Time Traveller

timetravel-02While doing a Web search for H.G. Wells, yesterday, I stumbled across a holiday that is new to me.  As I understand it, “Pretend to Be a Time Traveller Day” is an Internet phenomenon.  Some people place the date as the one where the most people search for or mention “time traveller” more often.  This may or may not be true. Regardless, I think the idea for a holiday that salutes time travellers is a useful one.

If you pause to think about it, all of us are mental time travellers nearly every day anyway.  We slip into the past when we remember a pleasant moment with a special friend or when we regret something that happened long ago. We zoom into the future when we anticipate something fun and exciting or when we dread encountering an important deadline.

“Pretend to Be a Time Traveller Day” can be a day when we purposely don’t live in the moment, yet ironically do live in the moment. Do you catch my drift?

Take for example, you decide to mentally go back in time to December 8, 1925 for an entire day, or as long as you can. You visualize your “real present” as 1925 regarding clothing, food, social attitudes, etc.  When you see things as you go about your routine here on December 8, 2016, you look and feel as astonished as someone would who actually did get caught in a time loop from 91 years ago.

While you read this blog post on your device right now, you find yourself startled to be looking at technology that will only be possible 91 years from the time period of which you are accustomed. See everything you interact with in this light.

timetravel-01Similarly, if you decide to travel into the future, you can imagine what the world and society will be like 91-years (or whenever) from now.  As you go about your daily routine, you can experience life as if you have been thrust into a museum world.  As you read this post on your device you think that it’s a rather quaint, antique artifact.

If this post still exists in some form 91-years from now and if you are actually reading this in the year 2107, hello from the past.

To get yourself ready for today’s time journey, try to remember what you ate for dinner last Thursday. Did you eat at home? Were you a guest? Was it eaten at a restaurant? Did you have a salad first? What was the entree? What kind of sides did you eat?  Was there dessert?  Was the meal prepared conventionally or did it come pre-packaged in a plastic tray and microwaved? Did you take your dinner with someone else? Your significant other? Your family? Alone? Close your eyes and visualize, as exactly as possible, that dinner.

As far as my own dinner, last Thursday, I went alone to the delicatessen at the HyVee supermarket a few blocks away from my home. I selected my dinner a la cart from the buffet. I chose a pasta salad made from shell macaroni, green peas in a mayonaise sauce and topped with tiny cheddar cheese chunks. Since I eat a small evening meal, I added  only a three-bean salad on the side, and cream of potato soup. I did not have dissert, but did have one small cup of decaf coffee with imitation creamer. My friend Robert spotted me when I was half finished with the dinner. He sat down at my table to chat for a few minutes. Robert was sipping a cola with a straw from a large cup.

Now that we have dinner out of the way, where do we want to go?  Perhaps the past, to Morocco in the early 1800s?  Perhaps further back to Edo, Japan in the year 1616? Maybe you want to experience an African tropical forest far, far into prehistory. You are limited only by your imagination. Go ahead, ride the currents of time.  Once there, visualize every single aspect and detail of your surroundings. Would you be able to communicate verbally or in writing?  If not, would you pretend to be an illiterate mute?  You’ve travelled into the past before now, but this time really go for perfection.

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Personally, I want to move forward another decade or two from now.  I visualize myself still living independently, not in a nursing home or otherwise institutionalized. I’ll be in a small, efficient house equipped with the latest technological enhancements. A community provided self-driving vehicle is available for my convenience whenever I wish to go somewhere.

The United States, will be in the recovery stages of a major war and economic crisis.  Domestic civil strife will be much less than it was in 2016 because people, as a whole, decided to become less Balkanized and parochial. Life isn’t rainbows and unicorns, but it is pleasant overall. There is the ever present threat of fascism that simmers just below the surface, following our dangerously close, near disasterous fall into domestic tyranny before 2019.

That is the outline of my journey into time.  What is yours?

Ciao
timetravel-04iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor William Shatner. “I find the whole time travel question very unsettling, if you take it to its logical extension.  I think it might eventually be possible, but then what happens?”

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Thinking About Human Rights

They come through long, arduous struggle. They can go away in the blink of an eye.  I’ve been thinking about human and civil rights, ever since the general election.  Some individuals in the new Executive administration have vowed to dial many of those gains back.

Racial minorities, women, LGBT people, non-mainstream religious, ethnic minorities and the disabled have been working for most of the history of the United States for basic human rights.  The preservation of the human and civil rights of these groups are being openly questioned by the administration-elect.

