Saturday, September 15, 2018

Secret Societies

Skull and Bones
Secret Societies…Conspiracy Theories…these mysterious entities have been with us ever since mankind formed civilizations.

Secret Societies abound across the face of the planet, touching every race, religion, creed and color of humanity. Some are associated with religion and some with politics. In fact, you can find secret societies embedded in every facet of society. Although there have been many books written and movies produced about conspiracy theories and secret societies, the publication of Dan Brown's book THE DA VINCI CODE and release of the hit movie focused a world wide spotlight on a specific set of conspiracy theories and secret societies galloping across the pages of history.

One such Secret Society is the Freemasons, an organization constantly in a swirl of public attention from books and even an onslaught of television documentaries. They are, perhaps, the most recognized of secret societies with the greatest number of conspiracy theories attached to them due in great part to their longevity, an organization dating back to biblical times.

However, other secret societies remain far more elusive from public scrutiny. I recently came across a list of four secret societies (among what is probably thousands) that have not routinely been thrust into public awareness.

The Bohemian Club:
Founded in San Francisco in 1872, the Bohemian Club holds an annual retreat in the redwood forest of northern California at Bohemian Grove.  At this location, they conduct a secret ceremony in front of a giant owl statue.  Only the most powerful men are invited to attend.  Women are prohibited from being members, a situation upheld by the California courts.  Famous members include Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Ordo Templi Orientis:
Founded in the early 20th century by an Austrian chemist.  One of its known members is famed British occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). He revamped the masonic group to focus on a religion he created called Thelema. They believe that mankind's existence is a product of the relationship between the space-time continuum and the principle of life and wisdom. Prospective members must go through a series of secret rituals and initiations before being granted membership.

The Rosicrucians:
Rosicrucianism is a spiritual and cultural movement which arose in Europe in the early 17th century. They have one central belief, that all their members share the same secret wisdom. Their beliefs combine occultism with aspects of popular religion. They're named for their symbol of a rose on a cross.

Skull & Bones:
Founded at Yale university in 1832, it's probably the most famous of the secret societies due in part to such high profile members as three generations of the Bush family, including two presidents—George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.  Skull & Bones have allegedly been a part of many monumental historical events despite the fact that only fifteen Yale students are chosen each year to become members. It's rumored that they took part in the creation of the nuclear bomb. There's also a persistent belief that in 1918, nine years after Geronimo's death, a group of Skull & Bones members dug up his grave and stole his skull, a few miscellaneous bones, and some relics that were also buried with him. The grave raiding party allegedly included Prescott Bush, father and grandfather to the two Bush presidents. Twenty descendants of Geronimo filed a lawsuit against Skull & Bones, Yale University, and the U.S. Government to have the remains returned to them.

There are certainly many more secret organizations functioning and flourishing world-wide in today's society other than these four.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Skeleton In A Tree


I came across this news story about an incident that happened in County Sligo, Ireland, three years ago in September 2015 and decided to share it on my blog.

A storm knocked down a 215 year old tree in northwestern Ireland and archeologists discovered a human skeleton tangled in its roots. The skeleton of a young man between the ages of 17 and 20 was determined to be approximately 1000 years old. Numerous injuries were found on his ribs and hand indicating he "suffered a violent death."

The lower leg bones remained in the grave, but the upper part of the body had become tangled in the tree roots, thus being exposed when the tree blew over in a storm. Radiocarbon dating indicated the remains go back to early medieval times, between 1030 and 1200AD. It was assumed that he came from a local Gaelic family and had been killed in a local conflict/battle or personal dispute rather than an incident connected to the Anglo-Norman invasion which occurred in 1169.

The original position of the skeleton indicated that he had received a formal Christian burial, but nothing else was found with the remains. The skeleton is still being studied to see what other information it will yield. It was the only skeleton found in the excavation.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

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 3, 2018.

