Japanese Novelties …Floral Friday

Images are clickable.

Images are clickable.

It’s fun to stumble across porcelain novelty knick-knacks and pottery at garage sales or thrift shops.  This is a good time of the year to do so because many folks are in the middle of spring cleaning and decluttering.  I sort of declutter at this time of year, too.  I donate tchochkies and bring home different ones.

I’m a bit fussy about the doo dads I bring home.  Most of what appeals to me are vintage objects that were manufactured in Japan.  Before the influx of heavy resin objects, dime stores and souvenir shops stocked little novelties made in Japan.

There is such a variety of these dohickies that collectors will probably never tire of searching for more to fill their shelves and tabletops.FF032715b

A person can categorize the porcelain conversation pieces. I have several that qualify as planters and flower pots. These items are almost as numerous as figurines.  I brought out three of my more recent finds because they are so whimsical.

FF032715cWho can even guess what the light green “house” is supposed to depict?  Tiny critters that might be teddy bears, sit in front of a bird house or out house.  The crescent moon detail confuses me.  I smile whenever I see the little “house”.  I placed three stargazer lilies in the top to enhance the fantasy theme.

I laughed out loud when I first saw the little squirrel figure on the Otigari tree trunk vase. The red paint detail on its mouth is just plain bizarre. Long branches of small flowers placed into the two openings  complete the illusion of a little tree.

This 1981 Otigari depiction of a Victorian house appealed to me because of its association with San Francisco.  It has an ample well that can hold a medium-size plant or arrangement.  At first, I wanted to use a small tree. However, I decided to create a contemporary grouping instead.

Not only are vintage Japanese knick knacks whimsical and fun, they are usually very reasonably priced.  Go ahead and find one or two to enjoy.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this anonymous quotation, “People who have knick-knacks are people people. Some are even named Nick”.

Posted in art, cultural highlights, Floral Arts, Hobbies, Vintage Collectables | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Happy bluejayblog Day

I want to be the first person to wish you and yours a most auspicious, curious, happy bluejayblog Day.  You may be among the many who are unaware of this holiday, so I’ll tell you about this international commemoration.

People who regularly stop by this blog, know that I frequently like to celebrate obscure and arcane events. Many people already enjoy St. Patrick’s Day and a few of us commemorate the Ides of March.  March is also sort of famous for National Chip and Dip Day, Cuddly Kitten Day, National Puppy Day, International Waffle Day, International Daylight Savings Day, Alien Abductions Day, and Kick Butts Day. Bluejayblog Day just happens to be one of those days that only people in the know, know about.

International bluejayblog Day came about after some serious thought about what I wished to celebrate on March 26th. I’m so happy and thankful for the many mundane and amazing aspects of life as a human being in this day and age.  That’s why my slogan says, “Here are my observations as I reach for understanding.”

There are so many things that pique my attention and interest.  Our modern world is filled with fascinating technology and individuals.  History, of all sorts, has captured my attention ever since childhood. Then there are psychology, eastern philosophy, floral arts, literature, music, civil rights activism, the environment, archaeology and everything else.  The act of writing posts for this blog enables me to focus on just one aspect at a time, yet does not hinder the range of topics for me to choose for each day.

Importantly, this is a platform for me to practice writing and to keep my compositional skills fresh.  I’ve been interested in journalism and the media since childhood. I’ve been seriously focused on it ever since my involvement with the Irving Junior High School monthly newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska during the mid-1960s. The school was one of the very few in the nation to print a regular periodical, complete with photographs, with newspaper ink on newsprint paper.  If memory serves me correctly, the printing contract was held by the Lincoln Journal/Star Company.

That early exposure to journalistic standards is something I’m very grateful for.  It’s where I learned, by heart, the “five W’s and an H” (who, what, why, where, when, and how). The “five W’s and an H” has served me well professionally, and personally.  If you look closely at my writing, you’ll find these aspects of my junior high lesson. When these six questions are asked in everyday living, curiosity and healthy skepticism are cultivated. It’s hard to be intellectually lazy if you habitually utilize the “five W’s and an H”.

