April 22 – Start of Major League Baseball

Posted on April 22, 2018

The NFL wasn't the first big professional sports organization in North America. 

Nor was the NBA or the NHL. Before all of them, there was the MLB - Major League Baseball.

Baseball's first professional team was started in Cincinnati way back in 1869. Not long after that, the National League was formed in 1876. And on this date in that same year - 1876 - the first game of the National League was played in Philadelphia.

This is often considered the birth of Major League Baseball.

Do you wonder what the MLB looked like back in the mid- to late 1800s?

It's perhaps not a surprise that the uniforms looked a bit
more formal - check out those ties!
Also, you are no doubt unsurprised by the number of
white players. What may surprise you is to see a black
player on the team below:
Before there was integration, with Jackie Robinson famously breaking
the color barrier in 1947, there was of course segregation along racial lines.

But before the modern era, there were some mixed-race teams.

Former slave William Edward White may be the very first black
player in the MLB - but he only played one game.

Moses Fleetwood Walker is credited as being the first black player
who really played (more than just a one-game "fill in") in the MLB.

John W. "Bud" Fowler set a record by playing 11
consecutive seasons with otherwise-white teams.

Nowadays the MLB has two leagues - the National League and the American League. Each league is made up of 15 teams in 3 regional divisions. Most of the teams are based in U.S. cities, but one - the Toronto Blue Jays - is based in Canada. Many states are not graced with even one MLB team, and several other states have just one team. On the other hand, some states have several. California (MY state!) has the most MLB teams: five of them! California's teams include the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics (often called the As), the Los Angeles Dodgers (which won the National League last year), the Los Angeles Angels, and the San Diego Padres. 

So...the big city near me, Los Angeles, has more MLB teams than Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, combined! That's because none of those states have any MLB teams other than Arizona, which has exactly one MLB team - and Los Angeles has two teams! The same can be said for two other big cities: Chicago, and New York City.

Check out this map of MLB teams:

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the Global Selfie Earth Day 

April 21 - Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday (No, I Mean It - Her ACTUAL Birthday!)

Posted on April 21, 2018

Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom of all the British overseas territories, and she is also Head of the Commonwealth. She is the queen or titular head of state of a lot of independent nations that belong to the Commonwealth - such as Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Tuvalu, and so forth.

I noticed that many of these nations celebrate their queen's birthday on different dates. Most Australia states and territories celebrate the Queen of Australia's birthday on the second Monday in June. (Again, remember that the "Queen of Australia" is the same "Queen of the U.K." - in other words - Elizabeth II.) Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands also celebrate on the second Monday in June. In Canada, the Queen's birthday is celebrated on the last Monday before May 25. New Zealand celebrates on the first Monday of June, and Tuvalu celebrates on the second Saturday of June. You notice, I hope, that most countries are celebrating on Mondays - rather than a specific date - because, I suppose, they want a three-day weekend!

I also read that choosing all of these May and June dates is an attempt to have a day with good weather for an outdoor ceremony, in the Northern Hemisphere. (But note that many, many of the nations and territories are in the Southern Hemisphere or are pretty equatorial. Hmmm...)

Even the United Kingdom itself celebrates their queen's birthday in June - in this case, the second Saturday of June.

The Falklands in June.
Chilly, for sure!
Only one Commonwealth realm that I could find celebrates Queen Elizabeth II's birthday on her actual birthday (today!): the Falkland Islands. Not only are these islands in the Southern Hemisphere, they are far from equatorial! So June in the Falklands is almost a guarantee of very chilly, possibly downright cold and stormy, and even May is pretty iffy.

Above, a special commemorative coin celebrating
the queen's 90th birthday, from the Falkland Islands.

Below, an Elizabeth II birthday parade in the Falklands:

For a while, Queen Victoria held the record of longest British monarch's rule. She was 81 when she died; she had ruled for more than 63 years. Western historians ended up naming her particular historical time period the Victorian Era. 

But it is Elizabeth II who now holds the records:

Longest-lived British monarch (she turns 92 today)

Longest-ruling British monarch (66 years and counting)

Only British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee (marking a 65-year reign)

World's longest-reigning queen regnant 

World's longest-reigning current monarch

World's oldest current monarch

World's longest-serving current head of state

Also on this date:

April 20 – Sun Dogs Appear!

Posted on April 20, 2018

Waaaaaay back on this date in 1535, above the town of Stockholm, Sweden, halos, circles, and arcs appeared in the sky. And even more surprising: two bright sunlike spots appeared, one on each side of the sun.

It was as if there were three suns!! 
I'm not sure if the Swedish people who saw these sun dogs were educated enough to know that even ancient Greeks had observed and written about this unusual phenomenon. I imagine that some people were fearful or at least puzzled. I read that some people were sure that it was an omen - either for good future events or for bad ones!

A scholar who also served as the king's chancellor ordered a painting to be made to commemorate the rare sighting. The painting is now referred to as the Sun Dog Painting (in Swedish, Vädersolstavlan), and some think it is the oldest depiction of sun dogs.

Ice crystals high in the atmosphere cause the sun dogs and also halos or arcs near the sun (or, at times, the moon). Sun dogs always appear to the left and right of the sun, never above and below it. And there are always two sun dogs (therefore, apparently three suns), never any other number. (Sometimes one of the sun dogs is blocked from view, of course!)

One of the sun dogs is covered by clouds.

Since it requires ice crystals in the atmosphere, sun dogs are much more likely to be seen in cold places, such as the Arctic or Antarctic, or in winter.

Take a look at some photos of sun dogs: