There Are No Eighteenth National Banks

While waiting at a traffic signal yesterday, I noticed there was a First National Bank located catercorner at my left. Then a childhood question popped into my head–“Why are there so many banks with the number one in their names?”

A friend used to joke that if he ever started a bank, he wanted to name it “Second National Bank”. I  laughed, because the notion seemed so funny. Years later, the Internet came along and I was able to search for odd notions like my friend’s bank names.

It turns out that there is a large bank in Ohio named “Second National Bank”, and it has several branch offices, too.

What about a “Third National Bank”? There is one in Sedalia, Missouri that also has branch offices. There’s also mention of an early Third National Bank in Cumberland, Maryland–the building is in the National Register of Historic Places. Plus, there was one in Rockford, Illinois. 

OK, what about any “Fourth National Banks”? One turns up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There was one in Wichita, Kansas also, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another one turned up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There are Fourth National Banks in Atlanta, Georgia and St. Louis, Missouri. Perhaps there are more, elsewhere.

I was on a roll. Is there a Fifth National Bank? Yes, there’s at least one in New York City. I stumbled across a peculiarly named bank in Ohio called the “Fifth Third Bank” Evidently it started out as the “Queen City Bank” of Cincinnati. In 1882, the name was changed to “The Fifth National Bank”. At around the same time, there was a “Third National Bank” in Cincinnati. In 1908, the two banks merged and became the “Fifth Third Bank”.

As far as I know, there is no longer a “Sixth National Bank”, but court documents show there was one in New York in the 1800s. There was also one in Philadelphia.

You’d think there would be several banks listed as “Seventh National Bank” because of the lucky number aspect. However, I could only find one historical bank in New York that was granted its charter in 1865. That bank also issued its own currency. The number seven also shows up as the “Seventh Street Savings Bank” of Washington, DC…but I don’t count that as a Seventh Bank of any sort.

There were at least two historical “Eighth National Banks”.  There was one in Philadelphia, and one in New York. Both old banks also issued their own currency at one time.

A similar story holds true for the old, defunct “Ninth National” banks. One in Philadelphia, and the other in New York City. Again, both once issued their own money.

The “Tenth National Bank” no longer exists, either. It used to have interesting connections before it failed in the 1870s. Wikipedia says it was located in New York. Financier Jay Gould had controlling interest in the firm and “Boss” William Tweed sat on its board of directors.

The Numbered National Banks evidently don’t go beyond ten. I stopped searching after eighteen. There is an obscure, fictional “Twelfth National Bank of Station Square” that appears in the “Sonic X” comic series.

Aside from these arcane exceptions, Banks named after cities, states, and vicinities are numerous. The most popular bank names are those that contain the number “one” or “first”.

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes the old banking quote from Robert Frost. “A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.”

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Some Ice Tea

There are probably some grammar Nazis who will glance at the title to this post and wince. Shouldn’t it say “iced tea”? I would have thought the same, not long ago. However, I’m less strict about word usage when it comes to popular culture.

In the case of iced tea, English grammar used to stipulate iced water and iced cream, too. To refer to water and cream that way now, would sound quite stilted. As far as ice tea versus iced tea, most people vocally say, “ice tea”. This is probably because of the proximity of two similar sounding consonants. I know that when I’m thirsty, I don’t worry about this minor controversy. I simply request a glass of ice tea.

All that said, this is the prime time of the year for ice(d) tea in our society. I’m not thinking of Long Island Ice Tea–that drink doesn’t even contain tea; nor instant ice tea which is only good in a pinch. The only ice tea that truly satisfies is brewed fresh.

There are two methods of preparing it that have become my favorites. Both are very simple.

My default ice tea is sun tea. I fill the trusty, old sun tea jar with plain tap water and set it aside. I decide what kind of tea to prepare. There are the standard Lipton tea bags for the regular tea most people like. Sometimes, I use herbal tea bags like those from “Celestial Seasonings” that can be purchased in supermarkets. I place the number of bags for the amount of servings into the jar; cover it, then place it outdoors on the lawn in the sunshine and wait. If you use loose tea or herbs, use a large tea ball in place of bags.