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, 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 were responsible 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 25, 2018

September's Bizarre And Unique Holidays


Every month seems to have at least one holiday for each day, some well-known and celebrated and others wrapped in varying stages of obscurity.  And in addition to the daily holidays, there are also month long celebrations devoted to various endeavors.

In the year 2018, the following month-long observations for September include:  Classical Music Month, National Piano Month, International Square Dancing Month, National Courtesy Month [shouldn't this be a year long observation, every year?], National Chicken Month, National Honey Month, National Rice Month, National Papaya Month, Self-Improvement Month, Be Kind To Editors and Writers Month, Cable TV Month, National Bed Check Month, and National Mind Mapping Month.

Here's a list of the daily holidays (some dates having multiple celebrations scheduled for the same date). I've even included an explanation for a few of them.

Sept. 1        Emma M. Nutt Day—in celebration of the first woman telephone operator.
Sept. 2        National Beheading Day—every once in a while there's a holiday that has no obvious reason for being. Why would someone declare something as gruesome as beheading to be an activity that warrants a special holiday celebration? Beheadings have been a method of execution for both commoners and royalty throughout history and in today's society the practice includes the activities of terrorist groups. Probably the most famous royal beheadings were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in 1793 during the French Revolution. There isn't any factual information about the origin of this holiday.
Sept. 3        Labor Day—since Labor Day is the first Monday in September, the date changes from year to year. This is the only legal holiday in September, one honoring the nation's workers, where government offices are closed along with the banks, schools, and the post office which means no mail delivery. This is the unofficial close of the summer season, as Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning. Canada also celebrates their Labor Day holiday on the first Monday in September.
Sept. 3        Skyscraper Day—a celebration of tall buildings?
Sept. 4        Newspaper Carrier Day—to honor those who deliver the newspaper to our homes.
Sept. 5        Be Late For Something Day—if you are among the millions who can't seem to stay on schedule, then this is a holiday for you. Being late is a common occurrence and can be caused by any number of things from it being a conscious desire to it being caused by circumstances beyond your control. There is no factual information about this holiday, but it leads us to the September 6th holiday which is…
Sept. 6        Fight Procrastination Day—for those of you mired down in Be Late For Something Day, this is a day to get things done. Many people consider procrastination as a way of life. There are even clubs dedicated to procrastination. Today is the day to make a decision…to take action. Fight those procrastination urges. There is no factual information about the origin of this holiday.
Sept. 6        This is also Read A Book Day—self-explanatory and important for those of us who write. Goes along with this being Be Kind To Editors and Writers Month.
Sept. 7        Neither Rain Nor Snow Day—this sounds like a tribute to those who deliver our mail.
Sept. 8        International Literacy Day—another holiday pertinent to those of us who write. Something we should all support with the goal of wiping out illiteracy in all countries.
Sept. 9        Teddy Bear Day—a day to honor our teddy bears, those past and those present.
Sept. 10      Swap Ideas Day—a day to share information, plans, ideas, and maybe even dreams.
