Tuesday 31 January 2012

Sandwiches, Silhouettes & Sideburns

Did you know that the sandwich is named after the Earl of Sandwich?  Or did you know that a silhouette is named after Etienne de Silhouette, the French Controller General of Finance, whose victims of his taxes became shadows of themselves?  Or did you know that sideburns are named after the American General Burnside who made the facial hair popular?  Our language is full of eponyms, nouns named after people, and yet often we don't even know it.  The word marathon is derived from the city of Marathon, Greece where in 490 BC a messenger ran 150 miles within two days to alert the Greeks that the enemy Persians were coming, thereby securing them a victory.  When we refer to something as being jumbo in size, we refer to Jumbo the Elephant, who participated in the Barnum and Bailey circus as one of the biggest animals in captivity.  If bedlam (a corruption of Bethlehem) breaks loose, it means chaos reigns; St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital in London, England was a mental institution.  The drink bourbon is named after Bourbon County in Kentucky where the drink was a common beverage.  Girls wear leotards today, traced back to the acrobat Jules Leotard who also wore them.  The form of captial punishment in France where prisoners were decapitated is called the guillotine, after Joseph Guillotin, the French physician who invented it.  When we say something is ritzy, we mean that it is posh or hoity toity, named after the Ritz Hotel established by Swiss hotelier Monsieur Ritz.  An atlas is named after the Greek god Atlas who supposedly held the earth and the heavens on his shoulders.  A quisling is a traitor and can be traced back to the Second World War when Norwegian Vidkun Abraham Quisling collaborated with the Nazis who occupied Norway.  Etymology, the study of the history of words, can be a fascinating subject.

For more eponyms, visit www.alphadictionary.com/articles/eponyms.

Photo courtesy www.wordpress.com.

Image courtesy www.google.ca.

Monday 30 January 2012

The Wilhelm Gustloff Villanelle

On an icy night in '45
East Prussian refugees swarmed the ship
Desperately seeking to stay alive.

The boat filled quickly with soldiers' wives
And babes with knuckels between their lips
On an icy night in '45.

Fleeing the Russians' relentless drive
The ship steamed west at a rapid clip
Desperately seeking to stay alive.

Beneath the Baltic, the sub took dives
Aborting the steamer's fateful trip
On an icy night in '45.

Scrambling for lifeboats, many did strive
Thousands jumped as she started to tip
Desperately seeking to stay alive.

Under the corpses, the last to survive
Was a baby blue from winter's grip
On an icy night in '45
Desperately seeking to stay alive.

Linda Jonasson, March 2, 2008. 

Dedicated to the 9,000 East Prussian refugees who lost their lives on the night of January 30, 1945 when the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed and sunk.  The voyage was part of Operation Hannibal, the evacuation of almost 1 million civilians from Germany's eastern provinces after the advance of the Red Army.  For further information, read The Cruelest Night by Christopher Dobson, John Miller and Ronald Payne.

Photo of Wilhelm Gustloff courtesy www.wilhelmgustloff.com.

Sunday 29 January 2012

A Bear in War

Although most Canadian children cannot relate to war, they can relate to a Teddy bear.  That is why the World War I based picture book A Bear in War is told from the point of view of a stuffed animal.  Teddy belongs to a 10 year old girl named Aileen who lives on a farm in East Farnham Quebec with her 7-year-old brother Howard.  Teddy relates the everyday life of the siblings:  feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs; a trip into town where they see soldier recruitment posters; a snowball fight that turns into a pretend war battle. 

Then Teddy describes the night that Aileen's Daddy came to her bedroom and broke the news that he would be leaving to train as a soldier.  The stuffed animal enjoys its first train ride as Aileen, Howard and their mother travel to Valcartier to visit their daddy.  Once the new soldier is shipped overseas to France to fight, his children keep in contact with him by writing letters.  Later Daddy ends up fighting in the trenches in Belgium.  Teddy is sent to Belgium in a care package to raise Daddy's spirits; it is there that he gets to "watch the war from Daddy's front pocket".  That is where he died in the Fall of 1917 with Teddy in his pocket.  Found by another Canadian soldier, Teddy was shipped home to Canada to his rightful owner. 

After Aileen passed away, she left Teddy and some letters in a briefcase for her children.  Mr. Rogers' granddaughter, Roberta, found the briefcase and had Teddy placed in the Canadian War Musuem in Ottawa.  Mr. Rogers' great-granddaughter, Stephanie Innes co-wrote A Bear in War with Harry Endrulat. 

The latter author spoke at the Paris Library as part of Family Literacy Day today.  After giving an informative lesson on how to write a children's picture book, Mr. Endrulat handed out autographed copies of his book.  A Bear in War is laid out in scrapbook style with authentic photographs from the Rogers family.  What a great way to bring Canadian history to life for our children!

 Photo courtesy http://store02.prostores.com.

Saturday 28 January 2012

The Lamplighter

It was on this day in 1807 that London streets were first illuminated with gas lights.  My great-great-grandfather, William Powell, held the job of lamplighter (he moonlighted as a journeyman and house decorator) in the latter half of the 1800's.  Lamplighters were generally trustworthy fellows who were warmly greeted by their neighbours as they made their way down the street, a ladder under their arm, and stopped at each lamp post, leaned the ladder against it, climbed up, and lit the lantern.  Acting as unofficial watchmen, they made the streets safer in London (and other Victorian cities) for young and old.  Here is a poem I discovered written by Robert Louis Stevenson about a young child's reaction to the nightly visit from the lamplighter.


The Lamplighter

by Robert Louis Stevenson

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky.
It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I'm to do,
O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!

Photo courtesy http://lhe.googleusercontent.com.

Friday 27 January 2012

National Geographic

Decades worth of National Geographic magazines line our bookshelves, some of them dog-eared from Rob and his sister Ingrid reading and re-reading them as children, some of them in good condition as they were perused by my father-in-law, helping him to master English as a German immigrant.  One thing they all have in common is their well-written articles and beautiful photographs.  It was on January 27, 1888 that the National Geographic Society was formed and has had many prestigious members; Alexander Graham Bell was one of its early Presidents. 

I knew the magazine had a long history but what I didn't know was that the Society had doled out 1400 grants for various ventures over the last century or more.  Here are some of the important ventures that the National Geographic Society has sponsored:

1.  Robert Peary's trip to the North Pole (1909).
2.  The Lost Incan City Excavation by Hiram Bingham (1912-1915).
3.  Richard Byrd's flight over the South Pole (1928-1929).
4.  Jacques Cousteau's diving expeditions (1952-1956).
5.  Architectual digs to prove the existence of early humans in Africa (1960).
6.  Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees in the jungle (1961).
7.  The Mapping of the Ocean Floor (1970).
8.  A Study of the Wintering Grounds of the North American Monarch Butterfly (1975-1976).
9.  Exploration of the Galapagos Rift (1977).
10. Excavation of the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum (1981) and making of the documentary "In the Shadow of Vesuvius" (1987).
11.  Fish Fossil Excavation (2004).
12.  A Poland Investigation to see if "La Bella Principessa" ("Lady with a Secret") is an authentic Leonardo da Vinci portrait (2010).

I think I will head over to my bookshelf and look for these articles.  Fascinating!

Photo of Robert Peary courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Duty, Honor, Country

"Duty, honor, country.  Those three hallowed words dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be." 

These are the opening words of General MacArthur as he addressed the graduating class at West Point Military Academy on May 12, 1962.  These are words that he lived by as he fought in three wars:  World War I, World War II and the Korean War.  Alexander Haig said that he was one of a dying breed of heroes:  a leader that could make his own decisions, unhampered by our instant communication society and our media.  He was a real leader who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, wasn't afraid to jump in with both feet. 

Born on this day in 1880, MacArthur was raised on the American Frontier, claiming that:  "I knew how to ride and shoot before I knew how to read or write."  Graduating first in his class at West Point, he put his skills into practice during the First World War.  On the Western Front, one soldier reported that he jumped over the trenches, ran across no man's land and captured a German Colonel, all with only a riding crop in his hand.  Brigadier General MacArthur returned to the United States highly decorated, wearing a Medal of Honor, two Croix de Guerre, two Distinguished Service Crosses and seven Silver Stars. 

Although MacArthur retired from the United States Army in 1937, he was recalled to active duty upon America's entry into the Second World War, serving as Chief of Staff in the Pacific Theatre.  Forced to retreat via PT boats from the island of Bataan, the General and his troops sought refuge in Australia.  On October 20, 1944, MacArthur and his men were photographed triumphantly wading throught he waters surrounding the island of Leyte, a stepping stone to recapturing the Philippines.  The general practised servant leadership asking himself the question:  "Do I delegate tasks that should be mine?"  Great at building the morale of his men, he once encouraged a subordinate to capture the enemy position, saying that if he did so, he would earn the Silver Star.  Then, going one step further, he pinned the silver star to the soldier's uniform right there and then. 

Accepting Japan's surrender in August of 1945, General MacArthur oversaw the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1950.  Then President Truman offered him command the United Nations forces in Korea.  Once again, MacArthur took on the role of leader.  Pressing northward with the motto "In war, there is no substitute for victory" the general was ready to take on the Chinese Communists but was forced to stop at the 38th Parallel after orders from the president.  MacArthur publically criticized Truman for his policy in Korea and was therefore relieved of command.  Although he lived out his remaining years as a civilian, he would always be remembered as the four-star general with the corn-cob pipe.

Photo of American troops landing on Leyte island courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

As I Stand on the Old Train Bridge

O'er the Thames River the red sun disappears
As I stand on the old train bridge looking down.
I can almost hear the trains of yesteryear
Winding their weary way through the old stone town.

The river carves a path throught the fertile groud.
Next to the running water lies a lush plain.
The grass is so green and the trees do abound
Where Jersey cows once grazed beneath passing trains.

Two ducks take a long drink after the soft rain
As they hide behind a swaying poplar tree.
In the distance grows a field of golden grain
As far away as the naked eye can see.

As I stand on the old train bridge, silence speaks;
And a hush falls o'er the meandering creek.

(Linda Jonasson, St. Mary's, Ontario, July 20, 2006.)

Tuesday 24 January 2012

A Diet of Rats, River Eels and Poisonous Toads

According to most people, World War II ended in 1945.  But for Japanese soldier, Schoichi Yokoi, the war did not end until January 24, 1972, exactly 40 years ago today.  Private Yokoi was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army in 1941, the same year that Japan won the battle of Guam against the United States.  He worked his way up the ranks and eventually became a Sergeant.  He was transported to the island of Guam for battle in 1944 when the United States retook the island and he and his fellow soldiers retreated, many being captured by the enemy.  However, Sergeant Yokoi and ten other members of the Japanese Army, refused to be captured, found a cave on the island, and went into hiding.  At first the soldiers would hunt local cattle to survive.  Soon, seven of the ten soldiers moved to another part of the island while three remained.  Two of the three remaining soldiers separated from Sergeant Yokoi, although they would visit back and forth periodically.  Alone, the Japanese soldier had to carve primitive survival tools for himself; he would hunt at night, trapping poisonous toads, river eels and rats.  In 1952, he found pamphlets stating that World War II was over, but he believed them to be propaganda.  In 1964, he discovered his two fellow soldiers had succumbed to the elements, but he persevered.  Finally, in 1972, two natives to the island were trapping shrimp and discovered Sergeant Yokoi, who tried to attack them, thinking they were the enemy; however, the trappers managed to subdue him and brought him back to civilization.  Hailed a hero in his native Japan, Shoichi Yokoi's homecoming involved crowds of his countrymen excitedly waving flags as he passed by.  He was interviewed by television and radio broadcasters and attended many speaking engagements.  Several months after his return, the 56 year old Mr. Yokoi got married.  Guess where he took his bride for their honeymoon?  Back to the lovely island of Guam.

Note:  Read the book Private Yokoi's War and Life on Guam by Omi Hatashin & Shoichi Yokoi.

Photos courtesy http://news.bbcimg.co.uk.

Monday 23 January 2012

Le Chat au Chapeau

"Cat, hat.  In French:  chat, chapeau.  In Spanish:  el gato in a sombrero...In German I'm a Katze in a Hut, and don't you know, I'm a guanka in a bunkaquank in Eskimo." *

Only Dr. Seuss could hold a language class right in the middle of an animated television show.  Based on the Cat in the Hat book, the TV special "The Cat in the Hat" is full of songs like:

Nothing to be Done
The Gradunza
Calculatus Eliminatus
I'm a Punk
Beautiful Kittenfish
Anything Undwer the Sun
Cat, Hat
Sweep up the Memories

"Cat, Hat" is sprinkled with just enough foreign words to make it interesting without confusing the listener.  Dr. Seuss repeats the words enough that by the end of the song, they're stuck in every child's head.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 dress up in appropriate costumes such as sombreros when they sing in Spanish and berets when they sing in French. 

Dr. Seuss' rhythm is so natural and his words are "a propos".  If he can't think of the right word to fit, he makes one up, which makes the story all the more interesting.  Although he has early readers like Dr. Seuss's ABC, one of the first books that my son Thomas mastered reading, he has also written books for more advanced readers like The Lorax, my husband's favourite book to borrow from the school library.  My favourite to read as a child was Green Eggs and Ham.  If readers are looking for tongue twisters, they should read Fox in Sox.  One of Jacqueline's favourites to borrow from the library was Daisy-Head Mayzie about a little girl who has a daisy growing out of her head.  As a Political Scientist, Rob would enjoy The Butter Battle Book about the war between the Zooks, who eat their bread butter side down, and the Yooks, who eat their bread butter side up.  One that I appreciate as a parent is Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?.  And no Christmas is complete without The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

The next time you go to the library, pick up a Dr. Seuss book.  Or watch the old TV specials on video or DVD.  You'll be entertained and before you know it, you'll be multilingual!

*(Lyrics from the song "Cat, Hat", "The Cat in the Hat" TV Special, 1971)

Photo courtesy http://upload.wikimedia.org.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Casa Loma

It cost $3.5 million to finance and took 3 years and 300 workers to build.  Financier Sir Henry Pellatt's house, at 98 rooms, was not only Toronto's, but also Canada's largest personal residence.  Built from 1911 to 1914, it boasted an elevator, an oven big enough to cook an ox, a central vacuum system, a wine cellar, two secret passageways, a hunting club and five acres of gardens.  The original plans called for three bowling alleys, a swimming pool and a gymnasium as well, but World War I interrupted the construction of the castle and they were never completed.  Sir Henry Pellatt only lived in the residence until 1923.

In the late 1920's, the castle served as a nightspot as two bands played there, the Orange Blossoms and the Casa Loma Orchestra.  By the time of the Great Depression, the city of Toronto raised Casa Loma's taxes from $600 per year to $1000 per month and Sir Henry Pellatt was forced to auction off $1.5 million worth of artwork and furniture.  By 1933, after the city seized the castle for back taxes owing, there was talk that they might demolish the landmark.  However, the Kiwanis Club intervened and leased the building in 1937, the same year that it became a tourist attraction.  During World War II, the castle was the site of sonar research and sonar equipment construction.  For decades now, Casa Loma has served as a museum, taken over by the city from the Kiwanis Club. 

In 1995, children's author Sheldon Oberman wrote a fascinating tale about the castle called The White Stone in the Castle Wall.  It is about a young boy from Cabbagetown who lugged a huge white stone up the hill to Casa Loma to be used in the construction of a wall to surround the castle.  However, once he reached there, he was turned away by the foreman saying that they were looking for dark stones, not white ones.  Discouraged, the boy was about to return to Cabbagetown with empty pockets when he saw a man in the garden who asked him what was wrong.  The boy explained his problem and the man said that, yes, he would take the stone afterall.  That man was Sir Henry Pellatt and he paid the boy handsomely for the stone.  Legend has it that if you look closely, you can see the white stone in the castle wall.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Never Ever Ever Give Up!

"The person who says something is impossible should not interrupt those who are doing it."

1.  Charles Dickens lived for a time in a workhouse as a child.  Later he glued labels on shoe polish bottles in a factory.  He went on to author 34 books including classics like Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol.

2.  Hank Williams was born with spina bifida.  As a child he sold peanuts and held other small jobs to pay the bills.  In adulthood, he had numerous hit records and had a record six encores at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

3.  J.K. Rowling was divorced and living on social assistance in a mouse-infested apartment in Edinburgh, Scotland when she started writing.  Now she has sold 350 million copies of the Harry Potter series in 55 languages.  She is the 13th richest person in Great Britain.

4.  Lucille Ball's father died of typhoid fever when she was only four years old.  Her mother remarried and she spent much of her time living with her grandmother.  At a New York City drama school, her coaches told her that she "had no future at all as a performer" and so she dropped out.  She went on to star in many movies and had three hugely successful TV shows, "I Love Lucy", "The Lucy Show" and "Here's Lucy".

5.  Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years, largely for his political beliefs.  Upon his release, he pledged to end Apartheid and was elected President of South Africa.

Image courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.

Friday 20 January 2012

Don't Judge a Blog by its Title

It seems that the posts that receive the most hits in A Line from Linda are not necessarily the ones I spend the most time researching or the ones that I expect to attract the most attention:  they are the ones that have the catchiest titles.  Sometimes I choose a basic title for my blog; however, there is no mystery and therefore readers just pass it by.  However, sometimes I come up with a title that piques the readers' interest, just to draw them in.  Here is a list of my top three blogs to prove my point.

1.  One, Two, Three Cheers Tommy!
2.  Venus Fly Trap Eats Cat!
3.  Kennedy's Limousine and Lincoln's Chair

1.  One, Two, Three Cheers Tommy!
2.  Venus Fly Trap Eats Cat!
3.  Six Dots, An Awl & A Piece of Paper

1.  Mario Meets Luigi
2.  One, Two, Three Cheers Tommy!
3.  Venus Fly Trap Eats Cat!

All Time
1.  Thanksgiving Around a Ping Pong Table
2.  Mario Meets Luigi
3.  One, Two, Three Cheers Tommy! 

The other factor that might have come into play here is that the blogs that have received the most hits are often personal blogs.  Many of the titles above are about my son, Thomas.  Whatever the case, I appreciate everyone's interest.  Thank you for being devoted followers!

Image courtesy http://thenickyblog.com.

Thursday 19 January 2012

A New York Minute in a Savannah Storm

     "So here was my humble little cookbook settin' out on a table.  It sold for $16.95.  We sold about twenty-five copies in the first month.  We had 4,975 left to go.
     One day a violent rain came up just out of the blue, and a woman from New York just happened to be walking down the street with her boyfriend.  When she got to my place it started lightening and thundering.  The woman stepped into my restaurant to get out of the rain.  She had never heard of me, the restaurant had not been recommended to her.
     Ever heard of a word called synchronicity?...well, God was making sure that Paula had a whole lot of synchronicity working that day."*

     When Paula Deen moved to Savannah, Georgia in the 1980's, she had one set of divorce papers, two teenage sons and $200 in her pocketbook.  For a short time, she worked as a bank teller.  However, after being robbed at gunpoint, she developped agoraphobia and was house-bound for a few years.  She found therapy in her kitchen, cooking recipes her Grandma taught her to make twenty years before.  By 1989, she started making sandwiches for downtown businessmen which her two sons would deliver, enabling her to stay at home.  Her catering business, "The Bag Lady", flourished.

     Within two years, Paula outgrew her kitchen and was hired at the Best Western where she opened a small eatery called "The Lady", treating her guests to her homestyle hospitality and Southern cuisine.  By 1996, she opened a bigger restaurant called "The Lady and Sons" in downtown Savannah, with her sons as fellow cooks.  Her chicken pot pies, barbecue sandwiches and "Grandmomma's Fried Chicken" became the talk of the town.   

     It was at The Lady and Sons that fate intervened.  Paula decided to publish a cookbook with her guests' favourite recipes in it in 1997.  Since she was so accustomed to doing things for herself, she self-published the cookbook, using a printing company in the neighbourhood.  She laid out copies in the restaurant dining room and the cookbook started to sell, albeit at a snail's pace.  One Savannah day, a thunderstorm came to town bringing with it a New York editor named Pamela Cannon.  She liked Mrs. Deen's cooking so much that she phoned about a week later to ask for a few copies of her cookbook. The chef obliged sending her the cookbook by mail.  Paula was promptly offered a $5000 dollar advance book deal, but being a keen businesswoman, she countered with a $7500 figure to which the editor agreed.  Random House published the book and the rest is history.

     Today Paula Deen has published several cookbooks, a magazine and a memoir.  In 2003, the southern cooking queen starred on a cable network cooking show and has since had other cooking shows.  And it all started with a New York publisher dining in a Savannah restaurant during a thunderstorm.

* It Ain't All About the Cookin', Paula Deen, 2007.

Photo courtesy http://upload.wikimedia.org.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade, America's most collected artist, has painted over 1000 paintings.  Raised in poverty in Placerville, California, his parents divorced when he was only 4 years old.  Although they were poor in the pocketbook, there was never a lack of love in his household.  His mother, the first collector of his art, used to frame his pieces and decorate the house with them. 

Thomas Kinkade has fond memories of reading the Saturday Evening Post each weekend and admiring the cover artwork of Norman Rockwell, his first hero.  He loved to paint landscapes in the style of the Luminists from the late 19th century like Frederic Church.  The Luminists apparently were known for three traits:  their "soft edges, warm palette and overall sense of light". In fact, Thomas' paintings are infused with light, gaining him the nickname "Painter of Light". 

After graduating from university in his home state, Thomas Kinkade and fellow artist James Gurney hopped on a boxcar and headed for New York City.  En route, they sketched.  Upon arriving in the Big Apple, the two artists presented their sketches to Norman Rockwell's publisher and he published them as "The Artist's Guide to Sketching" in 1982.  Thomas then worked on a movie set.

In 1985, Thomas sold his first oil painting and has never looked back.  Although he has painted many different subjects, his favourite images are gates and bridges.  He identifies with Walt Disney, saying that he "really likes to make people happy" and has partnered with Disney on some projects.  Today his paintings sell for 6-digit figures and his artwork has been transformed into posters, magazines covers, greeting cards, collector plates, figurines, gifts, calendars and more. 

Married with four daughters, Thomas is not only a devoted husband and father, but a devout Christian, evident in his artwork.  "A Light in the Storm" which is based on the Bible verse John 8:12.   He has given a lot back in his charity work, raising tens of thousands of dollars for worthy causes.  In 1990 he was named "Humanitarian of the Year" by his hometown's Chamber of Commerce. 

Although it's been thirty years since Thomas hopped the boxcar in California, he has never forgotten his roots.  The drawings that once hung on his mother's wall in Placerville are now shared by thousands, if not millions, of people.  Thank you, Thomas, for sharing your light with the world.

Painting courtesy www.artofthesouth.com.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Cats are the Cleanest Creatures!

Have you ever watched a cat clean herself?  It is a perfect ritual.  The other day Midnight found a sunny spot on our bed and curled up there.  After a couple of moments of settling in, the ritual began.  She started by licking her forepaws, slowly and carefully, not missing an inch of her fur.  If she found a difficult spot, she used her teeth to get at the intruder.  Then she cleaned her hind paws.  She made her way over her chest and tummy, slowly and deliberately.  Several areas were cleaned more than once.  In the meantime I wondered how she was going to reach her head, but she was a step ahead of me.  Several times she licked her right paw, reached it over her head and ears and rubbed.  Then she did the same with her left paw.  Brilliant!  It took several minutes before she was completely finished her "bath".  How did she learn to bathe herself?  Did she watch her mother in the first few months of life?  I understood that her mother disappeared shortly after giving birth and that her aunt "adopted" her and her siblings.  Was the process an innate ritual that all kittens do?  I was impressed, nonetheless.  Cats are the cleanest creatures! 

Photo courtesy www.digitaldesktopwallpaper.com.

Monday 16 January 2012

Carry Nation's Hatchetations

Carry A. Nation was a six foot tall, 175 pound woman who carried a hatchet around with her, shattering saloon windows, breaking beer bottles and smashing liquor kegs all in the name of the temperance movement:  her violent protests became known as "hatchetations". 

Born in Kentucky and raised in Missouri, Carry A. Nation was the daughter of a mentally ill mother and a father who struggled with financial difficulties.  As an adult, she married an alcoholic named Dr. Gloyd, turning her against alcohol.  Within a few years, she divorced her imbibing spouse.  She joined a temperance movement, one of many which had started in the 1830's, whose members frowned on drinking liquor.  By the 1830's, the overconsumption of alcohol had become a growing concern in America.  According to author W.J. Rorabaugh in his book The Alcoholic Republic, annual alcohol consumption totalled 5 gallons which was 3 times the rate of the 1980's.

By the late 1800's the temperance movement was thriving.  The teetotalers, also suffragettes, were gaining political clout.  However, the movement's progress was not fast enough for Carry.  She decided to take matters into her own hands; she would make America dry, one town at a time.

Living in Kansas by this time, Carry chose the town of Kiowa as her first target.  She located one of the town's saloons, pelting its windows with rocks and smashing its beer kegs with hammers.  After destroying two more drinking establishments in town, the area was hit by a tornado which she saw as divine providence.  Around 1900, her second husband, Mr. Nation, jokingly suggested that she use a hatchet for her attacks instead and her response was:  "That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you."

She struck fear in the hearts of many people including prize fighter John L. Sullivan, who reportedly hid when she burst into his New York City saloon.  Between 1900 and 1910, the hatchet-wielding woman was arrested 30 times for her saloon invasions; she was also assaulted many times in these bars.  Faced with numerous legal fees, Mrs. Nation went on a lecture tour throughout the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, earning enough money to pay off her debts. 

Although Carry A. Nation died in 1911, her cause continued.  On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution became law, prohibiting Americans from consuming liquor.

Photo courtesy www.findingdulcinea.com.

Sunday 15 January 2012

The Boston Molassacre

Everyone's heard of the Boston Tea Party, but who's heard of the Boston Molassacre?  The Boston Globe headline of January 15, 1919 screamed:  "Huge Molasses Tank Explodes in North End; 11 Dead, 50 Hurt!" 

On the water front in an Italian immigrant community in Beantown sat the Purity Distilling Factory.  Inside sat a 90 by 50 foot cast iron tank filled to capacity with molasses which was slated for rum production.  Boston's temperature rose by 40 degrees Fahrenheit within a day or two and the molasses fermented.  As workers broke for lunch that day on Commercial Avenue, the tank made a roaring noise as it exploded, sending 2.3 million gallons of sticky syrup through the cobbestone streets. 

People ran from the 8 to 15 foot wave that travelled at 35 miles per hour and exerted 2 tons of pressure, hurling trucks into the harbor, flattening buildings,crushing freight cars and lifting a train from its tracks.  "Horses died like many flies on sticky fly-paper," according to author Stephen Puleo.  People tried to outrun the sticky "tsunami" but to no avail.  The wave reached Atlantic Avenue, breaking the girders of the Boston Elevated Railwlay structure, turning it into a mass of twisted metal. 

One hundred and sixteen cadets from the USS Nantucket were the first rescuers on the scene followed by the Boston Police, the Red Cross and the Army.  Try as they might, it was next to impossible to pull the trapped victims from the sticky goo.  Three hundred worked 24/7 for two weeks to clean the molasses from Boston's cobblestone streets, using saltwater as regular water would just run off the sweet coating.  Dozens of cellars had to be pumped clean of molasses and the Boston Harbor remained brown until the following summer. 

After an official investigation it was determined that fermentation of the molasses, a rapid rise in air temperature and a fatigue crack in the cylinder caused the explosion.  While the U.S. Industrial Alcohol Company wanted to blame anarchists for the Boston Molasses Flood (it was the height of the post WWI Red Scare) , the court ruled that it was the company's fault, forcing them to pay $600,000 ($6.6 million in today's dollars) to the victims and their families.  Early estimates of casualities and fatalities had been low:  in the end, 21 people perished and 150 were injured due to the accident. 

Bostonians claim that the sweet syrupy smell could still be detected on a hot summer's day decades after the disaster.  Today tourists can take a ride on the amphibious vehicle "Molly Molasses".  Bus drivers, sharing a bit of culture with their riders, sometimes call the event "The Boston Molassacre".

Read Stephen Puleo's book Dark Tide:  The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, copyright 2004.

Source:  http://enwikipedia.org.

Saturday 14 January 2012


We just saw the movie "Courageous" with another couple from church.  The message is powerful!  It's about a group of men in Albany, Georgia, most of whom are police officers, and the struggles they face on the job (ex. fighting gang members) and off the job (maintaining happy marriages and raising happy children).  It's about men stepping up to the plate as fathers and seizing the role as the spiritual head of the household.  It's about seizing those precious years when their children are still young to instill in their children the values that they will pass on to their children and to their children's children.  It's about standing up for the truth, even if it means losing money or losing a friend.  It's about being a strong leader at home and at work.  It's not about being a good father, but a Godly father. 

"Courageous" was number 4 at the box office the first week it was released and then went on to remain in the top 10 for the duration of its run.  Obviously, its message is what many of us need to hear right now.  We spend so much time going through the motions and not enough time cherishing our families.  We spend so much time keeping up with the Joneses and not enough time trying to impress our own children.  So, when you tuck your kids into bed tonight, hug them a little bit tighter, and snuggle with them a little bit longer.  And let them know that they are loved by an Almighty God.

Photo courtesy www.songonlyrics.com.

Friday 13 January 2012

The Mozart Effect

The phrase "The Mozart Effect", coined by Alfred Tomatis", refers to the beneficial effect that listening to 15 minutes of Mozart daily for several months has on the brain.  Mr. Tomatis used the classical music to treat a variety of disorders including dyslexia, attention deficity disorder, autism and epilepsy.  Listening to Mozart can benefit all of us according to experts who claim that it improves listening, relaxation, sleep, memory and awareness while reducing anxiety, stress and depression. 

The Boston Globe printed an article in 1997 quoting a study that was performed on three and four years olds who were given eight months of classical piano lessons, while control groups were given either computer lessons or nothing.  Later, the piano group scored 34% higher than the other two groups on spatial-temporal reasoning tests.  Some experts even claim that significant exposure to Mozart raises a child's IQ by a few points.

Classical music is not just being used to develop the brain.  I remember a few years ago about a Calgary school that played music on a loudspeaker on the playground at night to keep vandals away.  Furthermore, a German sewage treatment played Mozart to break down waste faster. 

So put a piano concerto into your CD player today.  Your brain will thank you.

The following books deal with the Mozart Effect:

1.  Pourquoi Mozart?  (Alfred Tomatis)
2.  The Mozart Effect:  Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, Unlock the Creative Spirit (Don Campbell)

Source:  www.enwikipedia.org.

Image courtesy www.images.travelpod.com.

Thursday 12 January 2012

The New York Times Bestseller List

Here are the top ten picture books for January 15, 2012.

1.  Heaven is for Real for Kids
     (Todd & Sonja Burpo)

2.  The Night Before Christmas
     (Clement C. Moore)

3.  I Want My Hat Back
    (Jon Klassen)

4.  Goodnight, Goodnight construction Site
     (Sherri Duskey)

5.  Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
    (Jeny Slate & Dean Fleischer-Camp)

6.  The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories
    (Dr. Seuss)

7.  If You Give a Dog a Donut
    (Laura Numeroff)

8.  The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
     (Eric Carle)

9.  Wizard of Oz Scanimation
     (Rufus Butler Seder)

10.  Bumble-Ardy
      (Maurice Sendak)

The more things change the more they stay the same.  Five out of the ten authors are big name authors.  These are writers who not only know how to write a good tale, but they know how to sell their work, they know how to promote it.  Apparently authors 25, 50 or 100 years ago used to buy out the first printing of their book to make it appear that it was popular.  And, of course, they practise perseverence.  Once they find a winning formula, they stick with it.  It's so much easier to get published if you are known rather than unknown.  Apparently, known authors have written books under pseudonyms that have been rejected by publisher after publisher.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

The Eighth Wonder of the World

The first Native settlement was organized there 4000 years ago.  The first Europeans to explore the area arrived over 500 years ago.  The first pioneers to settle the area came almost 150 years ago.  By 1900, the place was a tourist attraction.  Now it is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. 

The Grand Canyon was carved into the rock in Arizona by the erosion of the Colorado River and the shifting of the Colorado plateau.  It's length is 227 miles, its width is 4 to 18 miles and its depth is over a mile.  Artists popularized the area in the late 1800's by painting scenes like the one done by Willliam H. Holmes.  First tourists arrived by stagecoach to see what all the fuss was about.  Paddlewheelers made their way up the Colorado River carrying tourists as well.  By 1901, they arrived by train after the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe Railroads were built.  Oliver Lippincott drove the first automobile to the site (from Flagstaff) thinking that it would take him several hours but the trip lasted two whole days.  By the 1930's, the car became the preferred mode of transportation. 

In 1919, the Grand Canyon was declared a U.S. National Park and received a total of 44,173 visitors that year.  Theodore Roosevelt, a conservationist, was a vocal proponent of the park.    The park boasts many wild animals like coyotes, bald eagles, ewes, bobcats, mountain lions and rattlesnakes.  Tourists can view the wildlife through hiking, mule rides and helicopter tours.  By the mid-1930's Hoover Dam was completed, attracting even more tourists to the area.  Current annual visitation is 5 million visitors per year. 

Painting by William H. Holmes courtesy http://upload.wikimedia.org.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Spare Wheel vs. Steering Wheel?

Prayer is not a "spare wheel"
that you pull out when in trouble.
But it is a "steering wheel"
that directs the right path throughout.

One of my Facebook friends, Maureen, posted this thought recently.  Unfortunately, all too often I use prayer as a "spare wheel" rather than a "steering wheel".  I used to wonder why people would ask for prayer about little, trivial matters.  However, nothing is too big or too small for God.  And if you get in the habit of praying each day, you enter into a dialogue with God and you draw closer to Him.  I joined a prayer group last year and it is a good first step to turning that "spare wheel" into a "steering wheel" to guide us through life. 

Here are some benefits we can enjoy, if only we pray:

1.  We can ask what we what in prayer, with the promise God will answer.

2.  We can pray as much and as long as we want without boring God.

3.  We can have prayer partners/groups and increase the power of prayer.

4.  Prayer will remove anxiety (Philippians 4: 6).

5.  The Holy Spirit will help us pray when we don't know what to pray for. (Romans 8: 26)

6.  Prayer can bring peace in our jobs, in our country and in our homes. (Timothy 2: 1)

7.  Prayer brings forgiveness of sin. (1 John 1:9)

8.  Prayer connects one with the right people.

9.  Prayer is the opportunity to commune with the Creator of the universe.

10.  Prayer heals.

(James 1: 60)

Photo courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.

Monday 9 January 2012

The Midnight Hunter

After darkness falls and our little girl has been put to bed, a hunter comes out of the woodwork in our rec room. She's a furry black creature.  Her weapon is not a rifle, it's not a club, it's not a knife:  her only weapon is her stealth.  She finds a hiding place on a book shelf or behind the TV or in a box.  Then she lies in wait, ready to pounce, her green eyes penetrating the darkness.  At the appropriate time, she leaps out, and makes her attack.  The victim is not a bird or a pheasant or a bear:  it's a mouse made out of velvet; it's a little red ball; it's a slender gray string.  Tonight it was one of Jacqueline's stuffies named Silly Billy which the hunter wrestled to the ground and then left for dead.  She propels herself across the room so fast that your head spins.  She keeps hunting until Daddy says "Settle down, Midnight."  Then she climbs up on the couch, cuddles up against us and falls asleep.  Sleep tight, Midnight!

Photo courtesy www.cats-fun.com.


Sunday 8 January 2012

Goodness is Stronger than Evil

Goodness is stronger than evil;

Love is stronger than hate;

Light is stronger than darkness;

Life is stronger than death;

Victory is ours through God who loves us!

A prayer written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for Chicken Soup for the Soul...Stories for a Better World

Photo courtesy www.entheosweb.com.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Pinching Pennies

January is the time of year that many people think about budgeting after the economic excesses of the Christmas season.  Rob and I were looking at our bank statement and realized we were spending a lot more than we were earning.  He thought maybe someone was siphening money out of our account.  However, it was just a case of us being unaware of our spending habits.  We didn't go out and make a huge purchase; it was simply "death by a thousand cuts" as Rob explained.  Well, just as we spent ourselves into debt little by little, the way to get ourselves out of the hole is to cut back little by little.  Here are some tips I found on the Internet to pinch pennies, a term first coined in 1942 when  World War II was forcing everyone to cut back.

1.  Cancel newspaper or magazine subscriptions.

2.  Find the cheapest gas in town.  However, don't drive so far that you burn up too much gas getting there.

3.  Cut back on your heating by turning down the thermostat.  Turn it up in the summer to cut back on air conditioning.

4.  Purchase inexpensive foods at the grocery store that go a long way ex. spaghetti.

5.  Purchase a water filter and drink tap water.  You will save a lot on bottles.

6.  Brew your own coffee.

7.  Pack your own lunch.

8.  Stock up on sale items at the grocery store, especially non-perishables like canned goods, rice, etc.

9.  Avoid fast, processed or convenience foods.

10.  Choose generic brands if the taste is comparable.

11.  Shut off the lights.

12.  Switch your life/home/car insurance to a cheaper provider.

13.  Save at least 10% of your income.

14.  Cook rather than eating out.  I was watching "Till Debt Do Us Part"  one day.  The show featured a young couple who spent, on average, $1330 a month on restaurants!

15.  Pay your bills online to save on stamps/gas.  I have yet to follow this tip.

16.  Send an e-mail rather than calling long distance.

17.  Use homemade cleaning products rather than store-bought ones.

18.  Check your toilets for water leaks.  My Mom noticed her water bill inching up each month and wondered why.  She checked her four toilets and discovered at least one leaking.

19.  Shop at a discount grocery store like Food Basics, Price Choppers.  However, it's not just where you shop, but how you shop.  Rob and I switched supermarkets for a few months and noticed our bills dropped for several weeks but then they started inching up.

20.  Take a spending break for a day.  Suze Orman recommends this tip.

21.  Get a library card.  Books are more expensive than ever before, especially in Canada.

22.  Shop around for a better mortgage rate.  When Rob and I first got our mortgage, the country was still recovering from a recession and rates were high.  Within five years, interest rates dropped considerably and we were able to blend our mortgage rate (they blended our rate with the current rate and met somewhere in the middle).  In the meantime rates dropped even further and we switched to another bank which paid our penalty for switching mortgage holders. 

Sources:  www.ehow.com

Here are some recommended books to read on pinching pennies:

1.  1001 Ways to Cut Your Expenses (Jonathan D. Pond)

2.  The Tightwad Gazette (Amy Dacyczyn)

3.  A Day Without Spending, a Lifetime's Worth of Lessons (Suze Orman)

Photo courtesy www.theepochtimes.com.

Friday 6 January 2012

Peanuts' Premiere

The "Peanuts" comic strip appeared in 26,000 newspapers, was read by 855 million people, in 75 countries and was translated into 21 languages.  The strip was first printed in the Saturday Evening Post in 1948.  It made its official debut in eight dailies on October 2, 1950 and in the Sunday newspapers on January 6, 1952.  Charles Schulz started with only four characters Charlie Brown, Shermy, Patty and Snoopy.  However, in time, the cast of characters expanded to include:  Violet and Schroeder (1951), Lucy and Linus (1952), Pig Pen (1954) Sally (1959), Frieda (1961), Peppermint Patty (1966), Woodstock (1967, named in 1970), Franklin (1968), Marcie (1971), and Rerun (1973). 

Over the years, Charles Schulz raised certain social issues including World War I (flying ace Snoopy hunts the Red Baron), racism (Franklin is Black), the Vietnam War, the "new math", space (Snoopy launched the first human into space), and Christianity (The Charlie Brown Christmas includes Linus reading from the King James version of the Bible about Christ's birth).  Raised as a Lutheran, the cartoonist said that "Linus represented his spiritual side". 

Despite competition from several other comic strips including "Garfield" in the 1980's and "Calvin and Hobbes" in the 1990's, "Peanuts" remained the most popular comic strip of all time.  In total, the comic  had 17,897 different strips.  Charles Schulz signed off of the dailies on January 3, 2000 and last appeared in the Sunday newspapers on February 13, 2000, the day after his death. 

Peanuts' first Sunday strip courtesy http://2.bp.blogspot.com.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Cars in the Driveways, Chickens in the Pots

"[Henry Ford] knew that when there were cars in the driveways and chickens in the pots on the stoves in houses that people could afford to own, there would be pride in the hearts of the people."*

It was on January 5, 1914 that Henry Ford first announced the eight hour shift and the revolutionary $5 a day wage at his car plant.  Previously, shifts had been nine hours in length and minimum wage was $2.34 a day.  Some say that Ford's reason for the increased wages was altruistic; afterall, he had welcomed the physically handicapped and reformed prisoners into his factory, so why wouldn't he help the average Joe?  However, others claimed that the wage increase was strictly an economic move on the part of the entrepreneur:  he figured that he would reduce employee absenteeism, the employee turnover rate and new employee training costs while increasing morale and productivity.  The $5 a day wage enabled his employees to buy the cars they made.  Furthermore, Henry offered a share in the company profits to his "clean living" employees.  Slowly but surely an American middle class was developping.  By 1916, in the suburb of Dearborn, Michigan where Ford's employees lived, an automobile sat in most driveways.   And the proof was in the pudding:  in a two year period, Model T sales jumped from 260,722 to 577,396 and profits skyrocketed from $30 million to $60 million.  Henry Ford's gamble paid off in spades.

*Source:  "Christmas Wish is for Renewed American Pride", Roy N. Pullam, Evansville Courier & Press, December 26, 2011.

Photo courtesy http://farm6.staticclickr.com.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Six Dots, An Awl and a Piece of Paper

On January 4, 1890, in Coupvray, France, a baby was born who would invent a communication system of raised dots, enabling the blind to read and write.  Louis Braille, and his three older sisters, was raised by a leatherer and a homemaker.  At the age of three, he was playing in his father's shop when he poked himself in the eye with an awl, leading to an infection, which later spread to the second eye.  In the end, he lost both eyes and was blinded.  Even so, he was blessed with loving parents who tried to make his life as normal as possible and encouraged him to pursue his education as far as possible despite his disability.  Louis enrolled in the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, France where he learned how to "write" using a system of embossed Latin letters invented by Valentin Hauy.  However, the system was cumbersome:  although students could write a few words, it was almost impossible for them to write an entire letter home using the method.  Louis thrived at the Blind Institute, becoming a student aid and later a professor.  He also took an interest in music, blossoming into an accomplished cellist and organist, performing at verious churches in France.  Intent on finding a better way to read and write, he found out about a "night writing" code of dots and dashes used by soldiers to share information on the battefield developped by Captain Charles Barbier.  While the captain's system involved 12 dots and a series of dashes, the young professor invented his own communication system using only six raised dots (in various sequences) and no dashes.  He poked the holes into a paper with, of all things, an awl.  The Braille alphabet was first published in 1839, but it was not until 1854 that the National Institute for Blind Youth adopted the system, two years after Louis' death. 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Bust of Louis Braille courtesy http://louisbrailleschool.org.

Braille alphabet courtesy http://grade1.forestgreenschool.ca.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

The Onion Dome

In 1555, Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of a cathedral on Red Square at the geometric centre of Moscow.  The plan called for a castle-like structure with two spires and nine onion-shaped domes, giving the effect of flames from a giant bonfire.  Completed in 1561, the church belonged to the Russian Orthodox religion for years, holding rituals like the Palm Sunday procession where the Patriarch sat on a donkey and walked around Red Square.  Sadly, as part of the Soviet Union's anti-theist campaign, the church became a museum in 1928 and was completely secularized by 1929.  It remains an architectural marvel. 

St. Basil’s Cathedral. Moscow, Russia. (Image source: Soleterranean)

Snowy Cathedral of StBasil 45 Awe Inspiring Landmarks Around The World

Monday 2 January 2012

The Horse the Germans Could Not Kill

Britain sent one million horses to the Western Front during the Great War.  Nine hundred thousand of them never returned.  One horse did return and lived to the ripe old age of 32.  Upon his death an article appeared in a newspaper called "The Horse the Germans Could Not Kill".  What was his name?  Warrior. 

General Jack Seely, born on the Isle of Wight, always loved horses.  He was matched up with Warrior and used to ride him on the island's beaches, unperturbed by the giant waves from the sea.  When World War I started, Warrior was chosen for battle and headed over to the Continent.  He would charge the advancing army, unfazed by bullets, bombs and shells, even as his fellow horses were falling on either side.  He survived major battles at Ypres, the Somme and Passchendaele.  Hailed as a hero, he was often painted by the war artist Alfred Munnings. 

In 1934, General Jack Seely wrote a book about his beloved horse called My Horse Warrior.  A London stage production called War Horse was mounted and over one million tickets have been sold.  Steven Spielberg has produced a movie called" War Horse" loosely based on the story.  We all know about the humans on the battefront, but few of us know about the horses.  Thank you, Warrior, for your fearless sacrifice!

Painting of Warrior & General Jack Seely courtesy http://i.telegraph.uk.co.


Sunday 1 January 2012

Auld Lang Syne

I searched high and low for a yule log yesterday.  We visited the Zehrs Bakery and they had none:  Jacqueline, her heart set on getting one, announced:  "We're not leaving here until we get a cake."  However, the Happy New Year Cakes were $25.99 and I wasn't prepared to spend that much.  After a minute or two, she realized that I wasn't going to cave in, so she relented to going to the baking aisle and settled on a Duncan Hines cake mix for $1.50.  In the meantime, I went to Metro with Thomas and found a real yule log for only $7.99.  We ate pizza and pasta for supper; for dessert, I served the yule log with two candles, and we sang "Auld Lang Syne".

"Auld Lang Syne" was a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788.  It was set to music and became a traditional song sung on New Year's Eve in Scotland.  As Scottish immigrants settled in other countries, they brought the song with them.  Canadian Band Leader Guy Lombardo popularized the Scottish ballad in North America, playing it at the Roosevelt Hotel on New Year's Eve in 1929.  From then on, it became the band leader's signature piece.  The song became such a tradition that "Life magazine wrote that if Guy Lombardo failed to play 'Auld Lang Syne' on New Year's Eve, the American public would not believe that the new year had really arrived."*


Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
 and old lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
 we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

*Source: www.infoplease.com, "New Year's Traditions", Borgna Brunner.

Photo of Roosevelt Hotel, New York City, courtesy www.theroosevelthotel.com