA; A.Feild and R. van der Marel. STScl). For more information check nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/milky-way-collide.html. See some great pictures of colliding galaxies too.
What is a hero? He must be larger than life, and recognized for his bravery, strength of character, and selflessness in the face of adversity. The word hero is from the Greek to describe one who is considered noble in the culture in which he lives. He is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good as the most defining character trait of a hero. The most beloved and most well known of Greek heroes was Hercules, alleged to be the son of the leader of the gods, Zeus, and a mortal woman. His heroic deeds were extolled far and wide in ancient times. It is possible that the stories of demigod Hercules and other famous mythical heroes throughout history were based on the glorified exploits of actual men. There are also thousands of ordinary men, and don't forget women, who exhibited the characteristics of the hero throughout history. For Americans, of course, President George Washington would probably rank in the top ten of men who were heroes. However, the reputations of many of those once considered heroes would not stand the test of time. Many so-called heroes also turned out to be some of the worst villains the world has ever seen. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung, all larger than life and three of the most powerful men of the 20th Century, each responsible for the deaths of millions of people, were all both hailed as heroes by some and denounced as villains by other members of the world community at large. In his best-selling book THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF HEROES William Bennett, well-known professor, author, and former Secretary of Education during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, celebrates real and fictional deeds of heroism both large and small. Using stories chosen to illustrate various aspects of heroism in the book, he has tried to promote a better understanding of what heroism is and provide inspiration for young children.
One of the best-selling books for children is titled THE GIVING TREE, a tale about the relationship between a tree and a little boy and the changing relationship between the tree and the boy as the child grows up. A controversy grew up about the theme of the book because the tree sacrifices everything for the boy, and the boy apparently gives the tree nothing in return. In the real world, however, trees were venerated by mankind. The oak in particular has been revered throughout history and prehistory as perhaps the most sacred of all trees by many cultures. It was associated with the most powerful of the Greek gods, Zeus, wielder of the thunderbolt, who allegedly spoke prophecies interpreted by priestesses from the rustling of oak leaves. Likewise, the oak was linked with the great Norse god Thor, who hurled Mjolnir, a magical oak hammer, across the sky to create thunder and lightning. In Celtic lore the oak represents the seventh month of the Celtic tree calendar stretching from June 10 to July 7, as a symbol of power, endurance, and strength at the summer solstice. The Celtic name for the oak is Duir, meaning door. The oak represents the door of opportunity. It's branches can grow up to 110 feet in height, and its trunk can reach a girth of as much as 70 feet. The "Major Oak," an ancient tree still standing in England's Sherwood Forest, was said to be the actual meeting place of Robin Hood and his merry men. The mythical round table of King Arthur fame was likewise rumored to have been made from the bole of a huge oak tree. Unfortunately, men no longer venerate trees as they once did. Trees are cut down for timber all over the world, and, in many parts of the Earth, they are not replaced with seedlings to replenish the health of our forests. If saving trees interests you, I suggest you contact organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation to join in their project called Savng the Forest for the Trees.
There are only 700 to 1000 giant pandas left in China's wild Western forests. Most of the panda's forest habitats have been cut down for timber. There are many other animals on the endangered species lists of websites such as worldwildlife.org and imagineanimals.com. Take a look at the websites and enjoy the beautiful photos of animals. You can even symbolically adopt an animal on the World Wildlife website. Choose a tiger, polar bear, perhaps an African elephant, all endangered species. You can get a certificate of adoption, photo of the animal, a species info card, a gift bag, and an adorable plush stuffed animal. Check it out. The photo of the panda was taken by Craig Kasnoff, who travels the world taking photographs of animals and focuses his efforts on projects concerning conservation and endangered species.
Electrical charges within storm clouds create lightning that is fascinating and scary, but clouds that do not produce lightning are also fascinating although taken pretty much for granted. I recently saw this photo of a Lenticular cloud. They sometimes look like discs and have been mistaken for flyng saucer-type UFO's. How amazing is that?
What we call a cloud here on Earth is basically formed when invisible water vapor forms into liquid droplets or solid ice crystals, both visible forms of water molecules suspended in the atmosphere. Cloud droplets are very small, perhaps a thousand times smaller than a raindrop. The highest clouds are called Cirrus clouds because cirrus, Latin for curl, refers to the thin, feathery look of white clouds with long streamers that stretch across the sky high above the Earth. Those greyish clouds that cover all or most of the sky are named Stratus, Latin for strewn, because they lie across the sky like a sheet on a "cloudy" day. Fog is also a Stratus cloud although it is very close to the ground. What about those small, puffy cotton-ball clouds that float leisurely across the sky? Those are Cumulus cloudlets, Latin for heap, because they can increase in size to become the Cumulonimbus clouds up to six miles high that produce fierce thunder storms holding up to half a million tons of water. Since according to NASA, "clouds have an enormous influrence on Earth's energy balance, climate, and weather," we should pay more attention to them.