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Wedding Woes

“You’re practically guaranteed great weather.”

August 31, 2021

By my count, I have only 137 Tuesday Newsday posts before I hit the magic number of 365. That’s a whole lot of posts. So some days, like for August 31, it can be difficult to hit on just the right topic.

As I was surfing the web… er, researching… I found myself watching a documentary on The Carpenters. For those who have been reading my blog posts for a while, you know that I’ve featured something about The Carpenters twice so far.

Richard Gere and Debra Winger in the romantic movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman

To be fair, I WAS researching actor Richard Gere whose birthday is August 31, 1946. I had watched a couple of clips from two of the movies he was in (Looking For Mr. Goodbar and An Officer and a Gentleman) when a Carpenters video popped up and then I remembered a connection between myself and Karen Carpenter.

So, my friends, this is the third post for arguably one of my two favorite musical acts.

It was on August 31, 1980, when Karen Carpenter was married. Unfortunately, her marriage lasted only 14 months and, in many ways accelerated her downward spiral that ended with her death in February 1983 (https://barbaradevore.com/2020/02/04/goodbye-to-love/).

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In early interviews, Carpenter showed no interest in marriage or dating, believing that a relationship would not survive constant touring, adding ‘as long as we’re on the road most of the time, I will never marry’. In 1976, she said the music business made it hard to meet people and that she refused to just marry someone for the sake of it. Carpenter admitted to Olivia Newton-John that she longed for a happy marriage and family.(snip) After a whirlwind romance, she married real-estate developer Thomas James Burris on August 31, 1980, in the Crystal Room of The Beverly Hills Hotel. Burris, divorced with an 18-year-old son, was nine years her senior. A few days prior to the ceremony, Karen was taped singing a new song, ‘Because We Are in Love’, and the tape was played for guests during the wedding ceremony. The song, written by her brother and Tom Bettis, was released in 1981. The couple settled in Newport Beach.

James Burris and Karen Carpenter at their August 31, 1980 wedding

Carpenter desperately wanted children, but Burris had undergone a vasectomy and refused to get an operation to reverse it. Their marriage did not survive this disagreement and ended after 14 months. Burris was living beyond his means, borrowing up to $50,000 (the equivalent of $142,000 in 2020) at a time from his wife, to the point where reportedly she had only stocks and bonds left. Carpenter’s friends also indicated he was impatient. Karen Kamon, a close friend, recounted an incident in which she and Carpenter went to their normal hangout, Hamburger Hamlet, and Carpenter appeared to be distant emotionally, sitting not at their regular table but in the dark, wearing large dark sunglasses, unable to eat and crying. According to Kamon, the marriage was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was absolutely the worst thing that could have ever happened to her.’

In September 1981, Carpenter revised her will and left her marital home and its contents to Burris, but left everything else to her brother and parents, including her fortune estimated at 5–10 million dollars (between $14,000,000 and $28,000,000 in 2020). Two months later, following an argument after a family dinner in a restaurant, Carpenter and Burris broke up. Carpenter filed for divorce on October 28, 1982, while she was in Lenox Hill Hospital.”

By August of 1980, I was no longer obsessed with The Carpenters. My life had moved on. I had graduated college in May 1979 and also met the man who would become my hubby.

That year I took a job in Eatonville, Washington, as the sole reporter (and grunt of all things small town newspaper) for The Dispatch. When I wasn’t out covering a story, weekends often involved driving to Seattle to spend time with my boyfriend. Life was full and busy. Then in May of 1980 we became engaged and planned our wedding for the end of August.

The soon to be hubby and I discussed having an outdoor ceremony in a park in West Seattle. My mother had other plans.

Instead we ended up at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima on August 30. We had not given much thought to that particular date. As it turned out, that was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend which prompted more than a few declines of guests due to other plans.

