Sunday, December 31, 2017

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Brief History of Calendars

Calendar, 2018, Date, Day, Month, Time  I always get a bunch of calendars from my credit union, my insurance guy, the NEA, and several other people.  I usually end up purchasing a few filled with beautiful pictures. My mother commented the other day that she has not yet gotten the calendar from her bank.  It might be because she just moved.

Early societies didn't have the same type of calendar we use today.  They used observations of the stars throughout the year to predict upcoming events. 

The Babylonians created a simple lunar calendar but it did not match up with the actual length of the real year.  Each lunar month is only 29.5 days so at the end of the lunar year, its only accounted for 354 days.  The calendar is about 11 days short so every year, the months shift in relation to the natural year and matches up every 32 years.

The Egyptians also used a lunar calendar but they were aware that the year was actually 365 days so they made months 30 days long and added 5 extra days at the end of the year to get it to balance out.  This calendar still ended up short by one day, every four years.  They did not make any adjustments and their calendar slowly moved backwards returning to its original point every 1460 years.

The use of lunar calendars continued till the first century when Rome began making changes. By the time Julius Caesar came into power, the calendar was at least three months off of the seasons. So the leading astronomer of the time recommended they add 90 days to the year and begin the new calendar on January 1, 45 BC.  They based the new calendar on 365 day 6 hour long solar year.  This was approx. 12 minutes off so it took 130 years to become one day off.

At about the same time Julius Caesar developed his calendar, the Mayans created their own calendar made up of 18 months with 20 days in each month but they had to add 5 days at the end of the year to even it out.  People believed these extra 5 days were unlucky. 

The next major calendar began in 1582 when they added 10 days to the calendar going from October 5th to October 15th immediately.  Pope Gregory's astronomers came up with the idea that if the number of year is divisible by 4, then it had an extra day and the year became known as leap year.  2018 is not a leap year but 2020 is.  Not every country jumped on with the new calendar.  It took Great Britain till 1752 to adopt the new one but by then, they were 11 days off of those who used the Gregorian Calendar.  Russia never changed over until the revolution in 1918 which made for confusing dates and such.

I hope you enjoyed the brief history of calendars.  I hope you learned something because I did.  Have a great day.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

15 Weird New Years Traditions

New Year'S Eve, Leipzig, Fireworks, Fire  Yesterday, I shared information on a few of the more traditional beliefs at New Years.  Today, I'm looking at some of the weirder traditions.  As stated yesterday, my mother eats black eyed peas but I didn't tell you about the family tradition of having a piece of pickled herring in your mouth at midnight exactly.

She said it was a German tradition but I don't know because the family has been over in the states for several generations.  So on to some unique traditions used to celebrate the changing of the year.

1.  In Denmark they save all their old or unused dishes and plates to break on December 31st when they shatter them against doors of families and friends. The more smashed china on your porch, the more popular you are considered.

2. In Ecuador, they guarantee good fortune by burning paper filled scarecrows at midnight along with old photographs.  This is a family activity where they build the scarecrows together in preparation for the evening celebrations.

3. In Spain, it is the tradition to inhale 12 green grapes over the first 12 seconds of the new year. If you do not, you may have bad luck during the next year.  The 12 grapes represent the 12 months of the year.  Rumor has it, that wine makers created this tradition to increase the number of grapes eaten in the winter.

4. In the Philippines, they believe a person should have round items such as fruits or clothing because round means cash which is wealth. 

5. In many South American countries, it is the habit to wear a specifically colored underwear to provide luck for the coming year.  Red underwear means you'll find love while gold means wealth, and white is for peace.

6. In Japan, they ring every bell 108 times because it brings cleanliness for the coming year.  In addition, if you smile into the next year, it brings good luck.

7. In a small Peruvian village, people engage in fist fights to settle their issues so when the new year begins, they have a clean slate and can be friends again.

8. In Bolivia, they bake coins in the cake.  Who ever gets the coins are believed to have good luck in the upcoming year.

9. In Columbia, they carry a suitcase with them all day in the hopes they will have a travel filled year.

10.  In Denmark, people jump from the top of chairs to jump in the New Year.  This supposedly brings good luck to them in the new year.

11. In Chile, families spend the night of New Years Eve in the cemetery next to their deceased relatives.

12. In Ireland, they take bread and hit the walls of a house with it to rid the house  of evil spirits.

13. In Finland, they pour liquid metal into water and interpret the resulting shapes to tell what the future year will bring.

14. In Scotland, the first person who crosses the thresh hold brings a gift with them.

15. In Estonia, they eat seven times on New Years day to bring abundance to themselves.

I checked into the herring and in Germany, Poland, and Scandinavia, it is believed one should eat a piece of herring at the stroke of midnight to bring a year of bounty.  So my mother was correct and she still does it even though she's quite old.  She's just added the black eyed peas to the mix.

Let me know what you think.  I"d love to hear.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

History of New Years Traditions

Fireworks, Night, Celebration, New, Year  Every New Year's eve, most families stay up late to watch the ball in times square drop, have a bit of champagne, and share your resolutions which won't last very long but where did some of these traditions come from.

Growing up, watching the ball being dropped in Times square was a must along with singing Auld Lang Syne but I never gave it any thought on their history.

So a bit of history beginning with Times Square and moving on.

Since the Times Square has been present for my whole life, I shall start with that.  Although there has been a celebration in Times Square since 1904, the bell made its first appearance in 1907 because the city outlawed fire works.  The city arranged to lower a ball made of wood and iron, decorated with 100 25watt lights.  It had a diameter of 5 feet while weighing 700 pounds.  There have been 7 balls over its history, including the time it was used as part of the "I love New York" campaign.  A ball has been dropped every year except for 1942 and 1943 due to World War II.

Auld Lang Syne, the traditional song associated with New Years Eve means "for old times sake".  It is attributed to Robert Burns but according to the Scotland page, in 1788, he sent the words to the Scottish Music Museum because these words came from an old song and he was the first to record the words.

The song carries a tradition of standing in a circle, holding hands while welcoming the new year.  The custom started in Scotland but spread across the English speaking world to the point it has become a tradition.

Then there is kissing at midnight, the fun part when you are not a drinker.  According to historians, kissing at midnight can be traced back to the Romans who loved kissing and other sexual things to welcome in the New Year.  Over time, the tradition evolved to kissing the first person you met when the bells rang at midnight.  This European version included a masked ball because the mask symbolized evil and when they removed the mask at midnight to kiss the first person, it was considered an act of purification. This kiss was believed to strengthen relationships. 

My mother is a die hard black eyed peas at midnight fan along with a couple other things but I think she picked it up when she lived in Texas.  The idea behind this tradition is if you eat as if poor on New Year's eve, you'll be rich the rest of the year.  As to how the tradition started, that is lost in the mists of time.  Some think it dates back to the civil war, when food crops were destroyed by the Northern army and the only thing to survive was black eyed peas also known as cowpeas, china peas or southern peas.

More tomorrow on strange New Years traditions.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Desperation Made Me Do It!!!!!!!!!

Tundra from helicopter
 The winter is horrid and unpredictable.  We've gotten snow but it has not lasted very long because the temperatures rise, it all melts, temperatures fall and everything freezes.

So air travel and mail has been unpredictable and sporadic.  The semester ended on Wednesday, December 20th and several teachers including myself had set our tickets to leave on the evening flight.

Unfortunately between the morning flight and my flight, weather crapped out and nothing flew.  So we moved everything to the next day.  Thursday morning the morning flight for one of the airlines came out as scheduled but turned around when they were about 20 minutes out of the village because the runway was iced over and had not been taken care of.

It turns out the man who prepares the runway for landing was on that flight so the airline agent called the Department of Transportation to get permission for a nonDOT person to clean the runway.  It took a bit of time but she got permission to do it and the runway got cleared.  Unfortunately, by the time the planes got there, the ceiling had dropped, the wind came up, and snow blew every which way.  So all flights were cancelled for the day.

Loading up the helicopter.
On Friday morning we checked in but were told that due to weather in Bethel, they were not sure we'd be traveling.  sure enough, the morning flight was canceled around 10:00.  We swore and then got busy. We checked charter service and book a plane for Saturday.

However, one of the girls decided to check the local helicopter place because helicopters do not need a runway and can fly in weather planes can't.  Five of us agreed to split the cost and by 1 PM, the helicopter had landed on the old runway.  Yeah.

When the helicopter landed, half the village emerged from their houses and either ran up the hill or jumped on the back of a four wheeler to rush up and check out the event.  A couple people let us know that if we'd told them we were chartering a helicopter, they'd have paid part of the cost to get family members home since it would probably be sometime after Christmas before they could get home.

It would have cut the nearly $1000 cost per person but we were desperate to get out and visit our families that it was worth it to us.  As soon as the helicopter landed, we were told that they couldn't head out again due to weather.  In addition, all flights out of Bethel to Anchorage had been cancelled and everyone worried that our flight (the last one of the evening) would be canceled. 

Fortune smiled on us and we made it along with as many people from earlier flights as possible.  The plane took off an hour late but we didn't care.  We made out!!!!!  We've decided that next year, we are going to charter a plane to take us out as soon as school ends for the holidays.  We do not want to get stuck again.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear

Friday, December 22, 2017

Boxing Day

Box, Boxing Match, Uppercut  Contrary to its name, Boxing day did not get its name from a bunch of drunk relatives who get mad with each other, nor is it named as the day to rid the house of all the boxes from opening presents.  It does not celebrate the sport although my father would love it if it were since its his favorite sport. 

It is celebrated the day after Christmas in the United Kingdom and other former British colonies.  Since 1871, its been celebrated as a Bank Holiday, giving people a longer holiday.

But where and when did it start?  How did it get its name?  What's it for?  Well if you have ever watched the television show MASH, they'd tell you it is when the enlisted men take over and run things while the officers do the work.

Its origins are shrouded in history but most agree it is a day to give the less fortunate presents.  Some of the suggested origins include:

1. Members of the merchant class gave boxes of fruit and food to servants and tradespeople as a tip of gratitude for the work done the previous year. Its like tipping the paperboy $15.00 for the great job he did.

2. It is a day when Christmas celebrations are done and the lord of the manor passes out the surfs allotment for the following year before they spread out across land.

3. The day after Christmas, servants arrived at work with small boxes for their employer to drop coins into as a gift.

4.  Churches have boxes for people to drop coins in and on the day after Christmas, boxes are opened and the funds distributed to the poor.

All of these possible origins, have the same type of philosophy of the wealthy giving to those who are in need.  Along the way, Boxing day has become associated with other events.  One such event is fox hunting but it was outlawed about 10 years ago.  The people who are unwilling to give it up, have made modifications to the tradition fox hunt so it meets current laws.

In addition, some crazy events have evolved such as horse racing, foot ball matches and swimming in the English Channel.  Sounds a bit like many of the American traditions such as watching football all day and Polar bear plunges.

I hope you liked this brief history.  Have a great day.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Radium Girls

Watch, Dial, Black, Carbon, Glow, Dark  About 100 years ago, someone managed to create a mixture that when painted on the face of a watch, made it glow in the dark.  Unfortunately, it created some issues companies refused to acknowledge until well many years later.

In 1917, about 20 years after the Curie's discovered radioactivity, society accepted it as the "Thing" for  everyone.

In 1917, The United States Radium Corporation (USRC) in New Jersey, hired young women to had paint a radium mixture onto the faces of watches so they glowed in the dark.  There was not shortage of willing workers because they wanted to do their patriotic duty for World War I. 

In addition, the job paid three times the going factory rate so it was considered an elitist job.  Women could gain financial freedom working there.  Women who were hired, told family and friends and the company had no trouble finding and keeping workers.

 The process was not that complex.  It required women to use their lips to shape the brush before dipping it in the radium mixture and painstakingly paint a watch face.  They repeated the process every time they needed to add more paint to the brush.  One immediate side effect was that the painters glowed by the end of their shift thus they were dubbed the "ghost girls"

The women took full advantage of the nickname by dressing well before going out for the evening. Instead of using Vaseline on their teeth, they used the radium paint.  Unfortunately, it wasn't long before women began getting sick.  These sick women suffered the same symptoms of loose achy teeth, swollen jaws, infected pussy ulcers sprouting in the mouth where teeth had fallen out, limbs aching so much a person couldn't walk.  Eventually, the bones began disappearing as the disease ate the body until the person died.

Although the women asked if the process was dangerous, they'd been told no because it was believed that a small amount of radium was good for the health.  The company felt the girls would be exposed to such a minute amount, it wasn't a problem.  By 1924, enough girls had died that the company paid for an independent study which confirmed a link between the radium paint and the health issues resulting in death of the workers.

The company's president was so incensed he commissioned a second study to support his position.  In addition, he lied to the Department of Labor and in the process buried the initial report.  This meant, women had a harder time proving the link. 

By this point more women were displaying health issues.  As the radium built up, it settled into the bodies emitting radiation throughout the bodies to the point of boring holes in their bones while alive.  This resulted in spines being crushed, bones spontaneously fracturing, jaws being eaten away, and cancers erupting on the body.

Many girls discovered their bones glowed when they stood in a dark room or they glowed in a dark room when they got up at night.  By now, they realized they were poisoned and dying.  So the women banded together to fight the injustice. They had issues finding a lawyer who was willing to handle their case and they ran up against the statue of limitations for occupational poisoning.  The limit of two years wasn't long enough because radiation poisoning took 5 years for symptoms to show.

Eventually, they found a young lawyer in 1927 to handle their cases but many of these women had been given only 4 months to live. The company did its best to drag the case out so the women were forced to settle out of court but they made the public aware of radium poisoning. 

Another firm located in Illinois went even further than USRC to protect themselves from the public knowledge of radium poisoning.  Even though their own medical tests showed the women had radium poisoning, they denied the results, took out full page ads, and went so far as to steal bodies from the medical examiner.

By 1938, if women were not dying of weakened bones, they died of huge cancerous tumors found in various locations on the bodies.  Another women who was slowly dying of radium poisoning, filed suite and her case went to court.  She testified from her deathbed and won the case. This win made companies responsible for the health of their workers, and new regulations were passed.  This also lead to the establishment of OSHA.

The bodies of these girls contained so much radiation that if you held a Geiger counter over their graves today, you would notice a significant amount being emitted.  What is sad is at the time, it was known that large amounts could hurt you but society thought a little was good for you.  It was added to makeup, water, butter and other items so most companies felt the amount the girls got on a brush was negligible but they didn't take into account the repeated exposure to it. Even the man who crated the paint died of radiation poisoning.

This is a sad part of American History.  Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The British Free Corps

Landing Craft, Omaha Beach, Normandy  I  love watching the reruns of Foyle's War, a wonderful series from the BBC that lasted something like 8 or 9 seasons.  In one of the later seasons, there was an episode involving a young man accused of being a member of the British Free Corps. 

Due to this reference, I investigated the group and learned something about World War II, I'd never known before.

The British Free Corps, originally known as the British Legion of St. George, was the brain child of John Amery, the son of the Minister to India. 

This young man wandered around Europe.  John felt the world faced  Jewish/Russian plot to overthrow western civilization and made his views known.  The Nazis heard about it and invited him to Berlin to become part of the propaganda machine because they felt it would look good to have the son of a British Minister supporting the Nazi cause.

John arrived in 1942 and promptly began broadcasting on the New British Broadcasting Station providing support for the Nazis.  Shortly there after, he was sent to Paris to recruit pro-Nazi Frenchmen to fight in the Foreign Legion to fight with the SS but only a few people joined.  So he proposed starting the British Legion of St. George to be filled with British citizens recruited from the prisoners of war.

He offered them immediate release if they joined but he had little success this time.  Only one person took him up on his offer, so the Nazis recalled him to Berlin. The Nazis became more involved in recruiting and by mid 1943, the Legion had recruited 12 men.

 In late 1943, they renamed it the British Free Corps and provided a gray uniform similar to the one worn by the Waffen - SS but with the Union Jack on one sleeve, a collar patch of three lions or three leopards and a cuff with ‘Britische Freikorps’ on it.  To make it more attractive, they created two "Holiday" camps with English speaking guards who helped gather information from these men. 

Many of those who joined, did so because they sympathized with the Nazi cause, or they were fascists,  or because they'd been promised food, clothing, and women. Although 59 men served at various times, there were never more than 27 in the unit at any one time.  By 1944, when the British began invading, members of the British Free Corps refused to fight their own, because when they joined they believed they would be fighting the Russians to prevent the spread of communism and not fighting the British. The Nazis sent them to the Russian Front but they never actually saw much action.

At the end of the war, men who fought in the British Free Corps were arrested.  Some were released while others received a prison sentence.   However, John Amery was arrested, tried, and hung because it was felt he made a conscientious decision to aid the Nazis and was guilty of treason. 

I hope you enjoyed reading a taste of history on this unit.  I had fun writing it. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Phossy Jaw

Match, Wood, Fire, Stick, Matchstick  The other day, I was rewatching one of the earlier seasons of "Call The Midwife", when one of the sisters made comment about watching a girl die as her bones disintegrated from inside out from making matchsticks.

Her comment had me checking the validity of the statement.  It is quite true.  "Phossy Jaw" is the English term used to refer to the effects on the body of the people who put phosphorus on the end of a piece of wood when producing matches.

The earliest matches were deadly to make and almost as bad to light.  The first self lighting matches didn't appear until 1805, when a Frenchman invented them by using a mixture of potassium chloride, sulfur, sugar, and rubber.  To light it, a person had to stick the match in sulfuric acid which produced a flame and chlorine dioxide, a very flammable gas.  Unfortunately, these were unstable and often exploded.

It wasn't until 1830, that another Frenchman managed to design a self lighting match using white phosphorus.  These could be lit anywhere, were easy and cheap to make, and became quite popular.  Consequently, hundreds of factories sprung up all across England.  Women and children worked 12 to 16 hours a day just dipping stick after stick in a phosphorus mixture before drying and cutting them to place in small boxes.

The workers were paid very little and over half were quite young.  The workers were crammed into dark, poorly ventilated factories and often got tuberculosis, rickets, and "Phossy Jaw".  Although phosphorus is needed by the human body, too much of it can be toxic. 

Breathing in the fumes could cause inflammation of the lungs and other lung diseases. In addition, they might have florescent vomit, bluish breath, or possibly glow around the mouth. The dust that hung in the factories, caused the buildings to glow and it coated workers so when they returned home at night they almost glowed in the dark.

Unfortunately, when the phosphorus made its way into a worker's body, it often settled in the jaw, preventing teeth from remaining healthy.  Eventually, infection set in and the jaw began designating. The first symptoms included toothaches, swollen gums, loose teeth, and abscesses surround the infections.   Then teeth fell out, bone became exposed as the gums receded and the bone glowed.  Eventually, the rotted tissue falls away and emits a horrible odor and the only solution was to amputate the jaw.

The condition usually appeared within 5 years of initial exposure.  At the time, society compared those suffering from this disease with those who contracted leprosy due to the fact both cause a physical disfigurement.  Although it was well known that the white phosphorus used in match making caused Phossy Jaw by the mid 19th century, the government did not outlaw it until 1910.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a similar event that happened in the United States.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, December 18, 2017

HIstory of New Year's Resolutions.

Design, 2017, 2018, New Year I've often wondered how the tradition of making New Year's resolutions have come about.  Its just something I've done all my life because my parents did it and encouraged me to do it.  Of course, I didn't get good at keeping my resolutions until I got out of the house and gained some self discipline.

The tradition of making resolutions has been a round for a very long time, since the Babylonians.  Their New Year was in mid march when they had a 12 day long celebration during which time they recognized the rebirth of the natural world by planting crops, crown an new king or reaffirm the power of the current king, make promises to their god, and pay back debts. They are said to be the first ones to celebrate the new year and make resolutions.

Julius Caesar moved the new year to January 1st in 46 B.C. because the month of January held special significance having been named after their god Janus.  They believed he looked back into the past year and into the future of the new year.  They made promises for the new year in the hopes he would look favorably at them. In order to accomplish this, he let the previous year go for 455 days.

During the middle ages, it was common for knights to renew their vows of Chivalry and to commit to another year of service.  For early Christians, the new year became a time to think about past mistakes and behavior and to resolve to do better in the new year.  In 1740, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, began holding New Year's services filled with prayer, biblical readings, and singing of hymns held on New Year's eve or New Year's day.

It wasn't until 1813 that the phrase "New Years Resolution" appeared in a Boston newspaper by a writer who commented on people who partied through December but when January 1st came around, they made resolutions of good behavior for the future.

Current figures state although about one third of the population actually makes resolutions, only eight percent follow through on it.  So if you don't succeed in fulfilling your resolutions, don't feel bad.  We are all human. 

Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 15, 2017

New Years Resolutions

New Year'S Day, 2018, New Year'S Eve  New Year's day signals the end of the Christmas season for most of us.  January first, we will have made a list of things we want to change through the simple act of making a resolution.

Often people throw themselves into making the changes and burn out by March, giving up on the changes.  Making a resolution is like making a promise to change habits but its too hard if your list of resolutions rival the book Gone With The Wind. 

The best way to succeed in fulfilling your resolutions is to remember a few things when setting them.

1.  Keep your list simple.  Look at choosing only two or three of the most important goals so you don't get overwhelmed.  It is often harder to meet goals if you have twenty listed versus only two or three.  In addition, it is easier to focus on a few and do a better job.

2. Choose the ones on the list which will have the most impact on your life such as starting to exercise can improve your health, help you feel better about yourself, help you loose weight and make you proud.

3. Be realistic when choosing the goals.  Sometimes it is better to choose a set of short term goals which lead to one long term goal.  You have to figure out how to accomplish the goal, before setting the first goal towards the over all goal.  Once you meet the first goal, go on to the second goal.

4.  Break each goal down into manageable chunks, such as you want to loose 150 lbs this year.  Start with maybe 5 pounds which is easy to accomplish, repeat.  Or if your resolution is to exercise 5 days a week for an hour each time, begin with something smaller like 10 minutes every day or even every other day. 

5.  Establish a time line as it helps you keep track of your short term goals.  It allows you to plan when each goal should be met and gives you something to look back at to see how you are doing.

6. Write down your resolutions in a book.  Include motivations for the resolutions.  Make it a scrap book filled with pictures, notes on your success, etc.  Its shows your journey towards fulfilling your resolution.

7. Arrange to treat yourself only at milestones so you recognize your accomplishment but don't fall into the trap of sabotaging yourself.

8. Set up a support system so if you get off track, you have someone there to help you when you hit the hard times.  Make sure the people you choose understand they are there to help you with moral support.

9. Never give up.  There will be the occasional slips that happen.  Don't give up if that happens.  Admit it happens and get up and start again.  Unfortunately, most of us think we shouldn't ever mess up and feel as if we're failures when in reality its just a small misstep in the whole picture.

10.  Finally, take charge and be responsible. Do not blame everyone else if you slip.  Admit it and move on. 

I hope this helps those of you who make resolutions and tend to fail.  I still have to make my list but it won't be more than a couple things.  I do not wait for New Years to make a change.  I decide on what I want to do and begin on Sunday morning. 

Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Way Word Radio

Hands, Words, Meaning, Fingers  Every Saturday Morning, I get a call from a family member.  Every time he calls, he has a radio show blaring in the background loud enough for me to clearly hear it.  It's called Way Word Radio.

The radio program describes itself as "a public radio program about language examined through history, culture, and family.  

The program looks at the origin of words, sayings, and talks about language that is disappearing due to time.  People call in to ask questions, share things they've found on words or poems.  The program also shares information on laws dealing with names or words.

To be more precise the two hosts, Grant and Martha who examine how the language is changing via pop culture, sports, science, music and the arts, current events, politics, family sayings and language use, proverbs, history of language usage, dialects, regional language usages, etc.

It is quite fascinating. It is not on my local radio station but it is on his.  I get to listen to it when he calls.  Its fun because at time there is silence during the conversation while we both listen to a piece on the show.

Some of the words and phrases they have discussed recently include:

1. In the military if you loose your bubble, you've lost your bearings.

2. Catch you on the flip side refers to the side B of a single.  Records are making a comeback but not everywhere. With digitized music, its no longer recognizable.

3. Death cleaning has nothing to do with dead bodies but with downsizing and getting rid of all the crud people have built up over a life time.

4. The term flea market meaning an outdoor market set up where second hand and discount items are sold probably came from a Dutch term that sounds similar.

5. Scuttlebutt refers to a water filled casket on board ship and is used for gossip usually around a water cooler.

6. Jetsam is the stuff thrown off a sinking ship while flotsam refers to the remains of the shipwreck. 

7. Eavesdropping came about to describe people who stood outside a window to listen in.  Now it just means listening in.

They have earlier episodes on their website broken down by topic so you can listen to the whole thing or to just parts of it.  You can also find them on iTunes, or get their app to listen to their show.  They have a store with swag and a dictionary with some unusual terms, some of which I've never heard of such a Plaming.

Go check it out to see if it is on your local public radio station or just check it out to see if it fullfils your desire to learn more.  Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Where Do Some of Our Christmas Traditions Come From? Part 2.

Christmas, Decoration, Gift, Hang  Today, I'll provide additional information on where some of our Christmas originated.  Its always interesting to me to find out the history of various traditions.

1. The use of the  Christmas Tree as an evergreen has been around for centuries because it was used to decorate the houses as a reminder that spring would come.  There are stories of the evergreen trees appearing in various celebrations and pictures but Christmas tree appeared in Germany where they were decorated with edibles and small glass decorations by the early 1600's.

The first real use that popularized the tradition occurred in England in the first half of the 19th century when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband) had a tree set up at Windsor Castle in 1848.  A drawing of the family and the tree appeared in local papers and in 1850, the same drawing appeared in an American publication, popularizing the tradition in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

2. Leaving milk and cookies out for Santa may date back to Norse times when they believed that Odin had an eight legged horse called Sleipner.  Children would leave treats out for the horse hoping that Odin would leave gifts for them. The practice became popular again during the depression  because parents wanted to impress on children they should be grateful for anything they got.

3. Apparently, Christmas cards originated in England in 1843 when a civil servant set up the first post office and wondered how he could get common people to start using the service.  He got an artist friend to create the first cards, he sold at one shilling each.  The first card had three panels, two of which showed people helping out the poor while the middle panel showed a large family having Christmas dinner and at the bottom it read "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You".  There were only a thousand printed then but only a few still exist.

It wasn't long before Christmas carols appeared in the United States but they were extremely expensive.  As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became more common and the cost of mailing a card dropped in price so it was more easily afforded.  By the 1870's a man from Germany began mass producing cards so more people could afford them and they took off.   Annie Oakley is responsible for personalized cards when she sent cards from Scotland back to her family in the states in 1891.  Her cards had a picture of herself on the front.

The tradition of placing seals or stickers on Christmas cards began in early 1900's in Denmark as a way of raising funds for charities.  The idea was so successful that four million were sold in its first year.

4.  Christmas candy canes appears to have originated in Germany just over 250 years ago as straight white sugar sticks. The story goes that a choir master in 1690 was worried about his young singers being able to sit through the service so he made the sticks a J shape to remind them of the shepherds with their crooks.   Since the earliest records date from about 200 years later, this is probably not true.

Records indicate they began again in the late 19th century but the red stripes were not added till the early 1900's when they were flavored with peppermint or wintergreen.  In 1920 a man began making them for friends and families but a machine to automatically turn them into the shape J did not come till a bit later when his brother in law designed it.  Eventually the business became known as Bob's Candies which was sold out in 2005.

I hope you enjoyed these stories.  Tomorrow I'm going to look at a program that looks at the origin of words in the English language.  Let me know what you think.  Have a good day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Where Do Some of Our Christmas Traditions Come From? Part 1.

  Christmas is rapidly approaching.  Time to pull out the tree, the decorations, even the mistletoe to hand in the corner for Uncle George.  I look at these because its the predominant theme at this time of year.  Look at the stores, the television, even listen to the radio.

I thought I'd take a look at where some of the Christmas traditions come from and add information on their meanings.

1. Mistletoe is found growing on apple, willow, and oak trees.  Hanging mistletoe in the house dates back to the time of the Druids when they believed the mistletoe protected the house and brought good luck.  In addition, Norse Mythology has mistletoe as a symbol of love and friendship thus the kissing under it.

2. Father Christmas, Santa Claus, and St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas lived in what is now Turkey in the fourth century. He came from a rich family.  The story goes that a poor man with three daughters was sad because he did not have enough money for a dowry for his daughters so they could not get married.  One night, St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the chimney so it fell into a stocking that had been hung to try out.  The man had money for a dowry for his oldest. It happened again for his second daughter at which point he decided to hide and wait until he discovered St. Nicholas was the one dropping the coins.  He begged the poor man to keep it a secret but it got out.  So anytime someone received a gift from an unknown person, they said it came from him.

The other version of the story is that he believed childhood should be enjoyed because many children were working by the age of 10.  So he went around giving out homemade clothing, furniture, and foods.  He was especially known for giving out oranges by putting them in stockings by the fire place.  It is said this is where hanging stocking up by the fire place originated.

The Dutch apparently took St. Nicholas and put their own spin on him as Sinterklaas a man who delivered gifts to those who were good and willow canes and Jute bags to those who were naughty.  In addition, St Nicholas evolved into Father Christmas in Britain, a character in plays from the middle ages but came into his full potential in the 17th century.  Santa Claus is the American version who has been in the states since the 18th century.  it is believed that Santa Claus evolved from Sinterklaas.

3.  Christmas Carols came out of the original religious music in fourth century Rome and were sung at Christmas services in latic.  By the thirteenth century, what we know as Christmas carols began appearing in France, Germany, and Italy.  They were written in the local vernacular and used for all sorts of events and celebrations.

Caroling did not begin till the 19th century in Victorian England when people got together to carol for any celebration.  It became popular for Christmas when the holiday turned more commercialized.

More tomorrow.  I hope you enjoyed this.  Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Room Temperature Yogurts

Raspberries, Yogurt, Nature, Frisch  I love yogurt, especially when its homemade but I don't always have time to make it. That is until I discovered a type that is easy to make, fits in with my schedule so I can have fresh yogurt every day.

There are two types of yogurt.  The first one is the one we are most familiar with.  Its classified as thermophilic which requires a certain amount of heat to set. 

The usual way for this yogurt is to get a variety of yogurt with live cultures, heat the milk, add the starter, put in jars and heat over night until they set.  The other choice on this type of yogurt is to buy a dried starter that is added to the heated milk.  You can get Bulgarian, or Greek, or other variety, each of which produces a specific flavor.

Unfortunately, most of the store bought yogurts use bacteria which lasts only one or two generations but eventually looses its power to regenerate. For the most part the bacteria has been  selected to create a specific type of yogurt so it doesn't have the same staying power as the older types of yogurt. 

On the other hand, if you buy a heirloom variety, you can keep using one batch to start the next batch again and again without having to buy a new starter, every two to six generations.  Heirloom varieties can be either thermophilic or mesophilic

 Mesophilic is a type which sets at room temperature.  This means you just add the starter to milk, let it sit out for a few hours and it sets.  I've been using this type for the past two months and really enjoying it. The variety of yogurt I use is from Scandinavia.

I got my starter from a company on Amazon.  The directions said I should not use boxed (ultra pasteurized) milk but living out in the middle of nowhere, that is the only type of milk I have access to other than the evaporated canned milk.  Both work so I get more of a yogurt drink which I enjoy having with my dinner every day.  It does not work as well with powdered milk.  I think it goes through the milk faster so I have to put it in the fridge much sooner.

When my starter arrived, I chose a packet, stirred it into about 1.5 cups of milk, covered it with a towel and let it set overnight till I had a thick mixture.  I threw it in the fridge for a day or two and then had it.  I love it as its not really acidic.  The variety I selected seems to have a sweetish taste to it.

I grab a cup at dinner time, leave a bit, pour more milk in and cover.  By the morning, I have a nice batch and it seems to be reproducing as well as it did on the first day. This batch is several weeks old and going strong.

Its consistency is much like the yogurt I had in Iceland and Finland at breakfast in the hotels. Since its not extremely thick, I can drink it, use it on my serial, add it to any recipe which calls for yogurt such as bread or cakes and it works wonderfully.  I'm now a believer in this type of yogurt. 

I'd tell you the exact type but I just grabbed a packet and used it before I could figure out which one of the four varieties in the box.  I plan to take some with me this Christmas holidays so I can try it with the milk in gallon containers.

This type does work with soy milk but I don't like the flavor it produces.  I tried it with Almond milk but again it doesn't work.  Next thing on my list is to try the yogurt starter for nondairy milks to see what type of product that produces.  I might try starting some in a day or two.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Plum Pudding.

Pudding, Plum, Bake, Food, Celebration I don't remember what I was reading but the character in the book commented there are no plums in plum pudding but I remember a rhyme where Little Jack Horner stuck his thumb in the pudding and pulled out a plum. So what is the truth?

In reality, pudding is the English term for dessert but over time, its come to mean a specific type of dessert.  Figgy Pudding or Plum Pudding are a specific cake like version of Christmas Pudding.

It is traditionally made of dried fruit such as figs, plums, raisins and prunes mixed with eggs, citrus zest, nuts, breadcrumbs, and suet.  Once its mixed up, it is placed in a pan, covered with parchment paper before being steamed for a long time, till done.

Its often made anywhere between four weeks and a year ahead of time.  When ready to serve it, it is placed on a plate, doused in brandy, then lit before being served.  It can be served with a brandy butter, hard sauce, or custard.

It is believed that the person who makes it and any family member who stirs the batter should make a wish.  Furthermore, it is traditional to place a coin in the batter before being cooked. The person who gets the coin is said to get good luck throughout the following year.

The earliest records indicate the dish has been around since the 15th century as a plum pottage a mixture of meat and root vegetables often served at the beginning of the meal.  Plum simply referred to dried fruit.  By the 16th century, dried fruit was much more available so the dish moved to being a sweet.

In addition, the invention of the floured cloth, made plum pudding easier to fix since the cloth  could hold and keep it.  This meant the pudding required fewer animal products although suet, the fat around the kidneys is still a key ingredient.

By 1647, this particular dish has such an association with Christmas that Oliver Cromwell prohibited it along with carol singing, Yule logs, and nativity scenes.  Within 13 years, he was deposed and the regular Monarchy returned along with the pudding, carols, and nativity scenes. 

It wasn't until Victorian times, when journalists, writers, and politicians worked to standardize the family Christmas.  Among the poor, saving clubs sprung up so women could save money so they could purchase the ingredients needed for a proper Christmas dinner including the pudding.

Due to its nature, it could be shipped overseas to sailors and military men so they could enjoy something of home during the holiday season. Over the years, the recipe has changed so its less globby and much easier to eat.  Its even possible to find both vegetarian and vegan versions of this historical dish.

One of my aunts had her version for this particular dish but it resembled my mother's fruit cake.  Both were heavy and better suited for door stops.  Check back on Monday for a quick look at the history of fruitcake.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear from you. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Turn Pen, Manga, Anime, Digital Design  Japanese animation has become all the rage.  With this has come the explosion of Manga.  At one time, it could only be found at specialty shops but now its available at regular books stores, libraries, and Amazon.

In addition to being the usual books we are used to seeing, you can even find manga books on technical topics such as the Manga guide to data bases or microprocessors.

The term Manga refers to any type of cartoons, comics or animation.  It is made of of two different Kanji symbols, Man referring to whimsical or  impromptu while ga means picture.  It is only outside of Japan that Manga is used to describe comics while anime covers cartoons or animated forms of manga.

Where did manga come from.  What made it explode in popularity?  It is believed the first manga appeared in scrolls back in the 12th and 13th centuries featuring frogs and rabbits.  Manga artists used the same technique as used by early artists to make these animals appear as if they were running.

The term was first used in 1798 with a picture book Shiji no Yukikai or Four Seasons.  In 1814, the term appeared in the title of a book by Aikawa Mina's books.  Manga appeared over time but it wasn't until Japan found itself occupied by the United States that it began its explosion.

Americans provided comics such as Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, and Bambi which made a great impression on Japanese artists.  They started publishing their own comics in newspapers and magazines which evolved into weekly and monthly comic books featuring 10 to 20 series installments per edition.

Between 1950 and 1969, manga evolved into two main types, one aimed at boys while the other was aimed at girls but the boys style was subdivided into that for boys 18 and under,  young men in the 18 to 30 age group, and those over 30 or adult males.  It wasn't until 1969 that female manga artists started really making a splash in the field.

Currently, Japanese Manga is breaking publish records with its series running from two to twenty volumes.  It is extremely popular and is read by people of all ages.  The interesting thing about most of the traditional manga books translated into English is they are read in the reverse order from back to front just like regular Japanese books.

Let me know what you think.  Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Versions of The 12 Days of Christmas.

Wedding Rings, Rose, Rings, Gold Rings  When I was growing up in Hawaii, Santa arrived on a Surfboard and the Twelve Days of Christmas had a local flavor. 

Instead of the partridge in a pear tree, we had a mynah bird in a papaya true.  Instead of my true love, we had my tutu.  All twelve verses use something local including 5 big fat pigs. coconuts, dried squid, televisions, missionaries, etc. 

For quite a long time, I thought that was the official version.  By the time I was 15, I knew about the original version.  I learned about it through watching specials on television so it was a real education.  I know that there are other versions I intend to share with people in today's writings.

Other places have localized the lyrics for their places such as Australia which has an emu in up a gum tree, pink galahs, kookaburras,  wombats, lizards, dingoes, koalas, and other native animals.  That is not a version I heard when I lived there but I didn't listen to the radio station either.

Bob and Doug MacKenzie had a Canadian version with beer, french toast, turtlenecks, smokes, torques, etc.  There is another version called A Porcupine in a Pine tree which is a bit more Canadian with its porcupine in a pine tree, caribou, beaver tails, moose, loons, Mounties, etc.  There is a third version called A Moose in a Maple tree where a Canuck gave skiers, salmon, sled dogs, Mounties, and a moose in a maple tree along with several other things.

Since the explosion of cartoons and television shows, it seams as if each show has its own version from Inspector Gadget, to the Magic School Bus, Nickelodeon version, Garfield, and Ren and Stimpy version but as you know there are other versions that have been around for a while.

Other folks have adjusted the song to fit their characters such as Jeff Foxworthy who has a redneck version with mustang parts, probation, spam, and wrestling tickets, or the Twisted Sister version complete with skull earrings, black mascara, and a tattoo of Ozzie Osbourne. 

Then there is Bob River's version called the Twelve Pains of Christmas, or the ever popular John Denver with the Muppets and Miss Piggy's 5 Gold Rings.  Finally, you've got the odd ones like the version from the television show Scrubs, or the version using Zombies, Marshmallows Christmas Sock

As far as regular versions, there are differences depending on who sang it and when they did it.  for instance, in 1892 a Scottish poet recorded a version featuring a peacock in a pear tree, while an article in the Cliftonian, a British magazine, stated the author heard a version sung in rural Gloucestershire which had eight hares a running and eleven badgers baiting. The earliest American version printed in a folk song book from 1900 but attributed to about 1800 in Salem Mass. has ten cocks a crowing, nine bears a baiting, eight hounds a running, and seven squabs a swimming. 

I'm sure there ar tons of other versions out there I've missed.  I hope you enjoyed a quick look at versions which exist other than the standard accepted version.  Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The 12 Days of Christmas

Ring, Gold, Middle Earth, Golden Ring  The Christmas season is rapidly approaching.  Just the other day, I heard this song played over the radio reminding me that I don't know much about the song other than its one we sang growing up.

Apparently, the 12 days of Christmas refers to the time beginning December 25th and ending January 6th or Twelfth night historically.

Although no  one is sure of its history, there are indications it dates from the 16th century but the first printed version is found in a children's book from 1780 called Mirth With-Out Mischief.  Some people believe the song is french in origin but everyone agrees it is a memory for forfeits game where people paid a forfeit if they could not remember all the lyrics. 

They way the game worked is a leader would state the first verse, people would repeat it.  The leader would then add the next verse so people had two verses to repeat until someone made a mistake and forfeited a kiss or candy or something else. The reason it is suspected the song is french in origin is due to certain references such as a partridge in a pear tree.  The partridge itself did not arrive in England from France until the 1770's. 

There is also a rumor out this song has hidden meaning for Christians because  it appears to have become popular when Catholics were being prosecuted but there is no solid evidence one way or the other. it is possible this concept is confused with a different song called In Those Twelve Days dating back to 1625.  This song assigns religious meanings to each of the days and is performed in question and answer form.

It is also known that the version we sing today is not necessarily the same version sung decades ago. Some versions mention bears a baiting or ships a sailing while others refer to four colly birds which are known as blackbirds.  Its thought the 5 golden rings actually refers to ring necked pheasant.  In addition, some versions have my mother instead of my true love.

In 1909, Frederick Austin wrote down the music and lyrics while making minor changes such as colly birds to calling birds to make it easier to sing.  It is the main version sung today.  Check back tomorrow for a bit more information on various versions of this song. 

Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Odds and Ends of Eye Charts and glasses.

Glasses, Letters, Eye Test, Vision  Since I don't bother with cable, I spend my money on DVD's or streaming videos so I don't have to suffer through commercials.

I buy the ones I know I will watch again and again such as Call The Midwife.  I adore Sister Monica Jones with her outbursts of wisdom rooted in the classics but it was a conversation between Jenny and one of her boyfriends that prompted this column.

The scene took place between Jenny and her boyfriend one evening when they sat outside, identifying various stars and star clusters such as Orions Belt.  Toward the end of the conversation he commented that she'd passed the eye test for the Roman Army. Of course when writings throw tidbits in like that, I'm interested in finding out if its a real fact or a figment of some writers imagination.

In this case, its fairly accurate.  If you wished to join the Roman Army, they asked you to identify the stars in the tail of the Big Dipper. if you could, you became an archer, if not, you'd end up in a different position such as cook. 

The first recorded eye test -The Arab Test- required people to distinguish Mizar and Alcor in the handle of the Big Dipper. This was man's first attempt to standardize vision.  Not much happened until after the invention of the printing press when local print shops would print up some sort of eye chart based on the fonts available.

This meant, most ophthalmologists and optometrists used what ever chart they preferred so there was no standardization between them.  This made it rather difficult for people because the eye wear produced was not as consistent as desired. 

 Although glasses had been around since the 1300's, it wasn't until much later that doctors realized everyone required different things for glasses.  In the 1700's you had to determine whether you were near sighted or far sighted and then choose the correct lenses for yourself.  Most sales people assumed everyone's eyesight changed at the same rate so if you were 40 years old, you'd be steered towards the lenses appropriate for that age. 

It wasn't until 1836, that Kuchler, a German Opthomologist made an eye chart by cutting letters from calendars, newspapers, etc to create rows of letters, figures, etc in decreasing size.  It was not the best chart but he revised it in 1843 so the chart had 12 rows of black letters in decreasing size.  It never became popular.

The next major invention towards what we know today as the eye chart occurred in 1862 when Herman Snellen invented the standardized eye chart. His chart differed in that he used specific letters created using minutes of an arc instead of the more common typographic measuring system.

 He is responsible for having "20/20" eye sight which doctors use today.  He is also invented the floating E chart for children and nonreaders.  All a person has to do is use the hand to show the direction the letter E is facing.  In 1863, the British Army placed a huge order, becoming the first ones to use this new chart with great regularity.

This jump meant people could go from eye doctor to eye doctor and be absolutely certain their prescription was consistent and the eye glasses worked properly.  By this point, it was easier to make glasses to a more individualized prescription.

The last major change to eye charts came in 1976 when two doctors from Australia proposed a change to the Snellen chart and it is an example of the LogMAR test which became the standard for eye charts in 1984.

The have been others along the way but these are the major ones.  I hope you enjoyed this quick look at history.  let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Soda Fountain Slang

Soda Jerk, Black And White, Fountain  As you know from family stories, soda fountains were the neighborhood hangout where you could get a variety of drinks and food.  At one time, soda fountains were a part of the local drug store or perhaps it took up one wall of the local eatery.  It didn't matter because soda fountains had their own unique slang designed to convey orders, information, etc.

Unfortunately, its a language which has gone the way of soda fountains and soda jerks.  In time it may disappear completely because its no longer a part of our lives.  Fortunately, there are places you can find the lingo. 
 I'm sharing it because I find it amusing and  cool.
The one most people are familiar with is Soda Jerk or the guy who worked behind the counter.  The name came from the jerking action he used when filling or making soda.  Soda Jerks were usually male and soda fountains came with recipe books filled with recipes they had the memorize.  On the other hand, much of the slang used by soda jerks varied according to the decade.

In the 1930's you had Belch water aka Seltzer water.  If it had cat's eyes it included tapioca, kind of like Bubble Tea.  A C.O. Cocktail sounds so grown up but it was caster oil prepared in soda.  Of course a Fifty-five didn't refer to the speed limit, it was another name for root bear.

Then there is the Hoboken Special which was a mix of Pineapple soda with chocolate creme.  If you added a Maiden's delight, you've just put a cherry in it.  A Twist it, choke it, and make it cackle is chocolate malted milk with an egg. On the other hand, a Western was Coca-Cola with chocolate flavor and a Waco referred to a Dr. Pepper.

Speaking of Coke, Shoot one was a Coke but if you heard Shoot a wild one, someone ordered a cherry coke. Shoot on frowning meant a lime coke while a shoot one yellow was a lemon coke but if you got a shoot one blond, you'd get a Vanilla coke.

Do you want an iced tea?  Order a shanghai while draw one referred to a cup of coffee.  If you were not into caffeine, you might get a Squeezed one or a glass of lemonade.  The black on white simply meant chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream.  If it was ordered with Concrete as part of the description, it meant the milkshake was so thick, it could be turned upside down and not drip.

Then there is the spit in it or spit on it meaning raspberries in it or on it.  Sand (sugar) or Salties (peanuts) were added while patch described strawberries.  In the hay got you a strawberry milkshake and hold the hail meant no ice, or heavy on the hail got you extra ice.

As food went, you could order a Put out the lights and cry also known as liver and onions, or Noah's boy with Murphy carrying a wreath which got you ham and potatoes with cabbage.  The Gentlemen take a chance is hash.  If you were in a hurry you might order an American on a bicycle which told the cook you wanted a grilled cheese to go.

This is just a taste of some of the slang used by the soda jerk back in the thirties, forties, fifties.   I think the only place I've heard any of the terms is when I watched those old movies with my grandparents.

Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dryer Balls

Ball, Tennis, Colorful, Macro, Felt  Earlier in the year, my sister sent me two dryer balls she swears by.  They are white felted wool with a face drawn on each one.  The idea is you throw them in the dryer with a load and voila you get soft clothing.  They are supposed to replace dryer sheets.

Some of the big reasons, I've seen for using dryer balls is that they are more economical to use, cut down on the amount of chemicals you and your family are being exposed to, and are ecologically sound if you buy the wool ones.

Apparently, dryer balls move through your laundry, separating pieces so they dry faster and more evening due to being exposed to the hot air.  In addition, they fluff your laundry, reduce the number of wrinkles, and bash it to make it softer. However, they should only be used in small and medium loads because they need space to move in.  A large load does not have as much space available so the dryer balls do not work as well. 

Dryer balls are made out of several types of materials but the wool ones are supposed to be the best because they are made out of 100% wool and are completely natural.  The nice thing about wool dryer balls is that you can add a few drops of essential oils them so they release the scent when drying.  Be sure to let the balls set for 10 to 20 minutes after putting the essential oils on so they are absorbed into the ball.

One claim is that dryer balls also cut down on the amount of static cling after being dried.  I honestly don't know if that claim is true because I haven't owned mine long enough to check that out.  I have to wait till spring before my static cling season arrives.

If you are into making things yourself, all you need to do is get a skein of 100% wool yarn.  Just make sure its not super wash or machine washable because those will not felt.  Make a ball out of the yarn by creating a core and going around and around and around, much like you do when you take a skein and turn it into a wrapped ball for knitting.

When the ball gets to the size you want be it tennis ball, baseball, or softball, tuck the end of the yarn in the ball with a crochet hook.  Place the ball in a nylon stocking (Use those ones with runs), tie it securely inside with a couple pieces of yarn and throw into the laundry with a load on hot wash and cold rinse.  When done, place the whole thing in the dryer on the highest heat setting. At the end, you should have a dryer ball ready to use.

I'd love to hear your experiences with dryer balls.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Travel Around Christmas.

Airport, Transport, Woman, Girl, Tourist  Living in Alaska can present some interesting issues when trying to travel out of state at Thanksgiving or Christmas time. This year has been horrendous weather wise for travel from the village due to fog, snow, wind, and a few other things.

So this year, I ended up putting a three day layover in Anchorage before I leave the state because if I don't leave the village on time, I could miss my connecting flight out of the local hub.  There are only three flights a day to Anchorage.  If I miss that, I could miss my connecting flight out of state and that is the biggie because it can be difficult to rebook on the next flight. 

Most people do not have those issues.  If they have connectivity issues, its usually because a big storm has shut down the whole eastern seaport or the middle states around Chicago.  Other than those issues, have you wondered what days are the best or worst for traveling around Christmas?  I began wondering just the other day.

The definition for best and worst days in air travel have to do with cost and number of people who are predicted to fly on those days.  The worst days usually cost more and have more people scheduled while best means the cost is less with fewer people traveling.

The worst days to travel at Christmas time this year are Friday December 22, Saturday December 23, and Sunday December 24th.  I'm scheduled to travel the 23rd because I had a couple upgrades and that was the day where I found some first class available without going through Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan.   It also gives me a few days incase I cannot get out of the village due to weather.

For New Years, try to avoid December 29th and January 2nd since Christmas and New Year's are both on a Monday.  By taking a few vacation days, people end up with a full 10 day holiday. 

Its often hard to determine which dates have the best fares and which the worst because the prices are set according to a complex formula which takes into account competition, demand, seasonality, etc so the prices often change from day to day.  Often though the flights on Christmas and New Years are cheaper.  I've traveled on New Years day and it was wonderful as far as not being as crazy as usual.

Its recommended you get your tickets several months out because that is when you are most likely to get the best fares as the fares tend to rise the closer you get to the major holiday.  The best time to buy tickets for a Christmas trip is the beginning of October when most prices are at their lowest.  It is also suggested that if you find a good deal, buy it as soon as you see it because it may be gone the next time you look.

If you have some flexibility in your travel plans, check a few days before you want to leave, and a few days after you want to return to see if there are any lower fares.  I've noticed even during the summer, one or two days either side of my preferred dates can save me between $50 and $100 each way. 

Although it is November, it is still possible to get a good deal by watching fairs and checking different airlines.  If you are going to Hawaii or Florida, check out package deals that include hotel and airfare as they can provide a great deal.

Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Did Turkey Become A Part of Christmas?

Celebration, Christmas, Cuisine  We just finished Thanksgiving, complete with turkey and all its trimmings.  I know why I have turkey at Thanksgiving since it has to do with pilgrims and what was available but what about Christmas.  When did it become popular to eat turkey for Christmas dinner.

It actually become popular at Christmas time, much earlier than I would have guessed. I've come across two different stories on how the turkey came to Europe.

One story says a trader, William Strickland, brought several turkeys with him to England when he returned  from the New World in 1526 while another states the Spanish brought turkey's from the New World.  The use of turkeys or "Indian Chicken" spread across Europe.  There is a cookbook from Frankfort in 1581 with 20 recipes that use this bird.

Prior to this time, people would eat geese, peacocks, or boars heads for the Christmas meals but turkeys were great for the Christmas meals because farmers did not have to kill their cows or chickens as they provided milk and eggs which could be sold off.  In addition, turkeys were something different, providing a change. 

Although King Henry the Eighth introduced the idea of having turkey on Christmas day, it was not until the 20th century when King Edward VII make it popular that it over took the traditional goose in England.  In America, its a different story.

Turkey's born in the spring could eat enough bugs and other things to grow to a size large enough to feed a family and as stated earlier they could be slaughtered without loosing money.  In addition, they were cheaper than geese or chickens and thus were more economical. 

It is thought the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey with gravy and stuffing, and plum pudding became more popular when Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843. When Scrooge gave the turkey to the Cratchit family, it cemented having turkey at Christmas for the middle and upper classes.  This story was quite popular in both the United Kingdom and in America.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the wealthy always planned to have either game or beef because turkey became associated with the poor since they often received turkey's from various charities.

When I was growing up my parents would buy the biggest turkey they could afford for Thanksgiving and then a second one for Christmas.  We lived off of the left overs for probably 6 weeks because my mother would use it all including the bones, skin, etc to make soup.  Turkey noodle soup was the last thing on the list.

We had turkey for the big meal, then left overs in the form of hot turkey sandwiches followed by a turkey shepherds pie (great use for the left over mashed potatoes),  mashed candied yams with mashed potatoes for part of a meal, and finally soup made with the neck, bones, skin, giblets, and anything else she could use. 

I suspect everyone has their own traditions like this.  Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Making Their Own Entertainment.

Sledding, Winter, Father, Son, Snow  All the snow we got last month melted slowly over a two week period.  The lake thawed and the river stayed open enough for people to go out boating and fishing.  In fact, there was enough moisture that came down to turn the ground into a muddy, sloggy, mess.

About a week ago, the temperatures dropped and the mud froze enough to walk on without getting stuck.  Then it hit.  It rained and the temperature dropped so the water became a layer of glare ice on the roads, the boardwalks, even the ground. 

Going anywhere in the village was taking your life in your hands.  People who took out their four wheelers (ATV) complained that they slid off the roads due to the smoothness of the ice.  It was just too dangerous to venture out.  I only went from home to work and back again.

Tuesday was just a bit better in that a small layer of snow fell over the ice so it was just a bit safer but still treacherous.  Several of us managed to borrow one of the school vehicles to go to the post office.  I wish I'd brought my camera for the trip but I didn't even have my cell phone so all I can do is describe my view.

All the roads in town are gravel covered dirt that may or may not survive all the four wheelers using it when wet.  However, on the Tuesday in question, the road was a sheet of flare ice which slowed down traffic and opened up play possibilities for children. 

As we parked by the Post Office, we saw two children, each on a small sled, coming down the iced over board walk from the Catholic Church, past the head start building, down to the bottom of the hill before using a hand to cause the sleds to make a sharp right turn on the road so they continued along the road before friction slowed them down by the old head start building.  Last seen, the two children were heading back up the hill to make another run.

On the road back to school, after a brief stop at the store for some last minute Thanksgiving supplies, we had to slow down because three young ladies used the breeze to push them along the iced road.  The smooth ice allowed them to slide along with little resistance.  Occasionally they fell but not at the same time.  Our driver had so watch them carefully as she maneuvered her way through the group.

After passing the girls, we had a wonderful view of several students out on the partially frozen ice.  They had fun opening their coats to capture the wind and used it to move them across the lake.  A few managed to go quite a distance before falling over.

The one thing I noticed for all the children out on the ice, is that they were persistent.  Every time they fell, they got up and continued on their merry way.  It was wonderful.  I wish I had the fearlessness to do something like that but I've reached an age where I know what could happen if I fell wrong so I refuse to take a chance.  On the other hand, I can laugh with them and enjoy their trips.

Let me know what you think.  Oh and we now have enough snow on the ground to cover the ice but its the powder snow so I'm still wearing my ice cleats when I go out.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 24, 2017


Image result for Canstruction
The other day while reading up on Thanksgiving math activities, I came across a group called Canstruction.  This group using art competitions across the nation to gather cans of food for food banks in a unique and entertaining way.
Canstruction was inspired in 1992 by a group of New York architects and engineers.  It began small but has grown to encompass the country with four different competitions from Citywide, junior, university, to custom.

Citywide is where a city chapter organizes a competition for adults to create a piece of art.  The team is encouraged to find a member from the building industry to help with the structure.  They are also responsible for purchasing all the cans of food used in the structure. At the end, there is judging and the winners get to participate in an international competition.

The junior division is for students aged 10 to 18 but the people who run it may choose whether it is competitive or noncompetitive.  Students get a chance to learn so much while creating the final structure. They are expected to fund raise enough money to purchase all the cans needed and they are encouraged to find an advisor to help them. One who knows about physics, math, architecture, or construction.

The youth event for university students can also choose if its competitive or noncompetitive.  Again they must raise money to purchase cans and look for an advisor but if they cannot, there is a basic kit with a template and instructions on making a structure.  Both the junior division and youth division require a deposit.  At the end, all canned food must be donated to a local hunger relief organization. The last is custom structures designed to promote a local business. 
Since its inception, the group has raised over 50 million pounds of food for donation. If you do a search, you can find all sorts of creations from Bugs Bunny to a can of Spam, to a mostly eaten apple, to one of the Despicable.  

I was impressed with the engineering and creativity involved in each sculpture.  Check them out and enjoy their creations.  Let me know what you think.