World Beard Day

William MichaelDid you hear? Yesterday was World Beard Day! Yes, the first Saturday of September is the official day to celebrate great facial hair. This is timely for me, as I returned from my recent holiday sporting a beard that ties me to my Scottish roots (see picture to the right of my great, great grandfather William Michael, born in Ullapool, Scotland in 1828).

Here are some unusual World Beard Day facts:

* In southern Spain, many townships gather to witness a boxing match between a bearded man a beardless boy. The bearded man, normally armed with a sharp pike, is typically the victor.

* In the Swedish village of Dönskborg, anyone without a beard is banished from the town and forced to spend twenty-four hours in a nearby forest. Back in the town, the hirsute burn effigies of their clean-chinned loved ones.

* The exact origins of World Beard Day are unknown, but there is some evidence to suggest that Danish Vikings had a special day dedicated to the glorification of beards as far back as 800 AD. The event was not held on a fixed date, and was often celebrated hundreds of times each year. This early incarnation of what would one day become World Beard Day typically involved the ransacking of neighbouring towns, villages and countries by large groups of heavily-armed bearded men.

* Throughout the world, bearded communities are encouraged to acknowledge this sacred day by organising and staging their own public or private World Beard Day celebrations. These can consist of anything from a relaxing family lunch to a lavish, tax payer-funded street parade.

* Shaving on World Beard Day is universally considered to be highly disrespectful.

Of course, in the Christian church there has been plenty of controversy over beards throughout the centuries. According to Christianity Today's recent article, you're more likely to see a beard in the pulpit today than at any time since the 1800s. But beards—especially among clergy—were once serious, symbolic matters. They separated East from West during the Great Schism, priests from laity during the Middle Ages, and Protestants from Catholics during the Reformation. Some church leaders required them; others banned them. To medieval theologians, they represented both holiness and sin. But historian Giles Constable says that rules on beards sound more forceful than they really were. Clergy (especially powerful ones) were likely to follow fashion in their day, too.

On July 21, 2013, Saddleback Church hosted a contest for "Most Magnificent Beard and Most Pathetic Beard".

Let's hear it for the beard!

The Year 2011

Unknown This year will be an interesting one ... in many ways.

We have four unusual dates:

1. 1/1/11

2. 1/11/11

3. 11/1/11

4. 11/11/11

Then for something really different ...

1. Take the last two digits of the year you were born ... 

2. Add that number to the age you will be this year ...

3. Together they add up to 111!

So there you go ... I was born in 61 and turn 50 this year = 111

The English Language

English They say the English language is a difficult one to learn and is arguably the largest language by the number of words. I've only ever spoken English - with a little Australian and American accent thrown in at different times. My wife speaks fluent German, her native tongue, as well as Afrikaans, after growing up in South Africa, and a little Zulu (no she doesn't use this on me).

Many English names and phrases don't mean exactly what they first suggest. Here are a few examples I read about recently:

  • 'Baby oil' is not made out of babies and its usefulness is not restricted to babies.
  • The 'cold war' was not a war.
  • 'Political science' is not a science.
  • 'American football' only occasionally uses the foot to contact the ball.
  • A 'boxing ring' is actually square.
  • The purpose of a 'wet suit' is to keep you dry.
  • A 'bulldog' is not a bull and some people think its not much of a dog either :)
  • Try explaining 'friendly fire' or 'missionary position' to a person new to the English language!

No wonder we end up with situations such as Chinglish and signs lost in translation! For a few examples of what are commonly called oxymorons, click here. If you are interested in the Oxford English Dictionary, click here to read about a man who read it through word by word in one year - all 21,730 pages!

SO ... let's be very patient with our immigrants as they try to learn one of the most difficult languages in the world ... English.

Ever Read a Entire Dictionary?

Oxford Dictionary The Oxford English Dictionary has become the word lover's Mount Everest ever since its initial publication eighty years ago. Weighing in a 62 kilograms, it is the dictionary to end all dictionaries.

Ammon Shea has been reading dictionaries since he was ten years old. Recently, Ammon set aside an entire year to read the OED with the aim at "compiling the most obscure, hilarious, oddly useful, and exquisitely useless gems" he discovered along the way. One man, one year, 21,730 pages!

You can read his story and all of his favorite words in his highly entertaining book Reading the OED.

I bought this book a few weeks ago but my wife stole it and she has been devouring it ever since, making good use of it for her frequent Facebook conversations ... It's now back in my hands, where it belongs :)

Here are a few sample words to whet your appetite:

  • somnificator = one who induces sleep in others
  • constult = to act stupidly together
  • gobemouche = one who believes anything, no mater how absurd
  • jehu = a fast and reckless driver
  • umbriphilous = fond of the shade
  • zanthodontous = having teeth that are yellow, as do rodents
  • obaginate = to annoy by repeating over and over and over and over ...

Warning: reading this book could turn you into a cachinnator or a vocabularian!

The Impact of Exponential Change


Our world has experienced an incredible amount of progress in the last 100 years. Progress has been upward and onward, resulting in a rapid acceleration of change. Just think of: the speed of travel (our family took 23 days to travel to the USA via boat back in 1972!), the power of computers (the internet wasn’t available until the mid 1990s – now just over a decade later, over 1.4 billion people use it regularly!), technological advances, etc.

Change is no longer ‘linear’; it is now ‘exponential’.

To illustrate how rapidly exponential numbers accumulate, consider the following example ...

If you fold a piece of paper in half forty-two times, how thick would it be?

Thick enough to reach from here to the moon! That’s surprising, isn’t it! If you don't believe me, click here to see the math.

This illustration helps us appreciate the radical impact accumulative change can have on our lives. Of course, the result of all of this exponential change is STRESS! According to Doctor Richard Swensen, high levels of stress follow progress and change just as exhaust follows traffic. It’s unavoidable.

Pause and think about that.

... more on the topic of stress on Monday.

Enjoy your weekend!