Saturday, August 29, 2015

History Of Labor Day Holiday

The Labor Day holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in September.  This is the same day that Canada celebrates their Labor Day holiday.  This year, that date is September 7, 2015.

The history of Labor Day in the U.S. goes back to the labor movement of the late 1800s and became an official federal holiday in 1894, celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.  Prior to 1894, workers who wanted to participate in Labor Day parades would forfeit a day's pay.

Over the ensuing decades, Labor has come to symbolize something else, too.  In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the beginning and ending of the summer season, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the summer season that unofficially started on Memorial Day weekend (the fourth Monday in May in the U.S.).

What led up to the creation of a holiday specifically designated to honor and celebrate the workers and their accomplishments?  The seeds were planted in the 1880s at the height of America's Industrial Revolution when the average American worked 12 hour days/7 days a week in order to manage a basic living.  Although some states had restrictions, these workers included children as young as 5 years old who labored in the mills, factories and mines earning a fraction of the money paid to the adults in the same workplace.  Workers of all ages were subjected to extremely unsafe working conditions in addition to insufficient access to fresh air and sanitary facilities.

Labor Unions had first appeared in the late 1700s.  As America changed from an agrarian society into an industrial one, these labor unions became more vocal and began to organize rallies and strikes in protest of poor working conditions and low wages.  Many of these events turned violent.  One prominent such incident was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 where several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Other rallies were of a more positive nature such as September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off from their jobs and held the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history when they marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.

It was another 12 years before Congress legalized the holiday.  This was primarily brought about on May 11, 1894, when employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.  Then on June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars thus crippling railroad traffic nationwide.  To break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago.  The resulting riots resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.  As a result, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in all states, the District of Columbia and the territories (many of which later became states).

And now, more than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day still hasn't been identified.

So, for everyone enjoying this 3 day holiday weekend, now you know why you have that additional day.  And why the banks are closed and you don't have any mail delivery.  :)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

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 and I'd like to share them with you.

You are about to exceed the limits of my medication.

I'm going to stop asking 'How dumb can you get?' because people seem to be taking it as a challenge.

You people must be exhausted from watching me do everything.

My brain is like the Bermuda Triangle. Information goes in and then it's never found again.

Karma takes way too long. I'd rather just smack you right now.

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?

National Sarcasm Society…like we need your support.

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.

Paddle faster, I hear banjo music!

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.

Awww, another Whiners Club meeting already?

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.

Sarcasm.  Just one more service I provide.

Where's the switch that turns you off?

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what 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.

I am the Grammarian about whom your mother warned you.

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.

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.

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

10 Scariest Places On Earth

Sedlec Ossuary
I recently came across a list that claimed to be the 10 scariest places on Earth.  The list isn't a reference to most haunted places (that would have made it a Halloween blog), although a couple of the places on this list are said to be haunted.  Some of these places have been abandoned due primarily to man's misdeeds.  This list is in no particular order.

1)  Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic (pictured above)
When you have the remains of over 40,000 people, what do you do with all those bones? The Abbot of Sedlec went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1278 and brought back some dirt he claimed came from Jesus' burial site. Immediately thereafter Catholics from all over Europe started demanding burial in the Sedlec Ossuary cemetery. The cemetery obviously didn't have the space to accommodate all the continual requests. In the 16th century, the church staff dug up everyone buried there and used those bones for decoration: there's a chandelier made from one of every bone in the human body, garlands of skulls, and a replica of the Schwarzenberg coat of arms made from bones.

2) Centralia, Pennsylvania
Our incredible natural resources is one thing that has made America such a prosperous country. Unfortunately, those natural resources can occasionally turn on us and that's what happened when a coal mine near Centralia, Pennsylvania, caught fire in 1962. The veins of coal ran under the town which ultimately turned Centralia into a literal hellhole. Temperatures over 1000 degree Fahrenheit accompanied by belching clouds of poisonous gas. Once the initial conflagration settled down, people began to move back but soon discovered that the veins of coal were still burning resulting in blazing hot sinkholes that swallowed people without warning. Most of the residents have moved away.