Ever since bluejayblog’s first incarnation at “Yahoo! Plus” back in 2010, I have never missed a single day of writing. It was the corporate downsizing of “Yahoo! Plus” that brought me to “WordPress” and its more powerful, flexible platforms. It was another instance of an ending bringing about the beginning of something better. This platform has made it easy for me to write something each day.  Even if I come down with the flu or a serious cold, I want to write.MakeHolidayDay-03

Sometimes I daydream about journeying to all the countries, cities, and locales where my readers live.  To do so would probably occupy me for the rest of my life.  I’d love to personally meet my subscribers, face to face. I know that I’d learn many things and become much closer friends with you all.  Who knows? Bluejayblog would expand and transform into something bigger.  It’s nice to daydream, but I’m quite happy in the where and when I’m at for now.

So, what spurred me to create bluejayblog Day?  That’s easy, today is also “Make Your Own Holiday Day”.  This is a day when anyone at all may feel free to invent and MakeHolidayDay-02celebrate anything we wish.  It’s an international commemoration that was dreamed up by the “Wellness Permission League”.  I don’t know much about that group.  I checked out their website and didn’t find very much there.  The short page does invite people to post events.  Nobody has done so, yet.

Because today is “Make Your Own Holiday Day” mark your own calendar with red ink to celebrate whatever it is that you’re going to celebrate.  You may wish to remind yourself to do the same thing on next year’s calendar, too.

Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate bluejayblog Day in the true spirit of the holiday. Practice the “Five W’s and an H”.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness is sincerely thankful for each and every person who visits bluejayblog.

Posted in cultural highlights, Friendship, History, Hometown, Meanderings, Youth | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Finding Zero (Review)

Personally, I consider mathematics to be a rather useful albeit, dry, intimidating field of study.  In public school, my grades in arithmetic and math were terrible.  I finally found a truce with the subject in college when I aced Algebra 101.  A few years ago, I started an independent study of Trigonometry that more or less, still continues.  To me, mathematics is difficult and requires a great deal of discipline for a follow-through.Zero-01jacket

That is why I was surprised to find an attractively packaged slim volume about mathematics on the new books shelf at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library.  The dustcover of Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir D. Aczel is reminiscent of Buddhist philosophy publications. The drawing of a right palm immediately made me think of a classic Mudra or gesture of the Lord Buddha.  The juxtaposition of the illustration with the book title intrigued me enough to check out the book.

I began my first encounter with Aczel’s writing talents by reading the acknowledgments.  I recognized a few of the names, especially the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The presence of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts made me want to read more. I knew then, that Finding Zero was not going to be a dull history of mathematics.

The odyssey begins with Aczel’s unusually fortunate childhood.  His father captained a cruise ship that sailed the Mediterranian Sea.  The family frequently was aboard to Zero-02AczelAmirenjoy and learn about the many ports of call.  Because Aczel only attended formal school part time, he and his sister were taught by tutors and self-study.  Aczel was greatly influenced in his love of mathematics by his father’s Hungarian steward, Laci. It was during Aczel’s childhood that his drive to discover the origins of our numbers and, especially, zero emerged.

Laci, himself, had an interesting personal history. He had been a star mathematics student at Moscow University. He was involved in some sort of scandal and was asked to quit school by the KGB.  Laci then moved to Czechoslovakia to learn how to fly military aircraft. Laci then took his revenge upon the USSR by stealing one of its fighter jets. He flew the plane to Israel and presented it to the Israeli Air Force as a gift.  Afterwards, Laci had nothing to do, so he began working for the shipping company Zim Lines.  It was there, that Laci became acquainted with Aczel’s father.

With his childhood background out of the way, Aczel takes the reader along on his adventure through history and travel in his quest to find civilization’s oldest physical artifact of zero.


The Buddhist connection is alluded to at first, then becomes more important as the story unfolds.  Aczel is convinced that the Buddhist concept, Shunyata, as taught by the iconic teacher, Nagarjuna, played an important part in the development of the modern concept of zero.  Shunyata is the arcane concept of emptiness or the void.  Because I’m a long-time student of Buddhism, the Nagarjuna connection, and Aczel’s interpretation of Shunyata drew me closer to the book.