Sept. 11      911 Remembrance—while not a legal holiday in the manner of Labor Day, it's certainly far removed from the frivolous and fun nature of the other holidays that fall into the bizarre and unusual category. This is the day in 2001 when 4 commercial airliners were high-jacked by terrorists; 2 flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, 1 flown into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and 1 brought down by the passengers in a field in Pennsylvania thus preventing it from reaching its target in Washington D.C. To quote FDR (when speaking of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, that officially brought the U.S. into World War II): "A date which will live in infamy."
Sept. 11      National Pet Memorial Day—this falls on the second Sunday in September, so the specific date changes from year to year. A day to honor the pets we've lost to time.
Sept. 12      Chocolate Milk Shake Day—all I can say is yummy!
Sept. 13      Defy Superstation Day—this is the day for you to defy all those superstitious beliefs that surround us. And the defiance starts by celebrating on the 13th. This holiday was created to help you eliminate all those superstitions from your daily life. There isn't any group who claims responsibility for this holiday, but it dates back at least to 1999 in origin.
Sept. 14      National Cream-Filled Donut Day—again, all I can say to this holiday is yummy!
Sept. 15      Make A Hat Day—I can only assume it's a holiday dedicated to making hats of all type for all occasions.
Sept. 16      Collect Rocks Day—for all you rock hounds out there, this is your day of celebration.
Sept. 17      National Apple Dumpling Day—and once again, all I can say about this holiday is yummy!
Sept. 18      National Women's Friendship Day—this is celebrated on the third Sunday in September.  It's nice to have a holiday dedicated to friendship.
Sept. 18      National Cheeseburger Day—and even more yummies! Have you noticed how many holidays celebrate food and drink?
Sept. 19      International Talk Like A Pirate Day—a day to let out the pirate in each of us. You need to brush up on your pirate-speak in anticipation of this holiday. You're not required to dress like a pirate on this date, only to talk like one. This holiday was created by John Baur and Mark Summers in 1995 while they were playing racquetball and started talking to each other in pirate-speak as a fun thing to do.
Sept. 20      National Punch Day—I'm assuming (or choosing to believe) this relates to the beverage rather than hitting someone. So, I have to give it a yummy!
Sept. 21      World Gratitude Day—we all have things for which we need to express our gratitude. This is the day to do it.
Sept. 22      Elephant Appreciation Day—you can show your appreciation for all the elephants in the world.
Sept. 23      Dog In Politics Day—it seems that every year and every month and for that matter, every day in this election year, is filled with politics.
Sept. 24      National Cherries Jubilee Day—oh, yes…and another yummy!
Sept. 24      International Rabbit Day—this is celebrated on the 4th Saturday in September, for those of you who love your pet rabbits or are fans of Bugs Bunny.
Sept. 25      National Comic Book Day—for those who enjoy reading, writing, drawing, and collecting.
Sept. 26      Johnny Appleseed Day—in honor of the young man named John Chapman who planted apple trees across the country.
Sept. 27      Crush A Can Day—the beer can (hopefully empty) on the forehead? All I can say about this is ouch!
Sept. 28      Ask A Stupid Question Day—this is a chance for you to get all those stupid questions out of your system, all those questions you've been saving up because you thought they were too stupid to ask. And for this day, we have a special quote:  "Stupid is as stupid does." (Forrest Gump). The origins of this holiday goes back to the 1980s when there was a movement by teachers to try to get kids to ask more questions in the classroom.
Sept. 29      Confucius Day—this is the day to get a fortune cookie and check your fortune.
Sept. 30      National Mud Pack Day—and another yummy!  Oops, wait a minute…that's wrong. Mud packs, not mud pie…I've never understood how smearing mud on your face is suppose to be good for the skin.