From time to time, I check out the window to see how the brewing progresses. When the color looks right, I bring the jar inside and discard the used tea bags. I then pour some into an ice filled tumbler, maybe garnish it with lemon, allow it to chill, then enjoy.

My new favorite method uses the French press coffee maker.  Although I’m certainly not the only person who uses the French press for tea, I stumbled upon it myself.

One morning, while preparing coffee in my French press, I glanced at the large jar-full of loose leaf Assam tea in the cupboard. By simple mental association, I wondered if the French press might work for tea.

After sipping my coffee, I cleaned the French press and dried the parts. Then, in a large measuring cup, I microwaved a couple of cups of water to almost boiling, then set it aside.  I scooped enough loose tea into the French press according to taste. Then gently poured in the hot water and placed the top plunger mechanism onto the container. Brew time was a little longer than that needed for coffee. Then, I compressed the plunger slowly to finish the process. I poured the tea into an ice-filled tumbler and savored the new taste sensation.

I’ve experimented with various loose leaf herbal blends and found that the French press works just as well with them, too.

The point is, this is summertime. Now is when we want glasses of bracing, thirst quenching ice(d) tea.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes journalist John Egerton.  “Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths.”

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Marriage Equality Day

Two years ago today, much of the nation waited breathlessly for a landmark Supreme Court decision. One way or another, a verdict would be given about a long, emotional struggle to have same-sex marriages legally recognized across the nation.

The day of the decision happened on the second anniversary that the Supreme Court struck down a major section of the Defense of Marriage Act. That decision enabled federal recognition of same-sex marriages. That day was also the twelfth anniversary of the ruling that struck down the validity of the last few sodomy laws in the US.

There had been numerous challenges to various state laws that banned same-sex legal unions. The laws had been challenged in various state and federal courts, with mixed results. In late 2014, after a long series of appeals court rulings that state level same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit Court ruled that bans were constitutional. It was this split in court opinions that fostered the climate for Supreme Court review. The case that eventually led to that review was just developing.

The case centered around James Obergefell and John Arthur, both of Ohio. Arthur was terminally ill with ALS and the couple wanted to get married, but Ohio did not recognize same-sex marriages. The two flew to Maryland where they were legally married at Baltimore Airport in 2013. Arthur’s death was anticipated so the couple filed a lawsuit that challenged Ohio’s non-recognition of same-sex marriage on death certificates. Sadly, Arthur died several months after the suit’s litigation started.

Throughout the state’s history, Ohio law recognized marriages that were solemnized outside of the state of Ohio. Furthermore, certain marriages between cousins and older minors solomnized in other jurisdictions were valid in Ohio even though they could not be legally performed in Ohio. The plaintiffs understood that Ohio officials would refuse to recognize that Arthur was married at the time of death and that Obergefell was his spouse.

On July 19, 2013, the case was filed in US District Court for Southern Ohio. Three days later, Judge Timothy Black granted a temporary restraining order requiring Ohio to recognize the marriage on Arthur’s death certificate. In September an amended complaint added two additional plaintiffs, David Michener and Robert Grunn.  Judge Black ruled on December 23rd that Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states was in violation of due process and equal rights of the marriage partners.

The State of Ohio appealed the decision. On November 6, 2014 the Court of Appeals reversed the decision. On November 14th, Obergefell filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the US Supreme Court. The following January the Supreme Court granted certiorari and agreed to hear the case.

The Court consolidated the case with other Sixth Circuit cases challenging same-sex marriage restrictions. The Court ordered each party brief one of two issues pertinent to their cases:
A. Whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.
B. Whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.

The plaintiffs argued that the case addressed question B. The plaintiffs’ merit brief was filed on February 27, 2015. The respondents’ briefs were filed March 27th. The Reply brief was filed April 17th. The case was then heard on April 28th.

The decision was issued on the second to the last decision day of the Court’s term. At 10:00 am on June 26, 2015 The Justices ruled that the 14th Amendment requires all states to license marriages between same-sex couples. Furthermore, all marriages that have been lawfully performed out of state must be legally recognized.

