Sunday, March 18, 2018

Words Of Wisdom From T-Shirts

For the most part, T-shirts seem to have a lot to say.  They tell us where their owner went on vacation, what school he or she attended, what kind of car they drive, where they work, what organizations they belong to, what causes they support, and a multitude of other miscellaneous information.  Some are serious and others are just fun.  I've collected several interesting T-shirt sayings, including some from just a few weeks ago, and I'd like to share them with you.

I thought I saw a spider, but it was just a piece of yarn. It's dead yarn now.

Etc. – End of Thinking Capacity

I thought growing old would take longer

My alone time is for everyone's safety

BOOKS—helping introverts avoid conversation since 1454

You matter.  Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light…then you energy.

I'm not arguing, I'm explaining why I'm right.

In my defense, I was left unsupervised

Interested in time travel?  Meet me here last Thursday at 6pm

"To be, or not to be" William Shakespeare
"To be is to do" Jean-Paul Sartre
"To do is to be" Bertrand Russell
"Doo be doo be doo" Frank Sinatra

Hand over the chocolate and no one will get hurt.

At what age am I old enough to know better?

When spelling, it's the letter I before E except after C…weird?

Wine improves with age.  I improve with wine.

Everyone has to believe in something.  I believe I'll have another glass of wine.

I love to cook with wine.  Sometimes I even use it in the food.

If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research.

If I'm talking, you should be taking notes.

Why can't I be rich instead of good looking?

To err is human, to arrrrrgh is pirate.

Searching for the meaning of life, but will settle for my car keys.

I'm often confused with my evil twin.

Flying is the 2nd greatest thrill known to man.  Landing is the 1st.

I'd be a vegetarian if bacon grew on trees.

Disheveled…not just a look, it's a lifestyle.

I used to care, but I take a pill for that now.

I'm confused…wait, maybe I'm not.

Where's the switch that turns you off?

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened.

Don't worry about what people think.  They don't do it very often.

Everything I say can be fully substantiated by my own opinion.

Ending a sentence with a preposition?  That is something up with which I shall not put.

I'm always late.  My ancestors arrived on the Juneflower.

There.  Their.  They're not the same.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Old age comes at an inconvenient time.

Irony.  The opposite of wrinkly.

Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the main reason I have trust issues.

I'm not weird, I'm a limited edition.

I have CDO—it's like OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order, as they should be.

Sometimes I need to put on my crown just to remind people who they're dealing with.

The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar.  It was tense.

I talk to myself whenever I need expert advice.

I saw these on 2 T-Shirts in a catalog

Have any of you come across any fun or interesting T-shirt sayings you'd like to share?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

St. Patrick's Day—history, symbols, traditions, green beer, and Irish coffee

March 17—St. Patrick's religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. A date that falls during the Christian season of Lent. The Irish have observed this date as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon.

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in the U.S., not in Ireland. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762, (when we were still a British colony). In 1848, several New York Irish aid societies united their parades to form one New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world's oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States with over 150,000 participants.

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest celebrations, it has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

In modern day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. Until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated pubs be closed on March 17. In 1995, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to promote tourism.
Symbols and Traditions
The shamrock was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland, symbolizing the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, it became a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism.

Music is often associated with St. Patrick's Day and Irish culture in general. Since the ancient days of the Celts, music has always been an important part of Irish life. The Celts had an oral culture where religion, legend, and history were passed from one generation to the next through stories and songs.

Banishing snakes from Ireland has been associated with St. Patrick. A long held belief says St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop and with only a wooden staff managed to drive all the snakes from Ireland. The fact is the island nation of Ireland has never had snakes. The climate is too cold and damp for reptiles that cannot internally generate their own body heat.

Every year on St. Patrick's Day the traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage is consumed. Cabbage has long been an Irish food, but corned beef didn't become associated with St. Patrick's Day until many years later.

Belief in leprechauns probably comes from Celtic belief in fairies—tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. Leprechauns are only minor figures in Celtic folklore, cantankerous little men known for their trickery which they often used to protect their fabled treasure. The cheerful, friendly image of the leprechaun is a purely American invention created by Walt Disney in his 1959 movie, Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
Chicago is famous for a somewhat peculiar annual event: dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river—enough to keep it green for a week. Today, in order to minimize environmental damage, only forty pounds of dye are used, making the river green for several hours rather than days.

Green beer, certainly associated with St. Patrick's Day here in the United States, is NOT an Irish creation. Purists claim that Arthur Guinness would turn over in his grave if anyone attempted to add green food coloring to the traditional Irish brew. Green beer is most likely of American origins.

And Irish coffee?  The forerunner of today's Irish coffee was said to have originated at Foynes' port (the precursor to Shannon International Airport on the west coast of Ireland near the town of Limerick) one miserable winter night in the 1940s. Joseph Sheridan added some whiskey to the coffee to warm the arriving American passengers, proclaiming it to be Irish coffee.
A travel writer named Stanton Delaplane brought Irish coffee to the U.S. after drinking it at Shannon Airport. He worked with the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco to develop the perfect drink. The Buena Vista Cafe started serving Irish coffee on November 10, 1952, and continues to serve large quantities of it to this day starting from the time they open in the morning for breakfast until they close at night.

So, here's to everyone celebrating on March 17 whether Irish or not. Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage, green beer, and Irish coffee.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Daylight Saving Time and the Vernal Equinox

Every March we have two annual observations that are not holidays—one is man made and the other is science/nature. The first is the start of daylight saving time and the other is the beginning of Spring. Grammatically speaking, daylight saving time is correct but the common usage over the years has been daylight savings time.

In the U.S., at 2am on the second Sunday in March we set our clocks forward one hour for the start of daylight saving time—or to put it another way, we lose one hour of sleep. This year, the second Sunday falls on March 11, 2018. And on the first Sunday in November at 2am we reverse that process by setting our clocks back one hour—we get an additional hour of sleep to make up for that hour we lost in March. In 2018, that first Sunday is November 4th.
Standard time—the creation of time zones—was instituted in the U.S. and Canada by the railroads in 1883. Due to the vast width of the two countries stretching thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, it was necessary to establish some method of standardizing train schedules. However, it was not established in U.S. law until the Act of March 19, 1918. The Act also established daylight saving time which was repealed in 1919 while standard time in time zones remained the law. Daylight saving time was re-established in World War II. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 brought standardization of start and stop dates but allowed for local exemptions from its observance. Since then, the official beginning and ending dates have changed several times, the most recent being in 2007. There are many wondering why we continue to bother with daylight saving time as it seems to have no purpose in today's society.

Those states that have opted for the exemption from daylight saving time are Arizona (except for the Navajo, who do observe daylight saving time on tribal lands), Hawaii, and the overseas territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands

There are several states that are split between two time zones. Oregon and Idaho are split between the Mountain and Pacific time zones. Florida, Michigan, Indiana (I think I read somewhere that one of Indiana's time zones observes daylight saving time and the other time zone does not), Kentucky, and Tennessee are split between Eastern and Central time zones. Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, North and South Dakota are divided between Central and Mountain time zones.

At one time, Alaska covered four time zones. That has been changed and Alaska is now in two time zones. More than 98 percent of the state's population are in one of these zones, now called Yukon time, which is one hour earlier than Pacific standard time and four hours earlier than Eastern standard time.

And then there is the other annual observance, the one dictated by science/nature—the vernal equinox.

Equinox translates literally to "equal night."

This year, on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at precisely 12:15pm eastern daylight time, the sun crosses directly over the Earth's equator. That moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere announcing the arrival of spring and the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere announcing the arrival of fall. A second equinox will occur in September.

The fact that the Earth has distinctive seasons is due to the 23.4 degree tilt of the Earth's axis. The Earth receives more sunlight (longer daylight hours) in the summer and less sunlight (fewer daylight hours) in the winter.  The tilt of the axis makes the seasons opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. At the north pole summer gives six months of daylight while at the same time the south pole is experiencing six months of darkness. The closer you are to the equator, the daily hours of daylight and darkness become more equal.

The fall and spring equinoxes are the only two times during the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west. Modern astronomy aside, people have recognized the astronomical connection to the season changes for thousands of years. The ancients of various civilizations all over the world built structures that illustrate this—temples dedicated to their various gods that modern man recognizes as observatories. Not only the spring and fall equinox days, but also the summer and winter solstice days (most and least daily hours of sunlight).

I think it's also interesting to note a connection between the spring equinox and Groundhog Day (another holiday derived from the practices and celebrations of the ancients). If the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2, we have six more weeks of winter. And by "coincidence" that six weeks takes us to the spring equinox.

A little bit of equinox trivia: According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. One spring, a few minutes before the vernal equinox, twenty-four almanac editors tested the theory. For a full work day, seventeen out of twenty-four eggs stood up on the large end. Then three days following the equinox, they tried the same test again. And guess what? The results were similar.  Perhaps the second test was still too close to the equinox?  :)

And there you have it—your science lesson for the day.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Who Almost Played The Role?

With the film industry's 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony taking place Sunday, March 4th, 2018, I thought I'd take a look at some of Hollywood's starring role casting decisions over the years.

As we all know, casting for the lead role in a movie can be a lengthy process with many qualified candidates to sift through before making that final decision.  And also obvious, the choice of actor in a role can sometimes end up making the difference between a box office success and a mediocre film.

Through the decades there have been many starring roles that were almost cast with a different lead, possibly changing the audience response to the character and the movie.  In retrospect, trying to visualize someone else in the role sometimes leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what in the world they were thinking of with their first choice.

Here's a sample list of films and the stars that almost didn't get the role, some of the second choices earning an Oscar for their performances.

Pirates Of The Caribbean:  the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow in that first movie was originally intended for Jim Carrey. When a scheduling conflict forced him to bow out, the role went to Johnny Depp who put his own indelible stamp on the character in a series of Pirates Of The Caribbean films.

Drive:  Hugh Jackman was originally signed for the role that ended up being Ryan Gosling's.

Lord Of The Rings:  When Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf, it went to Sir Ian McKellen.

American Psycho:  It was originally Leonardo DiCaprio. He was eventually replaced by Christian Bale.

Men In Black:  Chris O'Donnell was originally cast. However, due to the director's insistence, Will Smith replaced him.

Basic Instinct:  Kelly McGillis was considered before the role went to Sharon Stone.

Dirty Dancing:  Val Kilmer was considered but the role eventually went to Patrick Swayze.

The Shining:  The iconic Jack Nicholson role ("Here's Johnny!") almost went to Robin Williams.

Pretty Woman:  Molly Ringwald turned down the role that was a career maker for Julia Roberts.

Silence Of The Lambs:  Michelle Pfeiffer almost had the role that won Jodie Foster one of her Oscars.

Indiana Jones:  George Lucas was pushing for Tom Selleck but Steven Spielberg held out for Harrison Ford.

The Matrix:  Ewan McGregor was cast first. He turned down the role so he could accept the role in Star Wars Episode 1.

Gladiator:  Mel Gibson turned down the role that won an Oscar for Russell Crowe.

Titanic:  Matthew McConaughey was first choice, but the role ultimately went to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Forrest Gump:  John Travolta turned down the role that earned Tom Hanks one of his Oscars.

Chicago:  John Travolta also turned down the role of Billy Flynn with the role going to Richard Gere.

Iron Man:  Tom Cruise turned down the role due to script issues. It was then offered to Robert Downey, Jr., along with Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3.

And now let's go back several decades to some movies from the 1940ish time frame.

The Wizard Of Oz:  MGM wanted to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox to play the role of Dorothy.  When that negotiation didn't work out, the role went to Judy Garland.

Robin Hood:  Jack L. Warner wanted James Cagney cast in the title role that went to Errol Flynn who seemed born to play the part.

Gone With The Wind:  Every leading actress in Hollywood was tested for the coveted role of Scarlet O'Hara and all were rejected.  The movie had actually started filming before a British actress named Vivien Leigh (married to Laurence Olivier at the time) was finally cast as Scarlet.

The Maltese Falcon:  George Raft turned down the role of Sam Spade because he felt it was 'not an important film' so to the delight of director John Huston, the role went to Humphrey Bogart.

Casablanca:  Ronald Reagan was first considered for the Humphrey Bogart role in one of the all time classic films. Another win situation and great film for Bogart.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

History of President's Day Holiday

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington and is currently celebrated on the third Monday in February, in 2018 that's February 19th. The federal government still officially calls it “Washington’s Birthday.” When first established, it was celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth.

The story of Presidents’ Day begins in 1800. Following President George Washington’s death in 1799, his February 22 birthday became a perennial day of remembrance. At the time, Washington was venerated as the most important figure in American history, and events like the 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 were cause for national celebration.

While Washington’s Birthday was an unofficial observance for most of the 1800s, it was not until late 1879 that it became a federal holiday when President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law. The holiday initially only applied to the District of Columbia, but in 1885 it was expanded to the whole country.

The shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day began in the late 1960s when Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This law shifted the celebration of several federal holidays from specific dates to a series of predetermined Mondays creating three-day holiday weekends. While some argued that shifting holidays from their original dates would cheapen their meaning, the bill had widespread support. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act also included a provision to combine the celebration of Washington’s Birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s, which fell on the proximate date of February 12 thus giving equal recognition to two of America’s most famous presidents.

The main piece of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1968 and officially took effect in 1971 following an executive order from President Richard Nixon. Washington’s Birthday was then shifted from the fixed date of February 22 to the third Monday of February.
Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. For its part, the federal government has held fast to the original incarnation of the holiday as a celebration of the country’s first president. The third Monday in February is still listed on official calendars as Washington’s Birthday. [I just took a look at my office calendar and it shows February 19, 2018, the third Monday in February, as President's Day.]

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The History of Mardi Gras and the Tradition Of Flashing

This year Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.  In the Catholic Church, it's Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday.  The date for Mardi Gras depends on the date of Easter—always occurring forty-six days before Easter.

In the most literal sense, the Mardi Gras celebration is the three days prior to the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  It's the last opportunity for partying and indulgence in food and drink.  In practice, Mardi Gras—or Carnival, as it is called in many countries—is usually celebrated for a full week before the start of Lent.

Celebrations take place all over the world with the most famous modern day festivities being in New Orleans, Louisiana; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nice, France; and Cologne, Germany.

Even though Mardi Gras is a Christian festival, it dates back to the pre-Christian spring fertility rites and embodies many of the traditions of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  In the early Middle Ages, after converting pagan tribes to Christianity, the Catholic Church was still unable to abolish all the ancient traditions.  To combat this, the Church ended up taking many ancient feasts and festivals originally celebrated in honor of pagan gods and adapted them to Christian beliefs.  An example of the pagan roots—today revelers on parade floats still dress as Bacchus, the Greek god of wine.

The first Mardi Gras celebration in the United States was near modern day New Orleans on March 3, 1699, but it was the mid 1800s before parade organizations, known as krewes, came into being.  The first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans on February 24, 1854, by the Krewe of Comus.  They began the tradition of a parade with floats followed by a ball for the krewe and their guests.  The official colors of Mardi Gras were chosen by Rex, King of Carnival, in 1892 and given their meaning—purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

But what about that popular activity that has become a seemingly integral part of the New Orleans Mardi Gras, much to the chagrin of the festival purists?  Women pulling up their shirts and flashing their bare breasts to procure some worthless plastic beads?

Exactly where did this tradition come from?

Well, first of all, it's not really a tradition.  It's more along the lines of what has become a traditional activity in the same vein as getting stupid drunk and passing out now seems to fall into that same 'traditional' category.  Over the years more and more media attention has been directed toward the drunken revelry that occurs on Bourbon Street which has helped in defining flashing as a traditional part of the Mardi Gras celebration.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point-of-view, flashing in exchange for beads is mostly limited to the New Orleans' French Quarter.  And even in the French Quarter, it's an illegal activity.  Women flashing their bare breasts run the risk of being arrested.

Maybe flashing is not a true tradition, but you can't deny that it has become a custom.  After all, the history of wild Mardi Gras behavior comes from celebrating the last day before Lent—Lent being a time of atonement.  And this naturally lends itself to activities of excess and craziness.

Which apparently has come to include flashing.

But there is one crazy excess even more daring than the momentary baring of the female breasts known as flashing.  And what, you may ask, could possibly be crazier than flashing and still be done in public?  And the answer is having clothes painted on your bare skin.  There are artists who specialize in this.  It probably started as something simple and basic like face painting but has grown to include full body artistic renderings.  At a casual glance, it appears that the person is clothed (albeit skin tight clothing).  But on closer inspection, you discover that's far from the truth.  Some of these examples shown below are basic and others are quite elaborate.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Valentine's Day—The Good And The Bad

The Good:
Valentine's Day is that time of the year when cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, and other tokens of affection are given to loved ones in the name of St. Valentine.  But who is St. Valentine and why do we celebrate his holiday every year?

One legend says Valentine was a priest in the third century in Rome.  Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for young men.  Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.  Claudius ordered him put to death.

Another story has Valentine killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured.

And yet another story says Valentine was the one who sent the first Valentine greeting while he was in prison.  He fell in love with a young girl, possibly the jailor's daughter, who visited him while he was imprisoned.  Before his death, he wrote her a letter and signed it From your Valentine, an expression that has transcended time to continue as a common expression for the holiday.

St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, is a combination of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.  One theory says we celebrate Valentine's Day in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial which probably occurred around 270A.D., while others believe that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to Christianize celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card sending holiday, surpassed only by the exchange of Christmas cards.  Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia in addition to the United States.

The Bad:
The St. Valentine's Day massacre—the most spectacular gangland slaying in mob history.

Al Capone (known to be the mastermind, but never charged for the crime) had arranged for his chief rival, Chicago mobster George 'Bugs' Moran and most of Bugs' North Side Gang, to be eliminated on February 14, 1929.  The plan was simple and deviously clever, yet Capone's primary target escaped any injury.  Capone distanced himself from the execution of the plan (and the execution of his rivals) by spending the time at his home in Florida thus providing himself with a solid alibi.

A bootlegger loyal to Capone was to draw Moran and his gang to a warehouse to receive a shipment of smuggled whiskey, the delivery set for 10:30AM on Valentine's Day.

The morning of February 14 was cold and snowy.  A group of Moran's men waited for Bugs at the red brick warehouse at 2122 North Clark Street.  Moran was running late.  When his car turned the corner onto Clark Street, he spotted a police wagon pulling up to the warehouse.  Assuming it was a raid, he watched as five men, three of them dressed in police uniforms, entered the building.  Moran and the two men with him, immediately left the area.

Inside the warehouse, the hit men, disguised as police, confronted Moran's men.  Assuming it was a routine bust, they followed instructions when ordered to line up against the wall.  The hit men opened fire with Thompson submachine guns, killing six of the seven men immediately.  The seventh man, with twenty-two bullet wounds, survived the attack but died after arriving at the hospital.

The newspapers instantly picked up on the crime, dubbing it the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  The story appeared on front pages around the country, making Capone a national celebrity.  But to his dismay, this new found celebrity also brought a new level of attention from federal law enforcement culminating in his conviction for tax evasion and incarceration at Alcatraz.