And that's a listing of the bizarre and unique holidays for September of this year. Do any stand out as a favorite for you?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

What Your Handwriting Reveals


Graphologists claim that your handwriting can reveal clues to your personality. There are many small details that provide clues to your personality in addition to several generalizations. Let's see if any of these observations ring true for you.

Small handwriting is associated with being studious, shy, meticulous and concentrated.

Large handwriting is associated with being an outgoing, attention-loving person.

Average handwriting is associated with being well-adjusted and adaptable.

Wide spacing between words means you enjoy your freedom. It also means that you don't typically enjoy large crowds and you don't like to be overwhelmed.

Narrow spacing between words means that you can't stand being alone and you tend to crowd people.

Having rounded letters is typically associated with being artistic or creative.

Having pointed letters can mean you are intense, intelligent, curious and aggressive.

People who write with connected letters are associated with being logical and systematic.

Crossing the very top of the 'T' generally means you have good self-esteem, are optimistic and ambitious.

Crossing the middle of the 't' generally means you are confident and comfortable in your own skin.

Leaving open letters (like not closing an 'O') typically means you are expressive, social and talkative.

Writing a closed letter 'O' indicates you are a private person and an introvert.

If the dot on your 'i' lands high above the letter, you are considered to be imaginative.

If your dot lands to the left of the letter 'i,' then you might be a procrastinator.

If the dot is perfectly over the 'i,' you are considered to be detail-oriented, empathetic and organized.

If the dot of your 'i' has a circle, then you are considered to be a visionary or child-like.

If the dot looks more like a slash, then you might be overly self-critical.

So ... what does your handwriting say about you?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

America's Greatest Train Rides

Before summer vacation time for this year has come and gone, you might want to consider taking a train trip.

Train travel in Europe is very commonplace. Whenever I travel to the UK, I always buy a Brit Rail pass before I go and use it for traveling all over Britain—day trips out of London to such places as Windsor, Oxford, Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon and longer trips such as travel to Northern England and Scotland.

And in the U.S., with more and more restrictions and inconveniences put on airplane passengers and airlines constantly adding fees and surcharges on top of the ticket price, train travel has had quite a resurgence. And even though gasoline prices are down for the moment, not surprisingly the last few years have been the best in Amtrak's history. With the passenger's suggested arrival time at the airport now being two hours prior to your flight departure and you still have to contend with long security lines, the reduced number of flights which creates longer wait times when you need to change planes for a connection, and even a short flight now takes a lot more of your time than it used to.

The Travel Channel on cable television has a couple of shows about scenic train travel in America.

One of the nation's best rides is Amtrak's Southwest Chief that goes from Chicago to Los Angeles and gives the traveler a way to relive America's 1800s expansion west. The train trip lasts a little over forty hours, traveling through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and the famous wild west town of Dodge City, setting for the long-running television series Gunsmoke. From there it continues into Colorado and New Mexico. Then across northern Arizona with the availability of a side trip to the Grand Canyon on a historic old steam train. And finally into Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

With only a few exceptions, this ride is on the same tracks that were once the Santa Fe Railway which was built along the old Santa Fe wagon train trail, a route that also inspired the highway of the days before Interstates crisscrossed the country—the famous Route 66.

Here are five more great long-rail journeys to consider.

The West Coast's Coast Starlight is considered by most travelers to be Amtrak's most scenic route.  It runs along the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington, traveling through some truly spectacular scenery.

From California, the classic route east is the California Zephyr, following the path of the first transcontinental railway between San Francisco and Chicago. It visits such places as Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, across the Rockies to Denver, through Nebraska and Iowa to Chicago.

By taking the Southwest Chief in one direction and returning on the California Zephyr, you are traveling what the Gilded Age tourists in the 1880s and 1890s called the Grand Tour of America.

If you want a ride that goes through the heart of the country, try the Texas Eagle starting in Chicago. It crosses the Mississippi River at St. Louis, travels down through the Ozarks, across Arkansas into eastern Texas, and continues through Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and on to San Antonio where it connects with the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles.

The East Coast relies much more on rail service than the rest of the country, especially the heavily used tracks in the high traffic corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.

One of the country's first scenic rail routes is the Empire Service from New York City up through the Hudson River Valley where Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane encountered the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow.

And if you're on the East Coast and are heading to Florida, you can take the Auto Train where your car travels with you. Passengers board just south of Washington, D.C., and their vehicles are loaded on the train. The trip terminates just outside Orlando, Florida.

Maybe you're not planning a vacation by train, but would like the train experience. There are lots of day trips in various parts of the country, including vintage steam and narrow gauge railroads.  My personal favorite is the Napa Valley Wine Train in California, which includes winery stops. Alaska Railway's White Pass & Yukon Route offers a three hour tour through some truly dramatic scenery.

Have any of you taken a train vacation? A day trip train tour?