Part of the Court’s majority opinion stated: “…this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order. See Maynard v. Hill, 125 U. S. 190, 211. States have contributed to the fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of many facets of the legal and social order. There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this
principle, yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable. It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society….”

With the legal validity of marriage equality came the advent of the continuing struggle to obtain its social acceptance.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  “It’s a facet of the gay rights movement that people don’t  think about enough. Why suddenly marriage equality? Because it wasn’t until 1981 that the Court struck down Louisiana’s ‘head and master rule,’ that the husband was head and master of the house.”

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Happy Leon Day

Just like death and taxes, the over-promotion, and commercialization of Christmas is a fact of life. I get that some people start playing holiday songs after Halloween. I even chuckle about Xmas in July. I’m finally accepting Leon Day.

No, the holiday does not celebrate Saint Leon. Even though there might be a commercial promoter named Leon, it’s not named after him, either. The holiday is not a salute to Saint Leon, Indiana, but Hoosiers there might celebrate Leon Day.

Leon is a semi-palindrome. That is a word that spells a different word, backwards. In this case we get Noel from Leon. I’m guessing that whoever came up with the name for this unofficial holiday chose a half-palindrome because Leon Day signifies that Christmas is half of the year away.

I’m just going to relax and accept that hype over Christmas happens earlier every year. I’m braced for when stores begin to ask us to start shopping for Christmas on Boxing Day or even Christmas Day, itself. Why not? Some smartypants is going to eventually do so, someday.

Believe it or not, there are some people who celebrate Leon Day as if it is actually Christmas. They watch the Charlie Brown Christmas video; play some holiday CDs; bake Christmas cookies, and even serve hot cocoa.

Other folks are more sensible about Leon Day. They use the time to update their holiday card mailing lists. Do they have some new friends or family members to add? Who has died? Who haven’t they received cards from for several years? Who will receive presents, and who won’t? People might begin planning for this year’s holiday get-together or family reunion. They might even be on their company’s holiday party planning committee.

I’ve heard of Leon Day celebrants making ornaments, and planning what their trees will look like this year. I hope they’re not putting up a tree for Leon Day. People who have outdoor holiday displays sometimes plan their next layouts during Leon Day. They might do electrical tests and safety checks as well.

Because I’m accepting Leon Day this year, I plan to use the time to cull my Xmas decorations and donate them to the thrift store (They display Christmas stuff year around.)  While I’m sorting, I’ll play my CD copy of the original Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Album. Then I can forget about Christmas until Christmas in July.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders this ancient Confucius quote: “The Master said,’The Gentleman understands what is right, whereas the petty man understands profit.’ (Analects 4.16)”

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The Sensational Raisin

There’s a simple exercise that was brought to light by the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh and the Zen teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn called the “Raisin Meditation”. It’s basically a mindfulness exercise. I like the Raisin Meditation because it’s capable of expanding ones consciousness without any woo woo.

Get one single raisin. If you don’t have a box of raisins, get one raisin-size morsel of a different fruit, maybe a blueberry.

Place the raisin in the palm of one of your hands. Study the raisin. What does it look like? Describe its color. How many wrinkles does it have? How does it feel on your skin? Pick up the raisin and examine its tactile qualities.

Bring the raisin to your nose and pay attention to any aromas it may have. Do you notice any lingering mustiness, sweetness, or earthiness? Next, bring the raisin to one of your ears. Do you hear any subtle sounds when you gently squeeze it or roll it between the finger and thumb?

Place the raisin between your lips and just hold it there for awhile. How does your mouth react? Do you feel your mouth watering? Do you notice the urge to bring the raisin into your mouth? Pay attention to that desire for a few moments.

Go ahead and push the raisin onto your tongue. What is going on? What does the raisin feel like on the surface of your tongue? How does it taste? Press it against the roof of your mouth. Are there other sensations?

Manipulate the raisin onto one of your lower teeth. Pay attention to the desire to crush the raisin. Gently squeeze the raisin between two teeth but don’t crush it. What does it feel like? How strong is your instinct to chew? Keep the raisin between the teeth for as long as you can.

Go ahead and chew the raisin. Notice the slight pressure on the teeth. Is there any stickiness? What types of flavors and textures are being squeezed out of the raisin? How does the masticated raisin substance feel on the tongue? Do you hear yourself chewing? How strong is the instinct to swallow?

When you can no longer resist the swallowing instinct, go ahead and allow it to happen. Pay attention to the movements of your tongue and jaw. Notice the clenching of the muscles in your throat. How far down the throat can you feel the act of swallowing?

How does it feel to act like a connoisseur of raisins for these few moments? What is the difference, to you, between mindfully eating one single raisin and mindlessly snacking on clusters of raisins? How does the pleasure compare?

Were you able to actually do this simple exercise and not just read about it and process it intellectually?

What did you learn about yourself?

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this pithy statement from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realizing you already are what you are looking for.”

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Honestly Phony …Floral Friday

Who can satisfactorily explain why we get certain urges to see or do stuff with a creative twist? This week I had a driving itch to make some floral projects that use only the most obviously artificial elements. I wanted to make no attempt at all to emulate actual live flowers.

The old Indian brass vase is the perfect base for an artificial peacock feather made of glitter-coated wire. The “roses” are stiffened red paper with the texture of wood shavings.

The papier mache and dyed fabric “sunflower” is fascinating to contemplate. The anonymous Chinese artisans did such an amazing job on the flower that it needs no garnishing elements. It is at home in the faux tiger striped plastic department store mini-vase.

The black, footed cube vase is home to a trio of wire and mylar accent stems. The bursts of blue, green, and red play together for an energetic result.

The Blue Jay of Happiness thinks artificial flowers are under-valued. We should get past our condescending attitudes towards them so we can appreciate the amount of ingenuity and skill that goes into their creation.

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A heating and air conditioning repair van was parked in front of my house yesterday. The technician was strapping his tool belt around his waist, then walked to the four-plex next door. Apparently one of the outside condenser units for the air conditioning went kaput again.

During the past several years, the two aging condensers have needed service at least once each summer. While performing most of those service calls, some poor HVAC technician has had to toil away on the west side of the building where there is little or no breeze and the sunshine bears down upon him.

Yesterday afternoon, the poor worker certainly earned his pay. After about an hour of apparent trial and error tinkering, the technician removed the old condenser unit altogether, hauled it to the van, then drove away. A few hours later, a larger truck from the same repair company arrived with a crew of two more men and the original technician.

All three strapped on their tool belts, walked to the back of the truck, then began unpacking a brand new outside condenser unit from its shipping box. In less than an hour, the three HVAC technicians had completed the installation job, tested it, and left. The new condenser sat on its pad, humming quietly away.

If I was still a high school student, I’d seriously consider a career in HVAC (Heating Ventilation And Cooling). The technology is constantly improving and becoming more efficient. Many of these changes are coming about to address energy consumption and global climate change issues. All of these together provide career opportunities.

Aside from the need for workers and technicians to build, install, and maintain conventional HVAC systems, there are new technologies becoming more common in building temperature and environmental control. Some are being designed with solar/battery energy source considerations in mind.

I was surprised to discover that there are even geothermal HVAC systems available.
Geothermal systems work with the same heat exchange principle as conventional atmospheric air conditioners and heat pumps do, except the heat transfer plumbing is installed deep under the ground, not exposed to the air. These systems use the constant temperature of the ground to provide heat in the winter and dissipate heat in the summer. This is a very safe, efficient energy source that doesn’t ever run out. It will be interesting to see how this technology is utilized more for individual and industrial applications in the future.

Our culture is largely indoor based, so heating, ventilation, and cooling technology will remain very important aspects of our day to day lives. The HVAC industry will be a healthy, viable part of our domestic economy into the foreseeable future.

I know for sure that I feel thankful for the cool, refreshing air in the summer and the warm, cozy air in the winter.

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes a quip from writer Amiri Baraka. “God has been replaced, as he has all over the West, with respectability and air conditioning.”

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