Saturday, August 29, 2020

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, 2020.

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 Day has come to symbolize something else, too. In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the official beginning and ending of the summer on the calendar, 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 (several 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, 2020

What's In Your Junk Drawer?

Even though summer usually says outdoor activities, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of us are confined to our place of residence. The last pandemic in 1918 was a period in history without the internet, without computers, without social media, without smart phones, without cable, without movies on DVD, without television, and even without radio. For this pandemic, in addition to all the above mentioned conveniences, we have live face-to-face communication through such platforms as Facetime, Skype, and Zoom. When you compare our situation to 1918, we are in a much better position to handle the stay at home restrictions.

But there's still that daily cry of 'there's nothing to do.' Maybe this is a good time to turn our attention to cleaning out and organizing that infamous catch-all known as the junk drawer. Don't deny that you have one. Everyone does and it's usually in the kitchen. What are some of the common items kept in a junk drawer? Wouldn't this be a good time to clean it out? Get rid of all the obsolete junk in that junk drawer? Let's take a look of some of things you'd typically find in the junk drawer.

1)  Scissors:

These are a must in a junk drawer.  They don't need to be an expensive pair, but they do need to be there.

2)  Paper clips and safety pins:

When something needs fastening, it's a nuisance to rummage through your office for a paper clip and sift through sewing supplies to find what you need.  It's very convenient to have a few of these items handy in the kitchen.

3)  Pens and pencils:

Another must for the junk drawer.  Everyone always needs one in the kitchen.  This is where a lot of the free give-away promotional pens end up…or the one you liberated from the grocery store after writing that check (assuming anyone writes checks at the store rather than using the handy debit card).

4)  Bandages:

Just in case you cut yourself while chopping veggies.

5)  Gum and candy:

Always a nice surprise to find a stick of gum or piece of candy. But how long has it been there?

6)  Rubber bands:

While they're essential to a junk drawer, they often end up running amok.  You need to put them in something so they won't get tangled with everything and with each other.

7)  Bag clips:

If you have the kind with magnets on them, then you probably keep them on the freezer or refrigerator.  But if they don't have magnets, you'll most likely keep them in the junk drawer.

8)  Batteries:

Many people keep batteries in their refrigerator, but it has been debated whether or not this actually extends battery life.  I keep mine in my junk drawer, mostly AA and AAA batteries since they are the most used. I do, however, have a clear plastic case that hold them.

9)  Mini tools:

It's good to have a few tools handy such as different sizes of screwdrivers (both Phillips head and flat head) and maybe a hammer and pliers for those quick emergency fixes that don't require dragging out the big tool box.

10)  Flashlight:

It's nice to have one handy in case of that power failure.  Of course, I also have one in my bedroom and my office.

In my junk drawer I have some of these items and I have some that aren't mentioned here such as a couple of extension cords, a jar with miscellaneous nails and screws, and a roll of duct tape.

There are drawer organizers made for the specific purpose of putting that junk drawer in some kind of order.  I've given up on them and have returned to the basic disorganized system.

What kind of stuff do you keep in your junk drawer?

Saturday, August 15, 2020

10 Of History's Overlooked Mysteries

History is filled with mysteries, some small scale like the origins of a book and others on a very large scale such as the disappearance of an entire civilization.

I recently came across a list of 10 historical mysteries that don't seem to get too much attention.

The Tarim Mummies

An archaeological excavation beneath the Tarim Basin in western China unearthed more than 100 mummified corpses dating back more than 2000 years.  Even though dug up in China, when a college professor viewed the mummies in a museum, he was shocked to discover they had blonde hair and long noses.  In 1993 he returned to the museum to collect DNA samples from the mummies.  Tests validated his belief, showing that the bodies were of European genetic stock.  Ancient Chinese texts from as early as the first millennium BC mention groups of Caucasian people living in the far east, but there is no mention on any living in the Tarim Basin.

The Voynich Manuscript

This is quite possibly the most unreadable book in the world.  The 500-year-old, 240 page manuscript was discovered in 1912 at a library in Rome.  It contains illustrations and writing in an unknown language.  The best cryptographers have been unable to decipher the text, but statistical analysis of the writing shows that it does seem to follow the basic structure and laws of a working language.