Reciting our vows at Westminster Presbyterian Church

A couple weeks prior to the ceremony, the soon to be hubby was on the phone with one of his friends, encouraging him to attend. It was in this conversation when one particular phrase was uttered which has come back to haunt the hubby over the years:

“You should definitely come since you’re practically guaranteed great weather.”

According to WeatherUnderground at the time our OUTDOOR reception in my parents backyard was to take place, it was a decidedly un-summerlike 61 degrees with rain. An even more astonishing fact is that the record low temperature for August 30th in Yakima was 36 degrees set on that date in… 1980.

There were a few other glitches that day also. The hubby’s brother never arrived as he was attending a Porsche car rally near Mt. Hood and his car broke down.

Then, as I was literally about to start the traditional walk down the aisle, the photographer whispers to me, “There was a problem with the camera and none of the pictures I took turned out. We’ll have to do them over.”

Pro Tip to photographers everywhere, this is NOT something you tell a bride just before she walks down the aisle.

Turns out that some of the outdoor photos did turn out… like this one of us, our attendants, and our soloist before the rain started. Note the gray stuff in the grass. Yup. Mount St. Helen’s ash – a little more than three months after the eruption – was still everywhere in Yakima.

So there I was, standing in the church on what is supposed to be the perfect day and all I can think about is what the heck are we going to do about the photos AND listening to the rain drops echoing on the skylights overhead wondering how the party next to the pool will turn out.

With our greatest role models… The hubby’s parents recently celebrated their 75th anniversary. Mine celebrated their 70th in 2017 a couple months before my mom passed.

But all things being equal, it actually was a perfect way to start a marriage. Because weddings are not marriages. Marriages are all about overcoming the various challenges which life tosses at you. In the 41 years since that cold and rainy summer day, there have been broken bones, illness, and challenges which have all but swamped us. But there has also been laughter, adventures, and joy.

So Happy 41st Anniversary to the hubby. It’s been quite the ride.

The links:

https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/us/wa/yakima/KYKM/date/1980-8-30

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Carpenter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Gere

Lackadaisical. Loafing. Slacking. Slothful. Idle. Laggard.

August 10, 2021

By now there is one word which should be at the forefront of your brain: Lazy. Of course I couldn’t be described as lazy and do the research for this week’s Tuesday Newsday. But here I am writing about August 10th, which is National Lazy Day.

It’s that one day a year when we are given permission to sit back and relax.

The Infallible Wikipedia has several entries on laziness, but I got bored reading them as they started discussing all the psychological reasons someone might be perceived as being lazy when in fact they might be depressed, or have ADHD, or a variety of other syndromes.

Instead, the National Day’s Calendar website had the right idea with this tongue in cheek summation on how best to celebrate and observe National Lazy Day:

“Take this test to prepare yourself for the day. Lazy people fact #72432143726413424.

If you were too lazy to read that number, you’re ready to celebrate this day.

The number one rule of any lazy day is if you can’t reach it, you don’t need it.

Don’t break the rule.

We assigned an alternative word for lazy for the day.

We call it very relaxed.

What is the official exercise of #NationalLazyDay?

Diddly squats.

For some tips on how to enjoy a successful lazy day visit A Pint-Sized Life Blog.

We were too lazy to give you our own list.

NATIONAL LAZY DAY HISTORY

The creator and origin of #NationalLazyDay could not be found.

Have a great day!”

I would venture to guess that there is not a person alive who hasn’t used the phrase ‘I’m being lazy today,” when, in fact, what they’re really saying is that they need a break after an intense period of activity.

As I have, ahem, matured, I’ve decided that being ‘lazy’ is necessary. Unlike my younger days, I find that a bit of a nap midway through the day is imperative to getting things done. Although chores may not get completed as quickly as they once did, eventually the things which need to happen are accomplished.

Last year in one of my posts I wrote about keeping house and discussed the luxury of hiring someone to come in and clean for me.( https://barbaradevore.com/2020/03/24/national-cleaning-week/)

I know many of you are familiar with my ‘lazy’ housekeeper and how she eats chocolates all day and reads trashy romance novels rather than work.