3)  Pripyat, Ukraine
A colossal example of man's ability to really screw up the planet is on display in Pripyat in the Ukraine. The town's former population of 49,000 was evacuated following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Now referred to as the zone of exclusion, it looks like a freaky ghost town. The few people who have ventured back into the town report an atmosphere of desolation and terror. Dolls on school house floors, vehicles in disrepair on the roadsides, and the skeleton of an abandoned amusement park that's hauntingly scary.

4)  Aokigahara Suicide Forest
The Aokigahara Forest at the base on Mt. Fuji in Japan is associated with multiple demons in Japanese folklore. There's something about the supernatural forest that drives people to suicide. An average of 100 people travel to Aokigahara every year to kill themselves, mostly by hanging or drug overdose. Legend says that in the 19th century families would abandon their elderly relatives there to die when they couldn't take care of themselves.

5)  Lome Bazaar, Togo
If you've ever been to a street market in a third world country, then you know how crazy things can be. So, take all that energy and put it in a bazaar that sells only materials for voodoo and you have the Lome Bazaar in Togo. The bazaar is a one stop shop for a wide variety of terrifying things used to do terrifying things. The absolute volume of grisly death that stares at you is enough to make the strongest person weak in the knees.

6)  Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia
The Khmer Rouge period of Cambodian history is one of the scariest genocides in history. Millions of innocents were slaughtered and the museum is located where it all happened. In Khmer, "Tuol Sleng" translates as "Strychnine Hill." The museum is housed in a former death camp and notoriously haunted by ghosts of the thousands who died there. Of the 17,000 people who were admitted to the prison, only seven survived.

7)  Body Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee
Sometimes science has to do some pretty disgusting things to make advancements, but we don't make them vacation spots. Studying the decomposition of the human body can give researchers lots of knowledge useful to medicine, forensics, and others. To monitor a body decomposing in real time, you go to the body farm on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. It's 2.5 acres of land and at any time has multiple bodies laid out in various positions. Over 100 corpses are donated to the Body Farm every year.

8)  Helltown, Ohio
The village of Boston was founded in Ohio's Summit County in 1806 and succeeded until 1974 when something weird happened. President Ford signed a bill authorizing the area to be turned into a national park, the houses were purchased and boarded up, but no park was ever built, resulting in a deserted town in the middle of nowhere. The newly named Helltown spawned some terrifying legends including Satanist sacrifices, mysterious toxic waste spills, and an escaped mental patient who wanders the woods.

9)  Fengdu, China
With China's population, there isn't much room left for a ghost town—except for Fengdu, located on the north bank of the Yangtze River. Fengdu is completely abandoned. It's rumored to be a junction point between Earth and the underworld where rampaging demons grab unaware souls.

10)  La Isla De La Munecas, Mexico
Dozens of small, uninhabited islands dot the canals south of Mexico City. It's not just the polluted runoff from Mexico City that makes the area less than desirable. Fifty years ago, a man named Don Julian Santana lived the life of a hermit on one of the islands. One day he fished the corpse of a young girl out of the water. As a form of protection, he started hanging dolls from the tree limbs and branches on his island. He continued to do this over the next few decades until the entire island was cluttered with broken, weathered dolls giving it the appearance of a terrifying place.

And that's the list of ten. Have any of you ever been to any of these places?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

10 Incredible Scientific Discoveries About Dogs

Three weeks ago (July 18th), I posted a blog about cats. And now I'd like to give equal time to dogs. Here are some interesting facts.

Dogs—commonly referred to as man's best friend. Somewhere between 11,000 and 15,000 years ago, dogs were among the first of the animals to be domesticated by man and are well known for being loving and loyal. They also have many lesser-known and quite fascinating traits.

Here's a list of 10 of those qualities.

Number 10: They have 3 eyelids. Like people, dogs have top and bottom ones that move up and down. They also have one that originates in the corner of the eye and moves side to side. Its purpose is to clear mucus and debris from the eye.

Number 9: Dogs really do love their humans. MRI scans reveal that when presented with the scents of various people and canines, the reward centers of the dogs' brains are most responsive to the aromas of their human companions.