*Note:  I know the aforementioned train trips were viable a couple of years ago, but I have not confirmed that they are still in operation.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Weird August Holidays


Every month has its collection of strange, weird, and obscure holidays—at least one per day—many of which are unknown to the general public.  And, needless to say, holidays that are not recognized as a paid holiday at work. Days where the schools, banks, government offices, and post office are not closed. But still holidays to be celebrated and enjoyed in their own quirky fashion.

Let's start with month long celebrations.  For August you have:  Admit You're Happy Month, Family Fun Month, National Catfish Month, National Eye Exam Month, National Golf Month [I'd better make sure my brother knows about this one], Peach Month, Romance Awareness Month, Water Quality Month, and National Picnic Month.

And then there are the week long celebrations.  The first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week.  The second week of the month is National Smile Week.  The third week is Friendship Week.  And the fourth week is Be Kind To Humankind Week.

And the daily celebrations:  I found it interesting that 10 of the 31 days in August had holidays connected to food [are we seeing an ongoing theme here?]. Some of the dates had more than one holiday attached to them.

August 1)  National Raspberry Cream Pie Day
August 2)  National Ice Cream Sandwich Day
August 3)  National Watermelon Day
August 4)  U.S. Coast Guard Day
August 4)  National Mustard Day (the first Saturday in August)
August 5)  Work Like A Dog Day
August 5)  Sisters Day (first Sunday in August)
August 5)  International Forgiveness Day (first Sunday in August)
August 5)  Friendship Day (the first Sunday in August)
August 6)  Wiggle Your Toes Day
August 7)  National Lighthouse Day
August 8)  Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day
          Apparently zucchini is one of the most prolific plants with a single plant producing what seems to be an endless supply of zucchini. By the time August arrives, gardeners have far more zucchini than they can possibly use. After giving away as much as they can to family and friends, desperate growers seek desperate measures to rid themselves of the overflow. And that gives us the name of the holiday…sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day.
August 9)  Book Lover's Day
          Book Lover's Day encourages you to find a comfortable place, relax, and enjoy a good book. If you happen to fall asleep in that gently swaying hammock while reading, that's perfectly okay. There is some disagreement about when this holiday is celebrated. August 9th is the most widely accepted date. Some celebrate it on the first Saturday in November. My suggestion? Celebrate both days.
August 10)  Lazy Day
August 10)  National S'mores Day
August 11)  Presidential Joke Day
August 12)  Middle Child's Day
August 13)  Left Hander's Day
August 14)  National Creamsicle Day
August 14/15)  V-J Day (end of World War II)
August 15)  Relaxation Day
          For people with a hectic lifestyle, this is the day to kick back and do nothing…just relax. Take a break from your busy work and personal schedule. If something stresses you out, this is the day to ignore it.
August 16)  National Tell A Joke Day
August 17)  National Thrift Shop Day
August 18)  Bad Poetry Day
August 19)  Aviation Day
August 20)  National Radio Day
August 21)  Senior Citizen's Day
August 22)  Be An Angel Day
August 22)  National Tooth Fairy Day (and/or February 28)
August 23)  Ride The Wind Day
          This is a carefree day, a time to soar above the earth. Catch a ride on the breeze or float like a cloud. Summer will soon be over. Take advantage of this day to relax and leave your worries behind. Fly a kite. Enjoy the final days of summer.
August 24)  Vesuvius Day
August 25)  Kiss And Make Up Day
August 26)  National Dog Day
August 26)  Women's Equality Day
August 27)  Global Forgiveness Day
August 27)  Just Because Day
August 28)  Race Your Mouse Day [but in today's society are we talking rodent or computer?]
August 29)  More Herbs, Less Salt Day
August 30)  Frankenstein Day
          There are 3 versions of this day. This one is in honor of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who was born August 30, 1797. There is also Frankenstein Friday and National Frankenstein Day, both celebrated in October. Confused? Celebrate all 3 days.
August 30)  Toasted Marshmallow Day
August 31)  National Trail Mix Day