Picture this: it's mid-July, the sun shines and you rest on a hammock, completely relaxed. This is the essence of Hammock Day.
To anyone who has ever enjoyed an afternoon nap while ensconced in a hammock gently rocking between two trees, it will come as no surprise that this centuries-old snoozing sling can help people fall asleep faster and achieve deeper slumber than regular beds, according to new research. What you may not know, however, is that the hammock has a rich and varied history, from its Mayan origins to its adoption by the military to its present-day status as a summertime backyard fixture.
Many anthropologists believe that the hammock dates back some 1,000 years to Central America, where the Maya and other indigenous peoples crafted them out of tree bark or plant fibers. Suspended beds prevented contact with the dirty ground and offered protection from snakes, rodents and other poisonous or simply pesky creatures. According to accounts by 16th-century explorers, people would place hot coals or kindle small fires under their hammocks to stay warm or ward off insects as they slumbered.
It is thought that Columbus and his men became the first Europeans to glimpse—and perhaps experience—the hammock when they noticed their widespread use among the Taino people of the Bahamas. They brought several examples of the woven sleeping nets back to Spain. During the colonial era, Spaniards and other Europeans brought cotton, canvas and other cloths to the New World, many of which were eventually used by traditional hammock weavers along with more time-honored materials. In many parts of what is now Latin America, colonists preferred hammocks to the stationary beds of their native lands, in part because of their soothing motion and hygiene benefits. Pero de Magalhães Gandavo, the Portuguese-born chronicler of colonial Brazilian history, wrote in 1570, “Most of the beds in Brazil are hammocks, hung in the house from two cords. This custom they took from the Indians of the land.”
By the mid-16th century, the English and Spanish navies had adopted hammocks as their primary on-deck sleeping apparatuses. Unlike its counterpart on the other side of the Atlantic, however, the European take on the hammock was typically made of heavy canvas and therefore significantly less ventilated than its inspiration from the other side of the Atlantic. Sailors stewed in these portable yet famously uncomfortable beds for three centuries, including during World War I and World War II. From the Civil War until the Vietnam War, members of the U.S. Navy were also issued hammocks for sleeping on the go.
In the late 19th century, the British prison system attempted to replace cots with hammocks, attaching them to the walls or bars of jail cells with large brass hooks and rings. This arrangement saved space and cut costs but only lasted until inmates discovered the hardware’s value as weapons. In the United States, meanwhile, by the turn of the century hammocks had caught on both as a leisure item for wealthy families and as a cheap, practical sleeping solution for frontier farmers. The first known mass producer of hammocks opened in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, in 1889. Less than two decades later, the suspended beds became an essential part of army physician William Gorgas’ plan to eradicate yellow fever during the construction of the Panama Canal. Hammocks could easily be enclosed in mosquito netting and also kept sleepers off the wet, insect-ridden ground.
A new study conducted by a team of Swiss researchers and published in the June issue of “Current Biology” has offered a scientific explanation for the longstanding global hammock craze. The team found that a swinging motion synchronizes brain waves, allowing people to doze off faster and attain a deeper state of sleep. Their results also support the ancient—and still very much alive—tradition of rocking children to sleep.
Today, take a few minutes to sit back and unwind on a hammock. Don’t have one? No problem! Just grab some sturdy fabric and rope—you can make yourself one in no time. Happy Hammock Day!
Casual Pi Day
Pi is the relationship of a circle's circumference to its diameter. No matter how large or small a circle is, the proportion of the distance around the circle to the distance across its widest part is EXACTLY the same!
That exact number starts off 3.14159265...and goes on for bajillions of non-repeating digits. Because pi starts with 3.14, we celebrate Pi Day on 3/14, or March 14th.
But today is not that date. Why are we celebrating Casual Pi Day today?
Well, the other name for the day gives us a hint—it's Pi Approximation Day.
It's hard to be exact about pi when the decimal digits go on forever (and don't even repeat). So we have to use approximate numbers when we actually use pi, and a really approximate way of expressing the approximation is the fraction 22/7. And that's why today, the 22nd day of the 7th month, is Pi Approximation Day!
Use a calculator to see what 22 divided by 7 is. How many decimal places match pi?