The quest to rediscover the long-lost artifact K-127 takes the reader from California, to the Mediterranean, to South Asia, and the Far East. The odyssey is attention grabbing, exciting, and intellectually stimulating.  Finding Zero is much more fascinating than I expected.  Anybody who is interested in archaeology, Eastern Philosophy, history, travel, and mathematics will love the stories in this book.

I later found out that Amir D. Aczel has written several other books that I now want to read. His international bestseller is Fermat’s Last Theorem. Aczel’s other books include, Mystery of the Aleph, and The Riddle of the Compass. He is a Massachusetts resident and is a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

{ Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir D. Aczel; published January 2015 by Palgrave Macmillan; ISBN: 978-1-137-27984-2 }

1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes to ponder a thought from Nagarjuna. “Although you may spend your life killing, you will not exhaust all your foes. But if you quell your own anger, your real enemy will be slain.”

Posted in cultural highlights, History, Books, Politics, religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What About Our Stuff?

I’m sitting at a small desk I bought from a coworker in 1978. Some years earlier, she had purchased it second-hand, too.  It’s a rather nondescript vintage piece of furniture designed in the so-called “waterfall” style.  It is a very simple desk. There are no design gimmicks. Its pleasing wooden top curves towards the front.  The seven small drawers do not have pulls or knobs, only slots at the bottoms to allow for their use.

In 1980, I decided to strip off the layers of chipped, worn paint that made the little desk look quite shabby.  The desk became my first ever attempt at furniture refinishing. It turned out that there were five coats of paint of various colors plus the original varnished finish to remove. I went through two pints of chemical gel paint remover solution to get all the paint off. After sanding the wood and carefully preparing it, I stained it then applied several coats of tung oil finish.

The old desk still looks reasonably good after all the years of use.  It now needs a few very minor repairs and touch ups here and there, but I still want to keep it. My attitude towards this desk is at odds with the current, industry-preferred philosophy of planned obsolesence.


Here in the West, we’ve willingly accepted the temporary nature of our belongings.  Many of us are aware of the annual unveiling of the new car models. The new cars might feature a new tail light, grill, and trim. Perhaps a different type of seating, interior style, or electronic gadget might be the feature.  Aside from sundry safety and performance improvements, we know that the new cars are the same as the old cars. A metal body powered by an engine to comfortably and quickly transport us from point A to point B.  Automobiles have become the synonyms for planned obsolesence.

Through the years, we have allowed ourselves to be defined, not as human beings or citizens, but as consumers.  Words are powerful things.  When we use words as labels, they become even more powerful.  If you remind yourself that you’re a fine, upstanding Italian or perhaps a true-blue American, you feel a swelling up of euphoria and other positive emotions.  You’re not just a mere human, you’re an awsome Italian or a dyed in the wool American.  On a more subtle, more insidious level, we have allowed ourselves to accept the label “consumer”.

What do consumers do?  Consumers consume. Consumers buy stuff. Good, patriotic consumers buy lots of stuff.  In today’s economic climate, consumers tell ourselves that we buy stuff in order to stimulate the economy.  Good consumers buy the latest motor vehicle. Consumers use the latest smart phone. Consumers have the latest gadgets. Consumers soon tire of the new stuff and desire to acquire newer versions of the new stuff.

Many of us realize that these programmed cravings do not make us happy for very long.  We feel frustrated when the next door neighbor gets a new vehicle that is slightly newer and fancier than our own. We feel an emotional itch when a friend shows off her new laptop computer. We feel the rivalry when a sibling buys that new house in the countryside.

On an instinctive level, we understand that our frustrating relationship with stuff needs to be fixed.  Some of us react against consumerism.  There is the pride in owning second hand furniture, a dislike of designer label clothing and accessories, or a rejection of other consumer goods. We might see material stuff through puritanical lenses as a corruption of human life and a diversion from the spiritual life. Count me guilty of this second point of view.  Some of us cycle back and forth between consumerism and anti-consumerism.  Eventually, we may wonder if there is a middle way.