Number 8: They're just as smart as toddlers. Specially designed IQ tests show that dogs' capabilities are on par with the typical 2-year-old. That means they're capable of learning over 150 words and gestures.

Number 7: Dog paws often smell like snack foods. There's some debate as to whether the particular scent is popcorn or corn chips, but either way the cause of it has been linked to a bacteria dogs pick up while walking.

Number 6: Canines possess the ability of night vision. It's not n the same level as cats, but it is superior to that of humans. Dogs' pupils are larger and their central retinas have more cells dedicated to light sensitivity than to color detection. That gives them an upper hand when it comes to making out objects in dim light.

Number 5: Every nose is unique. The Canadian Kennel Club has been using nose prints as a means of individual identification since the 1930s, and many organizations have followed suit.

Number 4: They most likely dream. Proof isn't at the 100 percent mark, but there is an abundance of support backing the claim. Much of it is based in brain attributes and behaviors that dogs and humans share. Among them are structure and the occurrence of electrical impulses during the deep sleep stage.

Number 3: Fur isn't just about warmth. In the summer it acts as insulation, keeping heat from reaching their bodies. Fur also protects their skin from the sun's damaging rays.

Number 2: They really do listen when you talk. Even better, they've been shown to understand a lot of what's being said. Though they're not able to decipher the words, dogs can interpret certain sounds and the message's overall emotional tone.

Number 1: Dogs aren't nearly as sweaty as humans. That's largely because rather than having sweat glands all over the bodies, as people do, dogs only have them in their paws. To cool off, they rely mostly on panting.

And this is a picture very similar to the beagle I used to have.  A dear, sweet dog. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015


Without a doubt, Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) is the embodiment of the term Renaissance man.  His genius crossed into so many different areas—artist, architect, inventor, and master of all things scientific.  All this from a man who had no formal education beyond basic reading, writing, and math.

Until the 2003 publication of Dan Brown's THE DA VINCI CODE, he was best known as the artist who painted two of the world's most famous paintings—Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.  But there was so much more to him than his artistic creations.

His genius knew no bounds.  With a combination of intellect and imagination, he created (at least on paper) such inventions as the bicycle, helicopter, and an airplane that he based on the physiology and flying capability of a bat.

So, without further ado, here in no particular order is a list of Leonardo da Vinci's ten best ideas.

Thanks to Da Vinci, this drawing (pictured above) is considered one of the most recognizable figures on earth.  He modeled his perfect human form after the proportions set forth by ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.

While the scientists of his time explained inland and mountain top mollusk fossils as something leftover from the Bible's Great Flood, Leonardo disagreed.  He believed the mountains were once coastline before many years of gradually shifting upwards.

His designs for a self-propelled vehicle were revolutionary for his time.  His wooden vehicle moved by the interaction of springs and geared wheels.  In 2004, scientists at a museum in Florence, Italy, built a replica.  It worked just as Da Vinci had intended.

Living in plague-ravaged Milan, he envisioned a more efficient city.  His architectural drawings were very detailed and even included horse stables and fresh air vents.  To the disappointment of many of Milan's modern day residents, there's provision for a soccer stadium.

Even though most modern scientists agree it would never have gotten off the ground, Da Vinci's helicopter design is still one of his most famous.  It was meant to be operated by a four-man crew and probably inspired by the windmill toy popular in his time.

Da Vinci's distaste for conflict didn't stop him from coming up with designs for more efficient cannons.  His triple-barrel design would have been a deadly weapon of war.

His imagination soared with ideas for various types of flying machines, including gliders with flappable wings.  His open-shelled glider model had seats and gears for the pilot.

As a fan of the quick getaway, he thought his revolving bridge would be best used in warfare.  His design made of light weight yet sturdy materials affixed to a rolling rope-and-pulley system and allowed an army to change locations on a moment's notice.

Da Vinci had a true fascination with the oceans and had many designs for aquatic exploration.  His diving suit was made from leather and connected to a snorkel made of cane and a bell that floated on the surface.

For whatever reason, he liked mirror writing with most of his journals written in reverse.