By the way, you can get a picture of pi being all casual and summery on a T-shirt or mug here.
When we are doing mental math or solving real-life problems in our heads, we often don't need the exact answer. Instead, we can use just an approximation of the right answer. And we do this by estimating—rounding off and THEN adding or multiplying or whatever we are trying to do...
National Penuche Fudge Day
July 22 is National Penuche Fudge Day, and you can celebrate by indulging in a nibble or two of this soft, sweet and smooth treat or whipping up a batch in your own kitchen and sharing it with fellow celebrants.
Penuche fudge contains no chocolate, but instead has a golden brown color and a caramel flavor (as it is made with brown sugar). It is known as one of the three distinct varieties of fudge, with the other being chocolate and white fudge (also known as "blond" fudge).
Penuche fudge is a crystalline candy, but it has a smooth and creamy texture, and quality penuche does not have a granular consistency. Often, nuts are added to penuche for added flavor and some crunch, and pecans and walnuts are the most popular. Penuche is often seen around the holidays, and is particularly popular as a Christmas treat.
The exact origins of National Penuche Day are not known. However, penuche itself is said to date back to the turn of the 20th century. It was most widespread in the early to mid 1900's and its popularity has waned along with the decline of home candy-making.
While there are no major celebration events expected for National Penuche Fudge Day, you can participate by purchasing some of the candy or by making your own. You could have a Penuche party, inviting friends over to help you make and enjoy penuche fudge.
National Ratcatcher's Day
Ratcatcher's Day, Rat-catcher's Day or Rat Catcher's Day is celebrated on 26 June or 22 July, commemorating the myth of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The town of Hamelin in Germany uses the June date. The confusion of dates is because the Brothers Grimm cite 26 June 1284 as the date the Pied Piper led the children out of the town, while the poem by Robert Browning gives it as 22 July 1376. It is a holiday remembering rat-catchers, similar to Secretary's Day.
The legend, as told by the late German fairytale publishers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm (the Brothers Grimm), notes June 26, 1284, as the day the Pied Piper led the children away.
Robert Browning, the 19th-century British poet, wrote the most well-known English version of the legend in 1849. In his rendition, a poem, Browning pegs the date of the lost children tragedy to July 22, 1376.
"This date seems to be chosen by exterminators as their own special holiday just [like] secretary's day," said Michael Boyer, who is employed as the official Pied Piper of Hamelin by the German town. "I'm not sure how it is celebrated," he added.
Hamelin itself acknowledges the June 26 date, which Boyer said is corroborated by a few historical notes. And for lack of any other documents by which to date the town, June 26 is celebrated in lieu of a founding date.
Every 25 years, Hamelin celebrates its founding with a large festival. On other years celebrations are smaller. Sometimes Boyer—the Pied Piper—leads children on a walk through town. Hamelin will mark its 730th anniversary.
Today is the birthday of the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, born in London in 1844. Spooner lectured in history, philosophy, and divinity at Oxford University. He was small in stature and an albino, but it was his words not his appearance that made him famous.
Spooner has been immortalized in the dictionary by what we call today spoonerisms: slips of the tongue where the initial consonant sounds of words are reversed, as in one of Spooner's famous flubs -- he was officiating a wedding and after pronouncing the couple man and wife said to the groom: "Son, it is now kisstomary to cuss the bride." The error, of course, was reversing the sounds of the c in customary with the k in kiss.
Reverend Spooner is certainly not the only person to make this kind of error. In fact, it is quite common, and, as explained by Richard Lederer, more common in English than any other language:
The larger the number of words in a language, the greater the likelihood that two or more words will rhyme. Because English possesses almost four times the number of words of any other language, it is afflicted with a delightful case of rhymatic fever. A ghost town becomes a toast gown. A toll booth becomes a bowl tooth. A bartender becomes a tar bender. Motion pictures become potion mixtures. And your local Wal-Mart becomes a Mall Wart!
More rhymes mean more possible spoonerisms. That’s why English is the most tough and rumble of all languages, full of thud and blunder. That's why English is the most spoonerizable tongue ever invented. That's why you will enter this discussion optimistically and leave it misty optically.