August 18 – Whitney, Conquered!

Posted on August 18, 2017

Today is the anniversary of the very first time a human being climbed to the top of Mount Whitney, in California!

Except, it's probably not!

Our ancestors - including all the many thousands of California Indians or Native Americans - were mostly too busy surviving to frequently take on extra dangers and challenges...But people way back when were just as varied as they are now, and many of them were courageous, adventurous, and daring. I bet a few of them scaled what we now call Mount Whitney - all 14,494 feet of it!

But early derring do's don't count when we are talking about "first this-and-so" and "first that-and-such" - because we have no written record of who did it, when.

Flash forward to the 1870s. Since Mount Whitney was the very tallest mountain in all of the United States (at the time!), there was a lot of competition to see who would be the first to climb it. 

In 1871, a man named Clarence King climbed a peak that he thought was Mount Whitney and seemed to be destined for the record books - but then he was startled, two years later, to hear that someone had proved that the mountain he had climbed was not actually Mount Whitney, and was not the highest mountain in the U.S.

The actual Mount Whitney was five or six miles away from the mountain he'd climbed.

King was determined to be king of the actual Mount Whitney. He was all the way across the country, but he traveled to California, hired two men to accompany him up the peak, and successfully climbed Mount Whitney -

but he was 32 days too late.

On this date in1873 another climbing party had conquered the difficult climb and stood on the tip-top of Mount Whitney. So Charles Begole, Albert Johnson, and John Lucas were first. And 13 days before King scaled the mountain, another group of four climbers had done the deed. I guess King had to settle for #8!!

Although I've never wanted to climb Mount Whitney, it does have some importance for me. When I was a little girl we vacationed in Mammoth Lakes at a family cabin, and when we got to the town of Lone Pine, we would see glorious Mount Whitney looming over the town - and also a mural of the mountain on one of the buildings in the town. I always looked forward to seeing the mountain, partly because it meant we were more than half way to Mammoth.

Also, I named one of my daughters Whitney after this mountain!

By the way, Mount Whitney was the tallest mountain in the U.S. in the 1870s. But when Alaska became a state in 1959, Mount McKinley - also known as Denali - took the honors. Now we have to say that Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in "the lower 48" or "in the contiguous states." ("Contiguous" means touching.) It's also, of course, the highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (its mountain range) and in California.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of a Fireball

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August 17 – National Thrift Shop Day

Posted on August 17, 2017

I love to save money, of course - doesn't everybody?

But I have to admit that I'm not much of a thrift-shop shopper. I am not inclined to pick through used clothes, to see the possibilities of what an item of clothing could do for me. There is, I have to admit, a teeny bit of a squeamish reaction for me, as if "used" means "dirty."

But, then again, you have to realize that I also hate clothing shopping of ANY kind. I prefer thrift shopping for clothes to the sort of thing you see on movies - women trying on one fancy outfit after another, trying to find THE perfect dress. I mean, I really really really would hate that!

When I was getting married, I looked for the sort of dress I liked - and by "liked" I mean a peasant style, ready-made, very inexpensive. I found only one, but I tried it on and loved it. Voilà! I found my wedding dress in like 15 minutes!

So, yeah, I'm not a shopper.

Today we celebrate thrift stores, and there is a lot to celebrate. Not only do customers save money, but society and the Earth wins, too!

(1) Lots of thrift shops are run by charitable organizations. So buying from them can help children and families in need.

(2) Most of the rest of the second-hand / thrift shops are small businesses rather than chains owned by giant corporations. It's great to support local small business owners!

(3) Whatever is being sold in a thrift shop or any other second-hand store is NOT being plunked into a landfill. That whole "reuse, renew, recycle, repurpose" thing is partly based on the willingness for people to use "used" stuff!

Did you know that about 10.5 MILLION TONS of clothing is sent to landfills EVERY YEAR? 

That's...mountains of fabric!

Apparently, only about 15% of clothing is donated. We have got to get that percentage up!

About half of all donated clothing finds its way into someone's closet again, via thrift stores, and the other half is recycled - torn down into fibers that are used to make things like insulation and carpet padding and even industrial rags.(Check out this article for more on all of that.)

Celebrate the day by donating clothes, by visiting a thrift shop, and by promising yourself you will do your part to keep stuff out of landfills.

August 16 – Restoration of Independence in the Dominican Republic

Posted on August 16, 2017

During the 1800s, the Dominican Republic declared its independence three times!

First, after years of trying to do so, the Dominican Republic finally declared its independence from Spain in 1821. It called itself Spanish Haiti.

(But, you know, in Spanish.)

But then Haiti took over. In other words non-Spanish Haiti, where the people spoke French, invaded and annexed "Spanish Haiti," where the people spoke Spanish. Both of these groups were living on the same Caribbean island, Hispaniola.

But the Dominicans didn't want to live under Haitian rule. So a group of them declared their independence again, in 1844, and they forced Haiti out and fought back every time Haitian forces tried to take over.

Unfortunately, being independent isn't a picnic. Two men fought for control of the new nation, but both Buenaventura Báez and Pedro Sánchez seemed interested in getting an older, more powerful nation to kinda-sorta adopt the Dominican Republic, rather than staying fully independent. One tried to convince the French and then the United States to take over. Eventually, in 1861, General Sánchez was able to convince Spain to re-colonize (as it were) the nation.

The Dominican Republic was the only Latin American country ever to revert back to being a Spanish colony.

Of course, as you can imagine, some Dominicans did not like this move one bit. Protests shook the colony, and on this date in 1863 a patriot declared independence again - for the third time in 40 years! 

A War of Restoration broke out, and Spain got sick of yet another revolutionary war. In 1865 Spanish forces left the island - and ever since then the Dominican Republic has been independent.

The last declaration of independence is so important to the nation, August 16 is the date that the president addresses the nation - a sort of "State of the Union" speech - and it is also the date that, every four years, the new president takes power.

Check out some of the lovely landscapes to be seen in the Domincan Republic:

Also on this date:

Independence Day in Gabon

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