In a macro sense, there is also a debate and conflict between our consumer-based economy and the viability of the Earth’s ecosystem.  We find ourselves at war with Mother Nature.   Guess who will win this conflict?  We can deny that there is a Stuff-01problem, or we can own up to our part in it. Must we surrender to more hedonistic consumption of stuff, or submit to a puritanical denial?  Is it time for a “diet” to cut out the luxuries of life?  When we reject materialism, outright, don’t we feel deprived?  Must we all become monks and join a monastery?  We know that diets are doomed to failure.  We understand that deprivation goes against our nature. Only a small percentage of humanity cares to explore their inner nature by living as nuns and monks.

I’ve noticed that people are beginning to find a way out of the conflict between consumerism and anti-consumerism. More frequently, I notice the message of appreciation.  The new meme asks us to appreciate what we already have. There is no need to surrender to greed nor struggle to give away everything we own.  We’re being told that all we need to do is adopt an “attitude of gratitude”.

At one time in my young life, I had adopted the puritanical view of material things.  I certainly wasn’t a hippie, but I liked their communal attitude towards life and stuff. Their rejection of “the establishment” appealed to me. I was involuntarily subjected to a sparse lifestyle during the 1970s so I strongly rejected the puritanical view.

I swerved into the path of consumerism after  settling into my career. I regularly updated my wardrobe; bought and kept up with the latest stereo gear; and ordered a new car from the factory.  It didn’t take very long to understand that this path failed to provide satisfaction and lasting happiness. I eventually managed to scale back the consumption level but still maintained a consumer mentality.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but  I developed a more mellow attitude.  The free spirit, communal attitude inched its way back into my mind.  This time, the attitude was balanced with the realization that stuff doesn’t make us happy.

I like stuff.  I like nice things, and that’s OK. I don’t purchase expensive, nice things because I cannot afford them. I buy other people’s cast-away nice things. On an elementary level, my peers and acquaintances don’t care what I own nor where I may have purchased it. Nobody gives a hoot if I acquired the gorgeous crystal vase from Macy’s or Goodwill. My lover says my little house resembles a curio shop more than a home.  That’s fine. I like to enjoy my eclectic collection of stuff.

I have a small collection of teddy bears and bear figurines. They are a beautiful reminder of my happy boyhood enjoyment of toys.  It is the same happy urge that keeps me feeling young and fresh.  Certainly, I’m a mature, grown man.  I accept that there is still a little boy inside my mind. If I let that boy die, I will deeply miss him.  I allow a little bit of innocent, childish materialism to color my world with sights, textures, and sounds.  I think this is a healthy, balanced view of materialism.

Likewise, I learned not to skimp on necessities. If you buy cheap shoes, you will probably harm your feet. I don’t need to have a collection of shoes. A few pairs of quality, reasonably priced shoes are a wise investment to make for overall foot and bodily health.

14 years ago, I decided to replace the car I owned. I wasn’t being nickle and dimed. It was more like hundreds of dollars each time it broke down. I studied the automobile reviews and mechanical specifications of various cars. When I made up my mind about what I wanted and needed, I drove out of town to purchase a “gently used” Japanese sedan.

The next day, I surrendered my VW Synchro’s keys to the car dealer and drove back home in a 1999 Toyota Camry CE.  It’s exactly what I wanted, a no nonsense base model car with a minimum of gimicks. It has a small engine and manual five-speed transmission. The car will soon mark 100,000 miles. I hope it lasts another several thousand miles, because I really enjoy it.

I’ve determined that our problem with material possessions isn’t that we value our  belongings too much, but that we don’t value and appreciate them nearly as much as we should. This is probably the main reason we find it so easy to “upgrade” our phones so frequently. It’s certainly why we trade in our motor vehicles long before they’re worn out.

There is a new, informal movement composed of activists, artists, environmentalists, philosophers, scientists, and concerned citizens gaining momentum.  The challenge Stuff-03is to value and appreciate our belongings enough to deeply care about how they were made, where they came from, who constructed them, and what will happen to them in the future.

This thinking is less about what we oppose: fossil fuel extraction, global climate change, and rampant consumerism.  It’s more about what we favor: a healthy relationship with our fellow living beings, respect for other people, regard for animals, plants, and resources, and a balanced approach to surviving and living within this delicately balanced ecosystem.

Many of us came to this realization through the help of our spiritual or wisdom traditions.  Daily meditation and mindfulness practice has been shown to be the most helpful in this regard.

For instance, when I slide behind the wheel of the car, I briefly visualize the factory where it was built. I can “see” the people and robots who assembled it. I picture myself driving it carefully and safely in order to protect it and me from harm. When I return from a journey, I gently pat the dashboard or squeeze the steering wheel and thank the car for safely bringing me to and from my destination.  The next time you drive your vehicle or bicycle, try the simple gratitude mental exercise. You will be amazed at how differently you feel about your mode of transportation.

If we buy our stuff with the intent to keep it a long time and mindfully appreciate what we already own, our attitudes towards stuff, other people, living things, and the planet will improve greatly.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness is really thankful for the people who constructed the writer’s desk, for its prior owners, and the people who made the refinishing materials. Hopefully people in the future will also enjoy the desk.






Posted in Contemplation, cultural highlights, Environment, Gadgets, Health, Meanderings, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Easter 1913 Tornadoes

Now that spring has arrived, so has peak tornado and flash flood season.  I have a love-hate relationship with cumulonimbus clouds. I love the dramatic lightning displays and majesty of the huge storm systems. I hate the hail, tornadoes, and flash flooding they bring.

Map is clickable.

Map is clickable.

The spring of last year brought deadly twin tornadoes that wiped out the nearby town of Pilger, just a few miles away from my home in Norfolk, Nebraska. I remember driving past the devastated town, wrecked farms and landscape every week last spring and summer.

Earlier, in October of 2013, a large, wedge tornado went through the Wayne, Nebraska vicinity and destroyed an area of that town.  Some of the devastation happened less than a mile from my father’s home. The tornados that happened in the United States that year, occurred during the centennial year of the deadliest storm outbreak in Nebraska’s history.

The infamous Omaha Tornadoes of March 23, 1913 were the epicenter of a series of tornadoes and floods that ruined Easter Sunday across much of America’s heartland. The Omaha storms were the deadliest ones in Nebraska history. By the time it was over, seven tornadoes had killed 101 people and injured 350. No other major tornado event would affect Omaha until 1975.

On this day in 1913 another F4 tornado went through Missouri and another deadly F4 hit Terre Haute, Indiana that killed 21 people. The Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri outbreak of March 23rd affected an area hundreds of miles long. 70 more deaths and another 250 injuries need to be added to the death toll that day.

1913Tornado-01The funnel that roared through downtown Omaha was 400-yards wide. The tornado that hit Yutan, Nebraska, and the one in Berlin (now Otoe), Nebraska were at least 800-yards wide.

Weather historians agree that several tornadoes struck Nebraska and Iowa between 5:00 and 8:30 Easter night. Additional tornadoes were reported near Des Moines, Iowa and into Northwest Missouri.

There were no such technologies as radio, television, color radar nor orbiting NOAA satellites in 1913, so few people had advance knowledge of approaching severe weather. There were some people who did use the existing technology of the times to try to alleviate the impact of severe thunderstorms.

Mindful weather observers have watched and recorded data from direct experience and barometric readings for many decades.  Barometric pressure readings may begin to fall several hours or even a few days in advance of approaching supercell formation conditions. As conditions worsen, the barometric pressure drops quite rapidly with the approach of a severe thunderstorm (meso-cyclone) with its upward spiraling wind updrafts.

Average, normal barometric pressure in the Omaha area is approximately 30.00 inches, give or take a few hundredths. At 7:00AM on Easter morning, 1913, the Omaha Weather Bureau recorded 28.50 inches. The official readings steadily dropped until 6:00PM, when the big tornado hit. The bureau recorded an official 27.90 inches at that time.

At the same time, the corporate president of Union Pacific Railroad noticed his recording barometer, located in his office, showed an unofficial low reading of 27.70 inches. He instantly became worried, so he telegraphed warnings to trains approaching the Omaha vicinity to proceed with watchfulness and extreme caution because the potential for tornadoes was very likely.

Unfortunately, because radio broadcasting was not possible at that time and just telephones and telegraphy were the only instant media, the vast majority of the population was unaware of the impending disaster that was about to happen to them.

The deadly Omaha area tornado outbreak came to life at 5:00PM two counties north of Omaha near Burt, Nebraska and Monona, Iowa. Half an hour later a funnel appeared at the northeastern edge of Lincoln, Nebraska, at the same time, another one appeared southwest of Omaha and traveled as far as Harrison, Iowa.

The worst one hit the ground at 5:45 just outside of Omaha in Sarpy County. It tracked through the town of Ralston and killed seven people there. Soon, the funnel cut a quarter mile wide swath across Omaha. It totally destroyed many businesses in downtown Omaha along with 600 homes leveled, and over 1,100 badly damaged. 94 people died in Omaha during this particular tornado. Two children died in Harrison County, Iowa when the same funnel crossed into that state.1913Tornado-02

The Yutan tornado dropped from the clouds around 6:15. It destroyed the northern half of Yutan, Nebraska and tracked to Logan, Iowa. 20 people lost their lives in that tornado. At the same time, a twister hit the ground in Otoe County, passed near the town of Syracuse and smashed into Berlin, Nebraska (now called Otoe). The death toll reached 25 from that incident. A seventh tornado was small and short-lived. The F2 traveled only five miles near Pawnee, Nebraska, then lifted back into the clouds. Nobody was killed nor hurt in that one.

When the total casualties and damage is tallied from all the outbreaks that day in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and Nebraska, a total of 19 recorded tornadoes killed 241 people and $9,680,000 in 1913 dollars were reported.

That same cluster of severe weather systems was the start of the terrible phenomenon associated with the Great Flood of 1913. The 24th and 25th brought very heavy downpours to much of the Midwest and portions of New York State. Widespread severe flooding affected much of that area.

1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Jeff Foxworthy. “You might be a redneck if you’ve been on teevee more than five times describing the sound of a tornado.”

Posted in History, Hometown | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

National Cleaning Week

Way back in the early 1970s, I used to maintain floors for a living.  Those floor surfaces were in Palo Alto, California in front of the executive offices on “the hill” at Hewlett Packard Corporation. When the co-presidents’ regular maintenance man was on vacation or sick, I also took care of Bill Hewlett’s and Dave Packard’s offices. CleaningWeek-04buffer

The main level general office floor was covered in a blend of light grey-white tile that showed dirt and coffee spills terribly.  To complicate matters, the ceiling was and still is composed of a series of angled north-facing  long skylighting windows. During the daytime, the natural light further enhanced any scuffs, scratches, and stains.  The CEOs and management insisted that those floors have a mirror shine. Yes, William Hewlett actually issued that order.

Fortunately, the part of floor maintenance I loved best was buffing. My second favorite job was stripping and applying new wax.  HP had a “fleet” of floor buffers of various sizes. I used the one assigned to me, every day.  My daily first priority was to clean and polish the flooring leading to Bill’s and Dave’s offices.  Once that was finished, I took care of an assigned area of the general office space. (It was a different “territory” each day).

Twice a year, I was assigned to help a general weekend “stripping crew” that needed an extra pair of hands.  The crews were assembled to completely strip old wax and grime from an entire floor in one of the HP buildings in Palo Alto.  (They have several.)  The many desks and cubical divider walls were moved aside by a different CleaningWeek-03crew, then we used course-grade buffing pads and detergent to remove every trace of old floor finish.  Other people cleaned the rubber baseboard trim.  It was a very thorough cleaning.

Once the floor was completely dry, we applied a fresh coating of wax with yarn mops. That was then allowed to dry and cure. The next day, the moving crew crowded the desks onto the newly waxed area so that stripping and waxing could take place on the other half of the floor.  Then, the moving crew placed the desks and cubical walls back in their original places. If my memory serves me right, I think each floor of every building went through this total cleaning once every two or three years.

