Saturday, May 25, 2013


Is the Republic of the Maldives sinking beneath the ocean?  On February 10th of this year, my blog was about The World's Most Romantic Islands.  Item #6 on that list was the Maldives, a collection of islands in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, one of the world's most romantic islands seems to be disappearing into the ocean. 

The Republic of the Maldives consists of 1,190 islands with an average above sea level altitude of only 1.5 meters (a little less than 5ft.).  According to NPR, climate change and rising sea levels could cause the country to sink below sea level.  In a 2007 address in front of a climate change meeting at the United Nations, the President of the Maldives said, "In some cases, island communities have had to be relocated to safer islands. Without immediate action, the long-term habitation of our tiny islands is in serious doubt."

However, a professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand didn't agree.  A 2009 Los Angeles Times article quoted him as saying, "The outlook for the Maldives is not all doom and gloom.  The islands won't be the same, but they will still be there."

The professor published a report along with other scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the Maldives claiming that the islands can adjust to the environmental changes and will ultimately change shape by building vertically.

The future remains to be seen, but if the Maldives are on your travel list you might want to consider moving it closer to the top of the list.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

MEMORIAL DAY: A Holiday With A Dual Distinction

The last Monday in May, this year falling on May 27th, is Memorial Day in the United States—a holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War but didn't become an official federal holiday until 1971.

In addition to being a day observed by many Americans visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in patriotic parades, it's also considered the unofficial start of the summer season and vacation time.

The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history. This required the establishment of the country's first national cemeteries. In the late 1860s, Americans in various small towns and large cities held springtime tributes to fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan proclaimed May 30th as Decoration Day, the date chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day General Logan made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery where 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Decoration Day originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But by the time the U.S. became involved in World War I, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

The name Decoration Day gradually changed over to Memorial Day during the ensuing years, but continued to be observed on May 30th. In 1968, one hundred years after General Logan made his Decoration Day proclamation, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. This law also declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday. The change went into effect in 1971.

In addition to nationwide parades and the decorating of graves and monuments, Memorial Day has come to hold a second distinction. It is also a time of many family gatherings which include backyard BBQs and picnics. With an official date of the last Monday in May, the holiday is considered the unofficial start of summer and the beginning of the vacation travel season in the Northern Hemisphere with the Labor Day holiday on the first Monday of September signaling the unofficial end of summer.

Many recreational boaters launch their boats on lakes and rivers over the Memorial Day weekend for the first outing of the summer. Tourist attractions gear up for the summer vacationers.

And a sure sign of the start of the summer season—all across the country gasoline prices go up in preparation of increased need!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day—A Brief History

Mother's Day is a holiday honoring motherhood. It's observed in different forms in many countries, the date traditionally falling on the second Sunday in May in the United States. The American version of the holiday was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official holiday in 1914. Some time later, Anna Jarvis denounced the holiday for being too commercial and spent the latter years of her life trying to get it removed.

The celebration of mothers and motherhood goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals honoring the mother goddesses. However, the clearest precedent for Mother's Day is the early Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday. This was once a major tradition in the UK and parts of Europe, falling on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was a time when the faithful would return to their mother church (the main church in the vicinity of their home) for a special service. Over time the tradition shifted  into a secular holiday with children bringing flowers to their mothers as tokens of appreciation. The roots of the modern American Mother's Day go back to the years prior to our Civil Way (1861-1865)

Even though versions of Mother's Day are celebrated throughout the world, traditions vary from country to country. For example, in Thailand Mother's Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen. And in Ethiopia families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

In the US, Mother's Day has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending…definitely a biggie for Hallmark's greeting cards.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Phenomenon of Speed Dating

 Some speed dating events move quicker than others

What Is It

Speed dating has been around for about fifteen years.  It's a dating system whose purpose is to allow singles to meet as many other singles one-on-one as possible in a short specified amount of time.  Its origins have been credited to a Rabbi who devised it as a way to help Jewish singles meet prospective mates.  It has since shown up as a plot device in several movies and television shows.

The first speed dating event took place at Pete's CafĂ© in Beverly Hills in late 1998.  By the year 2000, speed dating had become very popular.  Supporters of the phenomenon claim it saves time since most people quickly decide if they are romantically compatible and first impressions are often permanent.

How It Works

Organizers of these events usually require advance registration with the participants limited to a specific number of people.  Small events have twenty to thirty participants while others are very large such as one in New Jersey with three hundred and fifty participants.  Needless to say, there is usually a registration fee which covers the cost of putting on the event and a profit for the organizers.

Each participant is assigned an identification of some sort, usually a number.  They are not allowed to exchange personal information such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc., during the dating process of the event.

Men and women rotate so that they each have the opportunity to meet the other in a series of short dates that last a set amount of time, usually somewhere between three and eight minutes each depending on the rules set down by the organizer.  This could be something as simple as small tables with the women sitting on one side and the men on the other side opposite.  At the end of each time period, a signal is given and the participants move on to the next date which might be achieved by the men getting up and moving to the next table to begin his date with a different woman.  This continues until each man has had a date with each woman.

At the end of the event, the participants each submit a list to the organizers showing which of their dates they are interested in seeing again.  The organizers then compare all the lists and when a match occurs, they forward the personal information to each of them and they are on their own at that point.

Events can have a theme or specific requirements of the participants.  Older men and younger women or older women and younger men with age ranges pre-determined.  Gays.  Lesbians.  Ethnic groups.  Religious affiliation.  Maybe groups that share an interest in a certain hobby.

Proponents of speed dating claim it's time efficient and the structure of the event eliminates the need of trying to figure out how to introduce yourself or create a situation where you can start a conversation with someone you don't know.  Participants can come alone without feeling awkward or out of place.

A 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania found that most people made their decision to accept or reject within the first three seconds of meeting and issues such as religion, previous marriages, and smoking habits weren't as important as expected.

A 2006 study in Edinburgh, Scotland, found that conversation about travel resulted in more matches than conversation about films.

Various studies of speed dating events came to the general conclusion that women were more selective than men.  The above mentioned University of Pennsylvania study reported that the average man was chosen by 34% of the women and the average woman was chosen by 49% of the men.

Several television shows have used speed dating as an episode plot point—usually a prelude to murder. The murder victim had just participated in a speed dating event which provides a bunch of suspects with whom the victim had no previous connection thus making solving the crime more difficult. Especially when the speed dating ended up having nothing to do with the crime. :)

Now, with all this said about speed dating being a relatively new phenomenon…

Many years ago (many, many, many years ago) when I was a freshman in college and pledging a sorority, the same process now referred to as speed dating was the method used by one of the sororities for the members to meet and interview the prospective pledges.  Each member had five minutes with each potential pledge then the member moved on to the next candidate for membership.

I have to admit that it all had a very assembly line feel, but was definitely a more efficient use of time than a room full of people standing around not knowing who to talk to or what to do.