But my lazy housekeeper really isn’t that lazy, it’s more that she is easily distracted and can find dozens of other more interesting things to do with her time. I attribute her inefficiency to ADHD because she simply cannot stay focused on one thing for too long.

She might vacuum for 15 minutes and then remember that she needed to send an email to someone, so off she’ll go to take care of that. On her way she might notice that the hummingbird feeder is empty, so will stop to make new nectar. When she returns a half hour later to finish the undone housework, she might actually mop the floor before she remembers she needs a few things from the grocery store or have an inspiration for a scene in a story she’s writing.

These bursts of energy and activity are quite exhausting and soon it’s time to play a game on the phone or, better, shut her eyes for a short respite.

Which, finally, begs the question “Is being ‘lazy’ actually beneficial?”

Internet research provided plenty of articles to support this hypothesis. I decided it was too much work to quote anymore articles on the benefits or pitfalls of laziness but will paraphrase the conclusions.

A person we perceive as lazy might not, in fact, be so. Such an individual is often thinking about the easiest and most time effective way to complete a task. Others might, in fact, be writers. For those who don’t know, writing requires having time to cogitate what it is you are going to write.

Like this article. Before I started to type I spent quite a bit of time considering how I would present the topic and decided to research the synonyms to start it out; additionally, I wanted to find a personal angle on laziness, hence the lazy housekeeper. It really did involve a great deal of deliberation which, to the casual observer, might present as laziness.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this brain work has left me feeling a bit droopy and a nap sounds like a great way to spend August 10th, National Lazy Day.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laziness

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-lazy-day-august-10/

http://news.ku.edu/2018/08/15/new-research-suggests-evolution-might-favor-survival-laziest

The Birthday Paradox

What are the odds?

July 27, 2021

The next time you are in a group of 30 or more people and you want to have an icebreaker activity, have the group line up by the day of the month they are born. Odds are 70 percent that two of the people in the group will share the same day.

This is a phenomenon known as the Birthday Paradox or Birthday Problem. It’s all based on exponents and probabilities. According to the Infallible Wikipedia (who got the information from a whole bunch of smart scientists), this is how it works:

“In probability theory, the birthday problem or birthday paradox concerns the probability that, in a set of n randomly chosen people, some pair of them will have the same birthday. In a group of 23 people, the probability of a shared birthday exceeds 50%, while a group of 70 has a 99.9% chance of a shared birthday. (By the pigeonhole principle, the probability reaches 100% when the number of people reaches 367, since there are only 366 possible birthdays, including February 29.)

These conclusions are based on the assumption that each day of the year is equally probable for a birthday. Actual birth records show that different numbers of people are born on different days. In this case, it can be shown that the number of people required to reach the 50% threshold is 23 or fewer.

The birthday problem is a veridical paradox: a proposition that at first appears counterintuitive, but is in fact true. While it may seem surprising that only 23 individuals are required to reach a 50% probability of a shared birthday, this result is made more intuitive by considering that the comparisons of birthdays will be made between every possible pair of individuals. With 23 individuals, there are (23 × 22) / 2 = 253 pairs to consider, which is well over half the number of days in a year (182.5 or 183). (snip)

The history of the problem is obscure. The result has been attributed to Harold Davenport; however, a version of what is considered today to be the birthday problem was proposed earlier by Richard von Mises.”

Personally, my brain kinda goes ‘tilt’ when I see cryptic scientific characters and formulas which show me how to calculate all of this. So I leave that to you brainiac statistics folks and share my own personal experience with this phenomenon.

The first time I encountered this was as a 13 year old in my 8th grade English class. More about that in a bit. Often, when I’m in a group situation and looking for a way to engage people in conversation, I will ask them their birthday (not the year, just the day) and talk about the paradox. This will often get others interested and soon the entire group is comparing days until, and it usually happens, we find the pair with the same birthday.