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Anyone who belongs to an embattled group should be alarmed about any planned setbacks.  In fact, everyone should be concerned because when even one group’s human rights are taken away, all citizens rights are endangered. No, this is not hyperbole. Examples are found throughout history.

I have been passionate about human rights and civil rights most of my life.  These subjects have sparked my interest in current events, history, and activism ever since my youth.

humanrights-01The most important official document regarding everybody’s rights is embodied in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html  I recommend that everyone look over this important work. Here is the essential portion of the Preamble:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,…”

The declaration goes on to enumerate the aspects of human rights in 30 Articles. The core of universal human rights can be summed up in the first three Articles:

“Article 1. 
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2. 
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3. 
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Perhaps the only thing I can say to summarize this document is the beautiful statement, “Live and let live.” Those four words have been at the heart of how I spend my time on Earth and how I treat other people. Personally, I cannot think of a better way to live an effective, compassionate life.

I think that all of us will do well to read The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and contemplate the implications of applying it to all human beings.

Namaste’
moi1986bThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes John F. Kennedy. “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

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Five Day Weeks In The USSR

While struggling to read through an old Soviet Russian language children’s textbook the other day, I found a short mention of a curious Soviet social experiment that triggered my curiosity. It was a reconfiguration of the calendar into weeks of five days duration. I decided to do some armchair anthropology and look into it.

Following the death of Vladimir Lenin, in 1924, Joseph Stalin consolidated power and sovietcalendar1930became General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, effectively a dictatorship. Stalin replaced Lenin’s “New Economic Policy” with a centralized “Command Economy”. The idea was to quickly transform the nation from an agrarian society into a major industrial power.

The communist government analyzed the standard calendar and retained the general idea of measuring days and nights according to the regular solar cycle (year) divided approximately into portions according to the lunar cycle (months). The concept of week, however was a completely arbitrary division of months.  Add to this the fact that weeks in the Julian and the later Gregorian calendars were identified with Abrahamic religion. The Soviets wished to downplay the place of religion in this new society.

In the effort to expand industrial productivity, the idea to reshape the old Julian calendar into a new “Soviet Calendar” was put into practice. On August 26, 1929, the Council of People’s Commissars decreed all industries and workplaces must transition from the traditional work week, that was interrupted by inconvenient weekends, into a continuous week of production.sovietcalendar1933

The nepreryvka or uninterrupted week was simple enough. The ironically named “Soviet Eternal Calendar” retained the 365/366 day per year concept. Each week would last five days. Each month would equal six weeks. This meant there would be five days (or six in a leap year) that needed to be placed.  These days were five (or six) national holidays created throughout the year.

The way the five day work week affected regular working people was that each work week consisted of four working days and one off-duty day. The day off was not the same one for each person. Each rotated day off was indicated by an assigned color. A worker was assigned a color: red, yellow, green, pink, or purple. Each color coincided with one of the five days. For example, if Ivan was assigned the color red, his days off would be those days of the year marked in red.

It’s easy to imagine the immense social problems that would spring up with this sort of arrangement. Family life was disrupted because each family member might have different resting days.  In Russia, family is supreme, so the different days off caused major friction. Also, even though religion was officially discouraged, people worshipped privately and celebrated religious holidays anyway. The elimination of Sundays became another major objection.

Another major problem with continuous factory production is that the machinery could not withstand constant use.  Breakdowns were frequent.

The problems of unhappy families and worn-down machinery was joined by internal sabotage by workers who were isolated from spouses, children, friends, and neighbors.  They were unhappy because there were very few opportunities for socializing except for the five or six official state holidays each year.sovietcalendar1943

Each person’s “real” life happens on her or his days off of work. The Soviet Eternal Calendar meant that the population was divided into fifths. Families and societies were no longer harmonious nor integrated. The five divisions lived parallel, not intersecting lives.  People could not put up with this for very long. A non-integral society is devastating to any nation.

In 1931, the USSR scrapped the five day week. In December of that year, a new six-day week was adopted. With this calendar, everybody received the same off-duty day. Even though the six -day per week calendar did not recognize Sunday, efficiency did not increase very much.  There was still too much popular resentment over the failed five-day per week “Eternal” calendar. Russians associated the six-day week with the five-day week.

Finally, due to the pressures of an unhappy population coupled with the urgency of the Second World War, the Central Committee and Stalin needed optimum cooperation and productivity. The Soviet Union finally relented and restored the seven-day week in 1940.

До свидания

sovietcalendar-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes musician Gene Simmons. “I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life.”

