April 27, 1985--Over 70 inches of snow fell in Red Lake, Montana. Yesterday I went out to lunch with my college roommate. We have barely seen each other since we went our separate ways. It was a tlovely day here in Ann Arbor. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze. While we visited, two of her daughters called from Montana. They were both complaining of cold and snow. I just looked up Red Lake, Montana, on Google. Interestingly, the map I found puts Red Lake almost directly in the mid-point of a triangle formed by Missoula, Great Falls, and Kalispell (where my friend's three daughters live). As an aside, let me warn you about Google searches. I asked for "Red Lake, Montana". There were sites putting Red Lake in two different counties. I have settled on Lewis and Clark Country, because it works so well with this story. However, if I were going to make any claim for the validity of that information, I would have to do some more sophisticated searching. Just because something is on the Internet does not mean that it is true or even remotely what you wanted to find.
April 28, 2001--First tourist in space Dennis Tito was 60 years old when his dream of going into space came true. He paid $20,000,000 for this great adventure. He was turned down by NASA for this trip because he had not gone through their official training. The Russian government allowed him to join one of the their trips. Now, according to this site from How Stuff Works, there are many others, including some hotel chains, who are interested in offering space tourism.
April 28, 1855--First U.S. Veterinary School opened. The Boston Veterinary Institute was opened by a British "medical man" (Does this mean he was a doctor? The article linked here doesn't really make that clear.) The school only had a handful of graduates before it closed just a few years later. You can read stories about pets being helped by veterinarians in the Animal Ark Series by Ben Gaglio or Wild at Heart Series by Laurie Halse Anderson. To get a feel for the work of real veterinarians, check out ER Vets : Life in an Animal Emergency Room by Donna M. Jackson. Warning: If you don't like to see pictures of animals having surgery or looking less than perfect, this is not the book for you and you might want to reconsider going to veterinary college.
April 29, 1911--Michigan's state flag adopted. The flag we currently use in Michigan is the third official flag of the state. The first flag had a picture of Michigan's first governor, Stevens Thomson Mason, on the front with the state coat of arms on the back. In 1865, the governor's picture was removed from the flag and replaced with the coat of arms of the United States. "The Yak's Corner" from the Detroit Free Press did a section on Michigan which included this article about the flag. Learn more about Michigan by visiting the Michigan E Library site. MeL is the official site of the Michigan State Library. All Michigan residents can use its many databases by typing in their Michigan driver's license number. Use it for all kinds of research or just some fun browsing. The Michigania section of the site is open to everyone and has marvelous digital collections that can keep you entertained for hours.
April 29, 1852--First edition of Peter Roget's Thesaurus published. Peter Mark Roget was born in London in 1779 and graduated from Edinburgh University in 1798. As a doctor he wrote articles about tuberculosis and the uses of nitrous oxide (which is sometimes called "laughing gas"). In 1814, Roget invented a slide rule that could calculate roots and powers of numbers and was the basis for the slide rule that I used in high school--before the advent of the calculator. He also did work on improving kaleidoscopes and tried to invent a calculating machine. Few people remember him for any of this. Most people know of him for the work that he began in 1840 to compile a dictionary of synonyms. Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases has never been out of print since that first edition which had 15,000 entries. Thesaurus.com gives glossary, lexicon, word list, and (my favorite in the list) onomasticon as a few of their synonyms for thesaurus. Further search on other sites reveals that an onomasticon is a dictionary of proper names and place names.
April 30--Walpurgis or Feast of Valborg Walpurgis is celebrated throughout Sweden with customs varying from place to place. Common factors are the building of bonfires and singing Spring Songs. Since King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden was born on April 30, 1945, this day also includes honoring the king with flags flying throughout the country. Here is an interesting post with a video from a blog called Swenglish Rantings. A similar welcome to spring is called Vappu in Finland. If it is spring in Scandinavia now, it must be spring in Michigan, too.
April 30, 1904--Hamburgers introduced Many places claim that the very first hamburger can be traced to their home town. However, many people feel that a patty of ground beef does not become a hamburger until it is put in a bun. The first well recorded use of a specially made bun for ground beef patties was at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. After you read about the fair, take a look at these very close up photos of those burgers and fries that you are craving at this moment. If you want to learn more about the St. Louis World's Fair you might enjoy reading Meet Me in St. Louis: A Trip to the 1904 World's Fair by Robert Jackson. To learn more about fast food try Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know about Fast Food by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson which is the young adult version of Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.
May 1--Mother Goose Day This day was created to celebrate the nursery rhymes that almost every English speaking child encounters. Scholars study the social and historical aspects of Mother Goose in great detail as they reveal much about what was going on in society at the time these rhymes were created and popular. When you first heard Mother Goose rhymes, you may have been a baby just learning language. Rutgers University has a site that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Mother Goose The site includes pictures and links to digitalized Mother Goose books as well as many, many Mother Goose sites.
May 1--Cheerios Introduced The managers at General Mills did not want Lester Borchardt and his team to keep working to develop puffed cereals, but he asked for more time. The resulting puffed oats cereal with the distinctive hole in the middle was originally called "CheeriOats". One of the most interesting things I learned from the Business and Companies web site was about in other countries. Cheerios in the United Kingdom have five grains (corn, oats, barley, wheat and rice) in four colors instead of just the oats in American Cheerios. The New Zealand version has 6.5 times as much sugar as you will find in U.S. Cheerios.
May is Get Caught Reading Month so put your nose in a book and see where it will take you.