Over the years I have been the person who matches another who shares my birthday. I can think of at least five times this has occurred.

But it was that first time which I think might have the odds makers scrambling to figure out the possibilities.

Back to 8th grade English class. In the room there are probably 5 rows with six desks in each row, so 30 possible students. I do not believe we had 30, more like 24. On this particular day I was in my chair in the front row (I’ve always been one to sit in front in a class) with my friend Bonnie behind me and a girl I didn’t really know, Alice, behind her.

We are working independently on something and Mr. Albrecht, our teacher, doesn’t care if we are talking to one another. So I’m working on my project and can hear Bonnie and Alice chatting away behind me. The two of them, who had only met in that class, had taken an instant liking to one another and were becoming fast friends.

Then one of them, I think Alice, asks Bonnie her birth date. To which Bonnie replies, “August First.” Alice squeals and says, “No way. My birthday is also August First.”

By now, they have my full attention. I turn around and reply, “You’re not going to believe this, but my birthday is also August First!”

“No it’s not!” Bonnie objects, “You’re joking. You’re just saying that because Alice and I the same birthday.”

I shake my head and say, “No, it really is August First.”

The debate continues for several minutes as they simply do not believe me. Finally we all agree to bring in copies of our birth certificates to prove it.

The next class day I had mine in hand and eagerly awaited the moment when I would show them I did, in fact, share the same birthday (and in this case, year) as the other two.

We huddle together at the end of class and each produce our documents. Bonnie and Alice shake their heads in disbelief as they examine my certificate. Yes, all three of us were born on August First of the same year. It turned out, however, that I was the oldest of the trio having arrived a mere 43 minutes after midnight to make the cut.

María Laura, María Emilia and María Eugenia Fernández Roussee (born 5 July 1960). The triplets are a well known musical group in Argentina

It was a rather amazing coincidence. In all the years since I’ve never heard of another situation like it. In my Google explorations to calculate the odds of such a thing happening, it was nearly impossible to make the search engine understand what I was asking. So, all you readers out there, what ARE the odds of three random people in a group of 24 sharing the same birthday and year?

Yes, I do personally know two sets of triplets… and for the purpose of the Birthday Paradox those don’t count.

I think it is a rather slim probability and that maybe, our little unrelated trio, defied the odds. It truly is a paradox.

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem

https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-birthday-paradox/

Picture Perfect Postcards

June 8, 2021

No doubt if someone who lived in the 1870’s were alive today, they would be in awe of the instantaneous nature of an email or a text message. People then had equivalent forms of communication but without it being instant. A letter was very much like email, used to expound on longer subjects. It was the postcard, however, which served the purpose of a quick communication and, literally, cost only a penny to send; the text message of its day.

It was on June 8, 1872 when the US Congress endorsed the penny postcard. What this meant is that the US postal service began printing blank postcards with the postage paid… all for a penny.

The idea originated in Prussia, but was initially met with skepticism. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“A Prussian postal official, Dr. Heinrich von Stephan, first proposed an ‘open post-sheet’ made of stiff paper in 1865. He proposed that one side would be reserved for a recipient address, and the other for a brief message. His proposal was denied on grounds of being too radical and officials did not believe anyone would willingly give up their privacy. In October 1869, the post office of Austria-Hungary accepted a similar proposal (also without images), and 3 million cards were mailed within the first 3 months. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in July 1870, the government of the North German Confederation decided to take the advice of Austrian Dr. Emanuel Herrmann and issued postals for soldiers to inexpensively send home from the field.

The rest of the world followed suit and post cards soon became standard. Novelty post cards featuring some sort of image on one side can be traced to 1870, but they cost 2 cents to mail plus the cost of purchasing the cards. The first souvenir ‘picture’ post card is believed to have been a scene from Vienna sent in 1870.