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Older Driver Safety

olderdrivers-02One of the disadvantages of living in a rural area, is the lack of mass transit.  In my region, there are no light rail systems nor regular bus services between towns. In order to personally conduct business or to visit friends and family out of town, one must use a car or truck.

As I have become older, I understand more fully why many older drivers prefer not to drive at night.  It’s not due to poor vision or even reaction times, although for many people this may be the case.  The feeling is more one of discomfort about driving in the dark. Worse yet, is the prospect of driving in the rain or snow whether it’s night or day.

I used to enjoy night time driving.  The traffic is usually less dense, the pace is less frantic, and it can often be just very pleasurable.  Driving used to be more impulsive, now I need to make more allowances and take more precautions before heading out on the highway.olderdrivers-01

I have not committed any legal driving violations for several decades.  I have never been involved in a collision nor other type of driving accident. I want this status to continue.  Being a mindful driver is the best way to avoid being a danger to others and oneself.  This is especially true when one is single and lives alone, like me.

If you’re like me or are a friend or family member of an older driver you may have concerns about safe vehicle control measures. There are some important factors to seriously consider.

Drive during daytime and in favorable weather conditions.
Use the safest routes and well-planned streets.
Plan your trip before you get into your vehicle.
Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone, texting, and listening to the stereo system at high volume.
Allow a greater following distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

In the long term, have your physician or pharmacist review all of your medications, over-the-counter and prescription. Have your vision checked each year. Engage in regular exercise in order to maintain flexibility and strength. Consider possible driving alternatives such as riding with someone else, taking a taxi, or using public transit.

olderdrivers-03It’s smart to conduct regular self-evaluations. Honestly note your quality of sleep and nutrition. What about the medication schedule and types of meds taken? Be honest about reaction time and physical requirements necessary to safely perform in traffic and emergency situations. A good tool for self evaluation can be found at http://seniordriving.aaa.com then click on “Interactive Driving Evaluation”.

Family members who are concerned about an older loved one who still drives may consider a professional comprehensive driving evaluation. At the same website as above, click on “Professional Assessment” to obtain further information.

Many older drivers are wise enough to know when to hang up the keys for good. Other older drivers are more stubborn and want to drive when they are “at-risk” individuals. Families, friends, and caregivers may have to face the dilemma of what to do about an older driver with impaired abilities. It’s important to think about the safety of pedestrians and other drivers plus the safety of the particular individual.

Now is the time to think about older drivers, whether you are an older driver or if you care about an older driver.

Ciao
the american dreamThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this annonymous pithy quote:  “Respect the old, when you are young. Help the weak, when you are strong. Forgive the fault, when you are right. Because, one day in life you’ll be old, weak, and wrong.”

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The Electrifying Fall Of Rainbow City (Review)

The early world expositions are fascinating studies by themselves. The expos exemplified the dreams and ideals of high-minded, progressive people of their times.  bookreview01Some of the fairs became parts of history that were completely unanticipated by their organizers.  It was this fact that I had in mind when I finally found time to read Margaret Creighton’s The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City: Spectacle and Assassination at the 1901 World’s Fair.

Before reading any pages in Creighton’s work, I wondered if her book would resemble Erik Larson’s earlier book about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, The Devil in the White City, a story that was very captivating. Margaret Creighton’s book was not disappointing at all.

I was right to compare the two books because the entrepreneurs behind the 1901 event in Buffalo, New York wondered how their fair might compare with the earlier 1893 Chicago Fair and the “Little White City” held in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. The 1901 Fair had to not only be bigger and better, it was to be a positive prelude to the young 20th century. As history has recorded, the Buffalo fair was an early reflection as to how the 20th century actually unfolded.

With the goal to create their Pan-American Exposition more grand than any previous event, the Buffalo organizers picked “Progress of the Western Hemisphere” for the theme. The presence of long distance transmission of electricity, enabled by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, made the possibility of a glittering, glamorous event a reality. The proximity of Niagara Falls provided extra motivation to attract visitors to the fair. Altogether, the site became “Rainbow City”.

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The author weaves the story of the fair’s slow implosion with several real-life characters gleaned from contemporary newspaper stories, records and memoirs. One of whom is the 63 -year-old Annie Taylor, who tumbled down Niagara Falls in a barrel. There is the struggle of “The World’s Tiniest Woman”, Alice Cenda, whose stage name was “Chiquita”. She was exploited by her employer, the dubious animal trainer Frank Bostock. The story’s context centers around the assassination of President William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz.

The fair, itself, was a cringe-worthy collection of the sensationalism, racism, misogyny, animal cruelty, exploitation, unscrupulous behavior, and violence that was a part of America.

In spite of the planners’ grand vision, the 1901 World’s Fair became better known as the site of President McKinley’s assassination. Although millions of people attended

McKinley

McKinley

the fair, the totals fell far short of what the organizers had hoped for. Rainbow City became a mediocre flop.

All of that tragedy and failure makes for compelling storytelling. The events are fascinating snapshots of very early 20th Century America. This generously illustrated, richly detailed narrative is well worth reading.

{ The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City: Spectacle and Assassination at the 1901 World’s Fair by Margaret Creighton; 352 pages, published by W.W. Norton & Company; October 2016; ISBN: 978-0-393-24750-3 )

Ciao

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes President William McKinley. “Expositions are the timekeepers of progress.”

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The Muffs Magnate

chestergreenwood-02portraitThe residents of Farmington, Maine are celebrating the birthday of their favorite son today. Weather permitting, the big parade takes place for Chester Greenwood Day. The town of Farmington celebrates each year on the first Saturday of December.  (The actual date of Greenwood’s birth is December 4, 1858.)

Greenwood’s claim to fame comes from his invention of earmuffs.  On his 15th birthday in 1873, he received a pair of ice skates. While trying them out on a nearby frozen pond, he became frustrated about trying to keep his ears warm in the bitter Maine December air. He tried wrapping his head in his scarf, but it was too bulky and scratchy. He came up with the idea of forming two ear size loops from wire and envisioned large cotton balls held in place around the loops.

Later, he asked his grandmother to help him improve the idea.  They ended up using beaver fur and cloth to make more durable muffs. Although Greenwood’s young peers first ridiculed his earmuffs, they eventually saw the wisdom of using ear warmers for themselves and requested their own muffs.

During the next few years he tweaked his invention. The improvements included replacing wire with three-eighths inch wide flat spring steel. He also integrated small hinges to the flaps to allow the muffs to conform to head sizes and shapes of individual wearers. The improvements also made the muffs able to fit inside of coat pockets when people weren’t wearing them.chestergreenwood-01

During Greenwood’s 18th year, he patented his muffs, calling them “Greenwood’s Champion Ear Protectors”.  He went on to establish Greenwood’s Ear Protector Factory.  The business employed eleven Farmington area workers, mostly women. In 1883, the Ear Protector Factory manufactured some 50,000 pairs of earmuffs.

Public demand soon caused the need for a larger factory that was built in downtown Farmington.  A big boon to the factory was the first World War as the U.S. Army purchased thousands of ear protectors to issue to troops. By the mid 1930s, the factory produced 400,000 pairs of his popular ear protectors.

Chester Greenwood had more ideas besides earmuffs. He patented a special flat-bottomed tea kettle, an advertising matchbox, a machine that produces wooden thread or wire spools, and his own variation of the steel-toothed rake.chestergreenwood-03

He had other ideas that were not patented. They included:  bearings to keep wheels from wrenching off their axles, a prototype shock absorber, a new type of spark plug, an umbrella holder for mail carriers, a simple doughnut hook, and a type of folding bed.

He owned a bicycle shop. Greenwood later started a business involving an improved building heating system. He is also locally famous for introducing one of the first telephone networks for the Farmington area.

Greenwood was a local booster who was very active in community affairs. He also participated in a committee to build better roads for Farmington and the area. Chester and his wife, Isabel, were vocal advocates of women’s suffrage and supporters of the Grange movement.

On July 5, 1937, Chester Greenwood passed away in Farmington, the town he grew up in and loved.

Ciao
chestergreenwood-04iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this pithy statement from Plato: “Necessity–the mother of invention.”

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Three Materials …Floral Friday

For today’s Floral Friday offerings we have containers constructed from three different materials.  They provide their own particular qualities for the creative person.

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The first container is a vintage hard plastic wallpocket manufactured by Bernard Edward company from Chicago. The Dutch windmill is constructed from a green part and two yellow parts.  I wanted to maintain a look of the Netherlands by using small pastel blooms.

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A small ceramic vase has been skillfully hand decorated by artisans in Morocco.  I offset the cool blue and white container with warm orange, red, and yellow elements.

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I have respect for people who can carve solid marble.  This compact vase was created in Pakistan. I decided to contrast the spherical shape with spikey branches.
Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the late, revolutionary architect Zaha Hadid. “I have always appreciated those who dare to experiment with materials and proportions.”

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