To this day, whenever I see a janitor polishing a shopping center hallway, I feel the urge to take over the buffer.  Buffing is something I really enjoyed. I wonder if there are still tile floors on “the hill”, I’d go back to HP in a heartbeat, if they’d rehire me.

Sometimes I reminince about the floor crews and the teams of janitors I worked with at HP when National Cleaning Week rolls around.  Professional cleaning people and janitorial staff are often forgotten by the general public.  Usually, they’re only encountered by night shift workers or pupils at schools.


I try to take a page from my old floor maintenance work at spring cleaning time, each year.  First, I assign an area for each day of the week. Because I have six areas in the house and one garage, this is easy to do.  Each year, I clean the areas in a different order.  Last year, I took care of the basement first, then the bathroom, the kitchen, etc.  This year, I’m starting with the kitchen, then the music room, with the remainder falling in place, afterwards.

Because I concentrate my effort in one room at a time, it’s easier to do a totally thorough job. The satisfaction of having the first room done is motivation to move on to the next room, the next day.  When I see the job as a means of gaining satisfaction,

obligatory cute animal picture

obligatory cute animal picture

the work seems easier and more fulfilling. Once the big cleaning project of spring is finished, day to day touch ups and pick ups are easier the rest of the year.

I have a large collection of cleaning detergents, polishes, and compounds, so I don’t need to buy anything special.  We all use what works best for us, so I don’t need to give advice about what works, where.  I only hope we’re all using stuff that is environmentally healthy.  If you need cleaning compound and soapy advice, you can easily find it elsewhere on the Web.

So, are you motivated to begin National Cleaning Week with your first project?

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness’ house is clean enough to be healthy, and cluttered enough to be happy.

Posted in Environment, Hometown | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

How We Got To Now (Review)

Now-bookjacketI may need to update my antenna and start to watch teevee again.  Well, only so I can begin to view “How We Got To Now” on PBS. Steven Johnson is the latest writer I’ve encountered who is connected to science oriented television broadcasting.  Judging him by his latest book, Johnson is a curious person, interested in many different fields of study.  In other words, he’s someone I’d like to personally meet.

The book, How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World is sort of a capsulized, popular history of civilization’s technology.  Reading the book, I recognized many of the topics I’ve written about on this blog.  Of course, Johnson goes into greater detail and connects more dots.

By connecting the dots, Johnson argues that the “genius theory” of invention and innovation is largely a myth. In large part, new ideas and innovations arise from conscious and unconscious interactions of different experiences and domains.

In his fluid, easy style, Johnson reveals the major breakthroughs that form the basis of our modern civilization.  This reader was often surprised by what and how these innovations may have developed.  The major topics he traces are, the development of glass, cold, sound, cleanliness, time, and light.Now-glass

In reading these stories, I realized, again, that emerging technologies are first enjoyed as luxuries for well-to-do people, then are propagated and popularized.  Just as glass used to be an elite item for the Egyptian and Roman upper class, now glass, in most of its forms, is ubiquitous to all of us.

I was impressed by Johnson’s tracing of human ingenuity through the ages. The deceptively simple aspects we take for granted, like hygiene or glass, have had staggeringly powerful influences on the development of our world. Each chapter outlines the evolution and expansion of each innovation, that the writer mistakenly labels “the hummingbird effect” and coevolution.

I reminded myself that How We Got to Now is a companion publication to a television documentary, so it is not an exhaustive study nor is it without some faults. However, if Now-Johnsona person wants to read a general overview about the development of our technologies, this book presents a reasonable starting point.

Critical readers will notice Johnson uses the writing formula of logical and inevitable progressions. The string of epiphanies makes for good popular non-fiction. This style is quite tedious in longer, more serious books.  The “gee whiz” factor, aside, I did enjoy reading the book and I may actually watch some episodes of his television documentary series.

Johnson has written other bestsellers, they include Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad is Good for You. He has written articles for leading newspapers and periodicals.

{ How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson; 293 pages; published by Riverhead-Penguin; ISBN: 978-1-59463-296-9 }

1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes James Bertrand. “Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking, we can get on with creating the future.”

Posted in Books, cultural highlights, Entertainment, History, Science | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments