Secondhand Wardrobe Week

As the first-born in my family, I was given brand new clothing. As I continued to grow,  my brother often received my hand-me -downs.  Of course, he got new shoes, SecondhandWardrobe-03undergarments, and a few new shirts.  Mark was the secondhand wardrobe person in our clan. He didn’t mind, because he had a larger wardrobe than anyone else.

After leaving home, most of my income went to tuition, fees, books, and food.  There was little leftover for luxuries and clothing.  Sometimes, I’d complain about my skimpy wardrobe choices.

One day, my roommate introduced me to secondhand stores, thrift stores, and garage sales. It was an epiphany. I could now afford school and I look hip in class.  Because the discovery happened in the early 1970s, the wardrobe choices fit in with the hippie mentality of recycling and reuse. I could look groovy on a tight budget.

The practice of recycling and reuse has remained throughout my life. I also adapted my younger brother’s practice of blending brand new with secondhand to maintain a personal style. A person can dress to impress with little cost. SecondhandWardrobe-01

These days, there are more options from which to choose. The most obvious is eBay.  You might live in an area with an active online swap or exchange forum. These enable one on one purchases to and from people in your town. When you use the Internet to buy previously worn wardrobe items, new options appear.

I was pleasantly surprised to find sports team fan gear online. I can show support for my favorite team without paying the inflated prices of brand new stuff. Because merchandise for my teams isn’t available in my town’s retail stores, buying online, secondhand brings it to my home.SecondHandWardrobe-04

I still prefer thrift stores over all other places.  It’s easier to examine and judge whether or not you want to purchase the items.  A helpful feature about thrift stores is that they have changing rooms.  You can try clothing on to find out if it fits and how it looks on you.

The secondhand wardrobe cycle doesn’t need to end at your home.  When you get tired of a “gently used” garment, you can swap it with a friend who wears the same size or you can offer it for sale on an online forum. You can always donate to a thrift store.  I tell people that I don’t buy clothes, I rent them. To prevent closet overload, when I purchase an item, I re-donate a similar item. This results in a fresh, up to date personal style.

If you host garage or rummage sales, you can offer your own reuseable clothing to your customers. You might be able to use the services of a consignment store, too.  If a SecondhandWardrobe-02charity requests donations for a clothing drive, you might share useful, gently used garments with a worthy cause. Some of my acquaintences have time and skill to market their used clothing on eBay or other Internet venues.

However you recycle your clothing, be sure to launder the items first. Most thrift stores will toss dirty clothes into the dumpster. They cannot afford to wash and iron things that come into their stores. Also, nobody wants to bring home dirty garments.

One overlooked aspect of buying or trading secondhand goods is social interaction.  There is an entire secondhand/recycling culture. This is a good way to meet like-minded people in a relaxed, safe manner. I’ve noticed that there are many repeat and regular customers at thrift or consignment stores.


mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness says that one benefit of a secondhand wardrobe is the fun of experimentation.

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“We are a society of scolds and that’s not good.” The older lady told me this as her opening gambit to begin a conversation at the coffee shop last week.

I had been sipping coffee, daydreaming, and half-listening to a radio newscast filter from behind the counter into the seating area of the small establishment.  The fellow patron of the coffee shop looked at me and commented further on the news story that had just been read. One of the many presidential candidates had released yet another scolding-02tirade about how certain people are a symptom of “America’s moral decline”.  The lady said she doesn’t know anybody who reacts positively to getting “chewed out”.

I replied by saying that we will need to get used to the ever increasing barrage of self-righteous preaching and scolding as the campaign season heats up even more.  We can expect ever more entrenchment of opinions and beliefs as Americans choose sides in our never-ending game of “King of the Hill”.

She went on to vent her frustration by mentioning that politicians are not alone in the scolding of Americans.  Almost daily, we have to put up with religionists, experts, celebrities, and other self-appointed moralists who believe it is their duty to modify our behavior.

I told the lady she was singing my tune.  I have been dismayed at all the preachifying that has increased to a fever pitch across the nation.  I thanked her for saying “We are a society of scolds”.  The statement helped me look at this global problem from a new angle. We commisserated a few more minutes, then she departed.