Who Was Robin Hood?

The possible real-life existence of a bandit living in the forest who stole from the rich and gave to the poor is more plausible than the legendary King Arthur and a magical sword named Excalibur.  The historical hunt for the real Robin Hood has discovered several candidates including Robert Hod, a fugitive in Yorkshire who went by Hobbehod as well as Robert Hood of Wakefield.  The name Robin Hood eventually became synonymous with being an outlaw.  His identity would later become even murkier as various authors wove more characters into the tale such as Prince John and Richard the Lionhearted.

The Carnac Stones

As with the construction of Stonehenge, it was a backbreaking task for the people responsible for the Carnac Stones.  On the coast of Brittany, in northwestern France, there are over 3000 megalithic standing stones arranged in exacting lines and spread out over 12 kilometers (7.2 miles).  The local myth explains them as a Roman legion on the march when the wizard Merlin turned them to stone.  The identity of the Neolithic people who build them is unknown.

The Bog Bodies

Hundreds of these ancient bodies have been discovered buried around the northern wetlands of Europe.  Researchers who inspected them have found tell-tale signs of torture and medieval foul play.  These clues have led some to suspect that the dead were victims of ritual sacrifice.  [I recall reading about an incident in England, I think in the 1800s, where a body was found in a bog and it was so well preserved that the locals believed it to be a recent murder which resulted in a police investigation.]

Disappearance Of The Indus Valley Civilization

The ancient Indus Valley people were India's oldest known civilization.  Their bronze-age culture stretched from western India to Afghanistan with a population of over 5 million.  Their abrupt decline rivaled that of the Mayans.  Excavations in 1922 uncovered a culture that maintained a sophisticated sewage drainage system and immaculate bathrooms, but found no evidence of armies, slaves, social conflicts, or other vices prevalent in ancient societies.

The Lost Roman Legion

After an underachieving Roman army led by General Crassus was defeated by Persia, legend says that a small band of POWs wandered through the desert and were captured by the Han military.  An Oxford historian who compared ancient records claimed that the lost Roman legion founded a small town near the Gobi Desert named Liqian, which is Chinese for Rome.  DNA tests are being conducted to hopefully explain some of the residents' green eyes and blond hair. [Which leads one to wonder if there is a connection with the Tarim Mummies.]

Fall Of The Minoans

The fall of the Minoan Empire has proven just as puzzling as the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Approximately 3,500 years ago, life on Crete was disrupted by a huge volcanic eruption on the neighbor island of Thera.  Ancient clay tablets show that the Minoan Empire continued for another 50 years.  Theories about their demise include a blanket of ash devastating their crops and another one says their weakened society was left vulnerable to an eventual Greek takeover.

Lost City Of Helike

The Greek writer Pausanias wrote about a great earthquake that destroyed the city of Helike followed by a tsunami that swept away what remained.  The once flourishing city had been a worship center devoted to Poseidon.  No trace of this legendary society existed outside of ancient Greek texts until 1861 when a bronze coin was found showing the head of Poseidon.  In 2001, the ruins of Helike were located beneath coastal mud and gravel.  Work is currently under way to unearth what some consider the real Atlantis.


Rongorongo is an indecipherable hieroglyphic writing used by the early inhabitants of Easter Island, often referred to as the other Easter Island mystery.  Rongorongo appeared mysteriously in the 1700s, at a time when no other neighboring oceanic people had any type of written language.  The language was lost along with the best hopes of deciphering it when early European colonizers banned it because of its pagan roots. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Weird August Holidays

Every month has its collection of strange, weird, and obscure holidays, sometimes more than one per day, many of which are unknown to the general public. And, needless to say, holidays that are not government recognized—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 Mustard Day (the first Saturday in August)

August 1)  National Raspberry Cream Pie Day

August 2)  Friendship Day (the first Sunday in August)

August 2)  International Forgiveness Day (first Sunday in August)

August 2)  Sisters Day (first Sunday in August)

August 2)  National Ice Cream Sandwich Day

August 3)  National Watermelon Day

August 4)  U.S. Coast Guard Day

August 5)  Work Like A Dog Day

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, home 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 world 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