Then I thought about the last time I had been personally scolded.  It happened a couple of months ago, when a friend accused me of being effete and arrogant.  The scolding caught me off-guard, because I hadn’t been berated since my late teens.

I observed that the recent scolding instantly triggered resentment and the need to protect myself.  Swiftly, my mind constructed a protective wall to shield me from my friend’s words and anger. I couldn’t help but feel a regression to the worst part of my youth. It took a couple of days to talk myself out of the feelings of resentment.

There is a controversial view by some child-development experts that most children who are severely scolded by their parents suffer nearly as much as children who are physically spanked and beaten by angry parents. Children who receive such severescolding-03 punishment are more likely to harbor long-lasting resentments and hatred towards their parents.  If severe punishment has been administered in order to correct bad behavior, the children alter their behavior out of fear rather than understanding why their behavior was bad.

The majority of us want to pull out the stops and retaliate when we are the target of a scold.  We feel like cornered animals and want to fight our way out of the situation and escape to safety. We battle for our self-respect and our honor.  It’s difficult to maintain our composure while being scolded.  Being scolded feels like we’re being beaten into submission by words.

The person who is doing the scolding thinks she/he is performing a beneficial service.  The person on the receiving end may instead interpret the scolding as abuse. It would be great if people refrained from scolding, but we know it will continue as long as society exists.

To a greater degree, some scolding results in real, negative social impact.  Often, this manifests in the abridgement of civil rights.  Worse, some people will feel validation in their urges to commit violence against minorities or people with whom they disagree.  Constant scolding by public figures serves to degrade the level of debate about societal issues.scolding-01

Whether the scolding takes place on a national scale or a personal level, the result is often an escalation of the dispute and a stalemate that can last many years.

I wish I had more expertise about the scourge of scolding, but all I can do is observe and write about my thoughts regarding the problem. Unless a person is housebreaking a pet or rebuking a child for severe misbahavior, I see little value and more harm from scolding.

When discussion of an issue is necessary, the best route is sober, thoughtful, respectful conversation. In my opinion, scolding is demeaning to both the scolder and the scolded.


mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this saying and Internet meme from the writer, Samuel Butler: “The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.”

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Jack Kilby And Modern Gadgets

Take a few moments to think about the complexity of the device you are using at this time–right now.  Like most folks, we take our electronic gadgets for granted.  The convenient, portable phones and computers we enjoy today were not even imaginable in the middle of the past century. The most advanced household items, the JackKilby-01television and the radio were based on vacuum tube technology. In commercial settings, the adding machine and cash register were mechanical devices.

The dawn of our modern electronics age began in 1956 when Bell Laboratories successfully utilized semiconductor materials in the invention of the transistor.  This invention triggered the first wave of electronics start-up companies and rapid technological development.

The early years of semiconductor development takes us to the summer of 1958 in the offices of Texas Instruments Company (TI) and the desk of a Jefferson, Missouri born engineer named Jack Kilby. This is the “critical mass” that led to the very first diagram of an integrated circuit, where all its components were constructed from the same material.

When Kilby was hired in 1958, TI had already thought up a concept to use transistors. Their attention was focused on the “Micro-Module” idea. The company wanted to make all the components the same size so they could then be snapped together to form circuits for various products. One problem remained, that of human assembly of each circuit by hand. How would TI solve the labor issue?

Kilby contemplated the problem for several days, then wrote down his thoughts about something he labeled “The Monolithic Idea”.  This is the idea, that the parts of a circuit–transistors, capacitors, and resistors, can be made from the very same piece of material and included in a single micro-module or chip. He then drew a quick diagram for a basic electronic circuit that could use components constructed entirely of silicon.

In early September of 1958, Kilby grabbed a few germanium wafers from the production area to try out his idea.  His first integrated circuit was only a tiny sliver of germanium, glued to a glass slide, with the circuit etched in by hand.JackKilby-02IC

On September 12th, Kilby gathered TI’s executive staff for a demonstration of the componant.  He connected his crude circuit to an oscilloscope and passed a current through it.  The scope’s screen displayed a simple sine wave. That first sine wave changed the electronics world forever.

Unknown to Kilby, was Robert Noyce, an Iowa born transplant in Mountain View, California. Noyce arrived at the same idea for an integrated circuit around the same time as Kilby did.  However, Noyce used silicon instead of germanium. Noyce’s development was more refined and could operate at a higher temperature. Noyce went on to co-found Intel Corporation in 1968, and became informally known as “The Mayor of Silicon Valley”.

For his theory and work on the integrated circuit and chips, Kilby was awarded a half share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in  Physics. The remaining two quarters went jointly to Zhores Alferov and Kerbert Kroemer for developing semiconductor structures used in high-speed electronics.JackKilby-03

Kilby did not rest on his laurels. He went on to refine the integrated circuit and received several patents for his improvements. One of his designs was used in an experimental computer that TI built for the US Air Force in 1962. In 1965, Kilby invented the solid state thermal printer.  Two years later, Kilby came up with the plans for the very first integrated circuit based electronic calculator. TI’s “Pocketronic” calculator circuit patent is used in most modern pocket calculators.

In 1970, Kilby started a leave of absence from TI in order to conduct independent research in solar power generation. He remained on the staff of TI as a semiconductor consultant.  Kilby also worked as a professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M University at College Station, Texas. Kilby finally retired from TI in 1983. The 81-year-old Jack Kilby died in Dallas, Texas on June 20, 2005.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes an observation of Jack Kilby’s regarding modern electronics. “…[I]t looks as if the existing technology has a great deal of room to grow and prosper.”

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Small Animal Planters …Floral Friday

In the mid-20th Century, small, animal shaped planters were quite popular to use for houseplants and simple arrangements.  Often times, they were never used for plants, the little novelty items were just placed on knick knack shelves as tchotchkes.


I’m guessing the black chicken planter is supposed to depict a “Jersey Giant” because of that breed’s popularity.  This old container was evidently used to hold a houseplant because it was half full of dirt and sand when I bought it.  After cleaning, I decided to enhance the red cold-paint with some flowers of a similar color.


The kitschy spaniel planter is irresistable just because it’s so cheesy in a happy way.  I judged that the best arrangement for this piece would be a whimsical selection of various blooms. The finished project made me smile.


Who can resist kittens?  The chic ceramic twins accent a small, basket-shaped pot made for Takahashi of San Francisco.  To carry through the twins theme, I paired two colors, pink and blue.  The greenery brings out the border color of the kitten’s “blanket”.

Animal shaped planters are fun to fill and cheap to buy.  Why not enjoy creating a simple project with one, today?

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this little quote from golfer  Bernhard Langer: “We are all human beings with our own little knick knacks and ways of doing things.”

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Create A Vacuum

My friend Jorge emailed me yesterday to wish me, in advance, to have a happy Create A Vacuum Day, today.  I replied to his message to reciprocate and to thank him for his heartfelt wishes.  I decided to send him an “e-card” to underline my happy thoughts about the occasion. Unfortunately, there is a virtual vacuum of Create A Vacuum Day e-cards. Jorge will be deprived of an e-card and will be left only with reading my blog today.CreateAVacuum-01vacuumfactory

While I had the Ecosia search engine page on the screen, I decided to find out about this oddball holiday.  There were a few acknowledgements of Create A Vacuum Day’s existence but again, I ran into the virtual vacuum of information about it.  Nobody seems to have a clue about who invented it, why it was invented, or what it really commemorates.

Besides the household appliance, we pretty much understand what a vacuum means. There are vacuum-packed coffees, scientific vacuum chambers, and the “vacuum” of Outer Space. In fact the very word, vacuum, derives from the Latin term, vacere, which means to be empty.  Wikipedia says that “Vacuum is one of the few words in the English language that contains two consecutive letter u’s.

Because nature allegedly abhors a vacuum, I’ll just go about trying to fill the void of the nature of Create A Vacuum Day with my own ramblings.

Just as it is impossible to create the perfect absolute zero temperature in a laboratory setting, the same can be said about creating the perfect vacuum.  There will always be some sort of subatomic particle present inside the vessel being used for the experiment. Even in the vacuum of Space, there is no perfect vacuum present that we know of. There are photons, atomic particles, and the presence of radiation.

CreateAVacuum-03Then there is the subject of “mental vacuum”. This regards the lack of intelligent, analytical, critical thinking by allegedly living, breathing human beings. The term is sometimes used as an insult in discussions of controversial topics. For example we might hear, “Regarding his opposition to continued funding of NASA, Senator Jones exists in a mental vacuum.”  A mental vacuum exists as a subjective, figurative concept.

Popular pundits might say that Facebook and Twitter are mental vacuums. It’s obvious that the two sites often contain pithy comments and bits of knowledge and legitimate news. On the other hand, people often accuse social media of existing in a mental vacuum when they scroll past seemingly endless cat memes and photos of food-heaped luncheon plates.

“Mental Vacuum” is also the name of an Electronic Dance Music track by the German artist Asamori.  I decided to listen to a download of the song while I write this. Perhaps popular music purists think I live in a mental vacuum because I enjoy EDM.

People say that a mental vacuum is a state of mind characterized by ignorance about certain, specific subjects.  Selective denial about certain aspects of life sometimes falls into the mental vacuum category. Micheal Shermer once said, “The reason people turn to supernatural explanations is that the mind abhors a vacuum of explanation. Because we do not yet have a fully natural explanation for the mind and consciousness, people turn to supernatural explanations to fill the void.”CreateAVacuum-02

There is a concept called “word vacuum”. This is when you realize you’re saying something inappropriate or wrong, halfway through the process of saying it.  You  wish there was a way to suck the phrase back into your head; hence, word vacuum.

There are creative uses for vacuum cleaners that don’t involve floor maintenance.  When I was in college, my roommate once woke me up for final exams with a vacuum.  He quietly wheeled the Hoover into my room, away from my bed, unplugged, but with the switch turned “on”. Then he plugged the cord into an outlet down the hallway when it was time to awaken me.  This is a good prank, because it really works.

Vacuum is often used metaphorically. Arthur C. Clark once said “There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.”

What kind of vacuum will you create today?

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness is celebrating Create a Vacuum Day by replacing the dirt bag in his Eureka upright. Yippie!

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What About Norman Rockwell?

The nature of Norman Rockwell’s illustrations is almost too positive.  An idealized Americana is at the heart of a Rockwell painting or character sketch.  His most famous pictures appeal to the sentimental partd of our minds.

Rockwell’s artistic world occupied much of the 20th century through a rose colored filter.  There were fuzzy-faced, grandfatherly men, cherubic grandmotherly women, fishing holes with rascally boys, and cheerleading girls. His work reflected a particularly mainstreamed idealized view of everyday life and events. It was what the public wanted life to be like, but not quite as gritty.

I grew up in a home where the Saturday Evening Post was eagerly awaited each week. In the 1960s, that magazine was a large format periodical. In addition to the Post, I received gift subscriptions to Boys Life magazine. Many of its covers featured  Norman Rockwell illustrations.  I remember contemplating those images that were so full of mundane details.  They weren’t exactly fine art; they were interesting art. Even those Rockwell pictures that depicted sadness or tragedy seemed to have a seed of hope within them.

Although conservative minded Americans have long loved the paintings of the somewhat liberal Norman Rockwell. There was also something for liberal Americans to relate to. Some works of his later period touched on controversial NormanRockwell-02themes of the day.  I remember one cover of Look magazine that showed Ruby Bridges, the African-American pupil, being escorted to school by two caucasian federal marshalls on the first day of desegregation in New Orleans. There was that Rockwellian glimmer of something good in the midst of tension and hatred that came through the picture.

Rockwell was born in New York City, on February 3, 1894. At the age of 14 he transfered from public school to the National Academy of Design, and eventually to the Art Students League. His early commercial illustrations were shown in Boys’ Life, the magazine for the Boys Scouts of America. At age 19, Rockwell became the art editor for that magazine.

In his early 20s, Rockwell’s first Saturday Evening Post cover was published in 1916.  In total, Rockwell created 323 original covers in 47 years for that magazine.  His last Post cover was issued in 1963.

During the next decade, Rockwell contracted with Look, another large format magazine. This was his late period when his subject matter touched on poverty, civil rights, and the space program.  In addition to his work for periodicals, Rockwell was commissioned to paint official portraits of four Presidents: Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Other commissioned portraits included those of Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser.


Although critics consider Rockwell’s Post illustrations to be overly sweet,  sentimental, and banal, they show more respect for his work done during his Look period. Regardless of the period, Rockwell’s original canvases now bring prices in the range of millions of dollars apiece.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter awarded Rockwell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the US. Norman Rockwell died of emphysema at the age of 84, on November 8, 1978. His legacy includes some 4,000 magazine covers, calendars, posters, catalogs, playing cards, portraits and murals.

I wish I still had some of those old Boys’ Life magazines.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this Rockwell quote: “Some folks think I painted Lincoln from life, but I haven’t been around that long. Not quite.”

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Happy Groundhog Day

In the world of meteorology, few forcasters can match the fame and popularity of Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seer, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.GroundhogDay-03

This antique marmot, of 130 years of age, received his title in 1887 from the Punxsatawney Groundhog Club. That was around the same time the club appointed Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania to be the Weather Capitol of the World. The most popular version of the Groundhog Day story goes something like this:

The first observance of the holiday took place on February 2, 1886 because of a proclamation by the small Pennsylvania town’s newspaper editor. The editorial said, “Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press, the beast has not seen his shadow.”

According to legend, the first Groundhog Day visit to “Gobbler’s Knob” happened the next year by the intrepid groundhog hunters, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Ever since that fateful day, thousands of Punxsutawney Phil’s fans have made the pilgrimage to Western Pennsylvania to witness Phil’s forecasting skill.

The main ceremony is one of the world’s very few early morning holiday rituals.  Officials remove Phil from his simulated tree stump at 7:25 am each Groundhog Day. Television and Internet reporters broadcast the ceremony to the nation and much of the world. Traditionally, if Phil sees his own shadow, there will be another six weeks of cold winter weather. On the other hand, if the sky is cloudy, and Phil cannot see his shadow, the remaining winter weather will be moderate.

Not to be outdone, Canada began its own groundhog festival in the small south Ontario town of Wiarton.  Wiarton Willie is the legendary rodent of Ontario.  His story is odd, in a typically Canadian way. GroundhogDay-01

A Wiarton resident, Mac McKenzie sent invitations to his friends for a Groundhog Day party. One of the invitations found its way to the Toronto Star newspaper. Evidently the reporter who was sent to cover the story met McKenzie and his party at a local bar. Supposedly, the reporter was disappointed that the gathering was not a big deal.  In order for the reporter to justify the cost on his business expense account he needed a story for the newspaper.

McKenzie brought out his wife’s furry hat to the bar’s parking lot, scooped out a makeshift “burrow” in the snow and placed the hat part way into the hole.  A photograph of McKenzie with the hat was printed in the next day’s edition of the Toronto Star.  The next year, McKenzie planned a festival to entertain the townsfolk and the Canadian media.

As we might expect, Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie aren’t the only marmot mavins to hog the publicity. Some other North American towns feature their own celebrity critters.


General Beauregard Lee predicts the winter for Lilburn Georgia. Staten Island Chuck represents New York. Balzac Billy is the featured marmot in Alberta. Shubenacadie Sam lives in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. Brandon Bob calls Manitoba his home.  That hotbed of groundhog partying, Ontario, also has Gary the Groundhog in Kleinburg.

This strange holiday is a holdover from immigrants who originated in north central Europe. Farmers of Germanic heritage traditionally observed badgers to know when to plant their crops.  The people believed that badgers had the power to predict the arrival of spring weather. These Europeans who settled in Pennsylvania, retained the idea behind badger prediction but adopted groundhogs to oversee the prognosticating duties.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this quip from Bill Vaughan:  “The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.”

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