As more and more people became literate, sending letters and post cards served as a way to keep families and friends connected. 1890 to 1915 was considered the ‘Golden Age’ of postcards. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Cards showing images increased in number during the 1880s. Images of the newly built Eiffel Tower in 1889 and 1890 gave impetus to the postcard, leading to the so-called ‘golden age’ of the picture postcard. (snip) …the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 excited many attendees with its line of ‘Official Souvenir’ postals, which popularized the idea of picture postcards. The stage was now set for private postcard industry to boom, which it did once the United States government changed the postage rate for private cards from two cents to one in May 1898.

(snip) Demand for postcards increased, government restrictions on production loosened, and technological advances (in photography, printing, and mass production) made the boom possible. In addition, the expansion of Rural Free Delivery allowed mail to be delivered to more American households than ever before. Billions of postcards were mailed during the golden age, including nearly a billion per year in United States from 1905 to 1915, and 7 billion worldwide in 1905. Many postcards from this era were in fact never posted but directly acquired by collectors themselves.

Changes in tariffs put a damper on postcards as the cost of producing them became much more expensive – or, perhaps, they were being replaced with newer technology. Coincidentally the first US transcontinental telephone network was completed in 1915.

Postcards today are primarily the province of tourists, purchased in gift shops and sent to friends and family back home to let them know they are being ‘thought’ of by the sender.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with postcards. Like many vacationers, I have purchased them in gift shops with the intention of writing a short greeting and mailing them off. My office supply collection contains more than a few which were purchased but never sent. I admire those who actually mail the cards they buy!

The postcard sender award goes, hands down, to a good friend of my son’s. I first met Jim when he was 12. A gregarious kid, he took an immediate like to my more reserved child. They were going to be best buddies regardless of what my son might think. Soon they were hanging out together, sharing common interests and intellects. Jim was a frequent visitor to our house and he loved to talk. His brain retained everything and he was a voracious reader, especially of historical topics.

Then the unthinkable happened. His father got a job. In another state. Clear across the county. Junior year of high school, Jim moved to Virginia.

But Jim was undaunted, determined to not let his best friend or adopted family forget about him.

The first postcard from Jim arrived shortly after he moved. And then another arrived. And another. It started to feel a bit like the Dursley’s mailbox with the letters arriving from Hogwarts for Harry Potter. (see clip below)

Unlike the Dursely’s, however, our entire family looked forward to those postcards. We enjoyed seeing what interesting places Jim visited and reading the witty and funny things he would write. Every card was concluded with his signature close of “Cheers, Jim.” This went on for years.

Jim went on to college, got his degree in history and has turned his love of the subject combined with his natural oratorical abilities into jobs. He worked as a costumed history tour guide for the National Parks during the summers he was in college; he eventually became a professor.

It’s been quite a while since one of those postcards arrived but we have saved every one. At first I was the one who kept them and then my son, recognizing that there was something very special about them, took over the job.

Perhaps historians of the future will look back on earlier times and see the value of the written word on paper. It imbues our records with a personal experience that electronic communications cannot match. Jim’s postcards prove that it doesn’t have to be a fancy five dollar card to be special. A few lines on a postcard are more than enough and just as meaningful. Cheers to you, Jim, and that unique place you hold in our hearts.

The two postcards are from my grandmother’s things. The top one is probably circa 1915 as is the one of her 7th grade class in Selah, Washington. I have vintage postcards from the 1940’s onward… too many to share. The stack of postcards are ALL from Jim!

A link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postcard#:~:text=The%20first%20commercially%20produced%20card%20was%20created%20in,%22Lipman%27s%20Postal%20Card%22.%20These%20cards%20had%20no%20images.

Mousemania!

The Microsoft Mouse

April 20, 2021

The 1980’s was an exciting era in the world of computers. Where once only large corporations had such capabilities, the advent of affordable, personal computers heralded a decade of new products to make computer use easier.

Microsoft’s first mouse circa 1983

Until 1983 no one outside of engineering labs had ever heard of a computer mouse. Yet today, the device is an essential piece of a desktop computer set up.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The earliest known written use of the term mouse in reference to a computer pointing device is in Bill English’s July 1965 publication, ‘Computer-Aided Display Control’ likely originating from its resemblance to the shape and size of a mouse, a rodent, with the cord resembling its tail. The popularity of wireless mice without cords makes the resemblance less obvious.

The plural for the small rodent is always ‘mice’ in modern usage. The plural for a computer mouse is either ‘mice’ or ‘mouses’ according to most dictionaries, with ‘mice’ being more common. The first recorded plural usage is ‘mice’; the online Oxford Dictionaries cites a 1984 use, and earlier uses include J. C. R. Licklider’s ‘The Computer as a Communication Device’ of 1968.”

One company which saw the potential in the mouse was – at the time – fledgling software giant Microsoft.

They got on the mouse bandwagon early, bundling their version of a mouse with two of their software programs. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

Being a bit of rebel, I had a Macintosh computer for many years and had just such a mouse on my desk.

“The Microsoft Mouse is a computer mouse released by Microsoft in 1983. It is the first mouse released by the company, and it was bundled with Microsoft Word, Notepad, and an on-screen teaching tutorial for an initial price of $195.

Nicknamed the ‘green-eyed mouse,’ the Microsoft Mouse featured a pair of green buttons. It also featured a more curved body than the blockier designs more common of mice at the time. As with other mice at the time, the Microsoft Mouse used a steel ball for tracking.

The initial version featured an InPort ISA interface, requiring a Microsoft bus card to be installed in the computer. Later versions were available with DE-9 or DB-25 serial connectors. All versions of the Microsoft Mouse could be used with IBM-compatible and other DOS systems.”

In 1983, I was working for Microsoft in the telemarketing sales division. The company was small enough, however, that friendships developed with individuals across all departments. One such friendship was with one very enthusiastic National Training Manager who, one day, saw me walking down the hall and asked me to step into his office as he wanted to show me something.

The memory is crystal clear. Alan’s office is little more than a cube, big enough for his desk, chair, and a file cabinet. But what I most recall is that his office is an interior one and has no window (ironic for Microsoft, right?). Additionally, his overhead light is not on and all illumination is provided by the glow of his computer monitor. Again, computers and monitors in 1983 had no graphical interface, just glowing green letters on a black screen.

He sits at his chair and says ‘watch this’ and then proceeds to put his hand on a little box and push it around his desk while a tiny straight line cursor jumps all over the screen. The demonstration continues as he clicks a button on the device which locks the cursor in place, then types a few words.

A few months later, our telemarketing group had ‘Mouse’ day with the introduction of Microsoft’s version of the device. Product introduction days were always exciting as our group created ways to make it special and get ourselves motivated.

Two of my telemarketing co-horts, Sue and Susie, on ‘Mouse’ day.

Mouse day, it turns out, featured everyone wearing Disneyland mouse ears as we called every last buyer in every computer store in the nation. At the front of the room was a large white board where our goals were written. As the day wore on, we would add our sales to the list, and whoops of excitement echoed through the cube farm as we reached each new goal.

I don’t recall how many we sold that first day or in subsequent weeks, but the bundle was hugely popular as consumers embraced the technology.

Most memorable was a funny incident which happened a short time after. In addition to the telemarketing group, we also had a customer service division for people to call in and get help when their products had issues. Often those calls were directed to a crack group of the most patient people in the universe: technical support.

I can clearly see two of my tech support buddies, both of whom were always willing to answer our questions when a buyer would, inevitably, ask us some technical thing that we – as mere salespeople – had no clue how to answer.

I can’t recall if it was Clay or Dolores who told me this story; but one day he/she received a tech support call from a woman who was complaining that her mouse was not working correctly. The tech people always worked through a list of known issues first, asking questions to drill down in order to solve the problem. Most issues they’d encountered before and would either be able to get it fixed it or would send the person to customer service to start the order replacement process.

This particular woman was certain that her software had a problem because every time she moved the mouse around all she got on the screen were squiggly lines and gibberish text. So the tech person had her move the mouse, click the button, and then type something. On the call went for five, then ten minutes, with no known bug causing the issue.

Finally, the woman – clearly exasperated – yelled ‘my arm’s getting tired.’

The tech support person paused and then asked her to describe how she was holding the mouse. It turned out that she was treating the mouse as though it was a touch screen device. All that time she had been holding it up and moving it around on the screen’s surface.

Over the years I’ve had ‘Microsoft’ dreams – not quite nightmares but close – where I’m back working at the company. In these dreams, however, I’m not donning Mouse ears and calling buyers; I work in tech support and field calls from people asking me questions for which I do not know the answers. Talk about stress.

The telemarketing crew fall of 1983, goals on the white board and all in the ‘Mouse’ spirit. The author with her big 80’s hair is at far left.

I think of Clay and Dolores often and smile at the stories they shared which often made the stress of working at Microsoft in the early 80’s just a little bit less. Hats off to all tech support people everywhere, you are my heroes.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Mouse

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_mouse

Kittenmania!

A Bakers Dozen of Cats

April 13, 2021

One of the things I look forward to each week is getting ‘show prep’ from my favorite Disc Jockey who also happens to be my brother. He sends interesting and humorous facts and events in advance of each Tuesday, providing me fun ideas for the particular date I need.

This week he shared the following for today, April 13. He writes:

“1969: An Australian Siamese cat named Blue Danielle had 13 kittens. It’s no longer a record, but it deserves honorable mention. The purring alone must have driven everyone crazy.”

Which got me wondering, what WAS the largest litter of kittens ever born?

When you really, really love kittens. Son and daughter with kittens Winky and Peop.

The record was set the very next year when a four year old Burmese cat named Taragone Antigone produced 19 kittens. Unfortunately, only 15 survived (14 males, one  female). I gleaned this information from a website called The Nest which also stated “Clementine, a mixed domestic shorthair gave birth to 15 (11 survived) in New York in 1976, and that same year a Siamese named Tikatoo had a litter of 15 in Canada.” (see link below)

The Infallible Wikipedia does not list the information on the largest litters, but helpfully details the, ahem, mating habits of felines. Perhaps the most interesting fact in that regard is this:

“Because ovulation is not always triggered by a single mating, females may not be impregnated by the first male with which they mate. Furthermore, cats are super fecund that is, a female may mate with more than one male when she is in heat, with the result that different kittens in a litter may have different fathers.”

Another interesting aspect is that cats are known to give birth to as many as three litters a year. With litters averaging from 3 to 9 kittens, it doesn’t take long to be overrun by cats. I should know.

My family’s kitten adventures began in December 1998 when our one and half year old cat, Purr, went into heat. It was a conscious decision on my part to let the cat do this as I knew that having a batch of kittens was highly desired, especially by my then 5 year old daughter.

As Purr’s big day approached, the excitement in the house grew. Then, one morning late in February 1999, the process began. Much to my daughter’s delight, she got to witness the birth event and immediately bonded with all four of the kittens.

Purr in the ‘nest’ my daughter prepared for her. The kittens were born shortly after.

It didn’t take long for each cat’s personality to shine through and the four were named: Kinky – the lone male – named for the crook in his tail; Winky – who had one eye which blinked independent of the other; Phantom – who had a half dark, half light face; and, finally, People Cat – so named because of her propensity to climb out of the box and love on whatever person was there.

Kittenmania took over. The cats lived in our large laundry room, kept inside by a baby gate once they started roaming. But soon they were all over the house and, especially, upstairs in the playroom or the kids’ rooms.

Since keeping five cats was not an option, at five weeks I’d moved fully into ‘find them a home’ mode but not before promising that we would keep ‘one’ of the kittens. My targets for people to adopt them were classmates of the kids and soon Winky left to be loved by a third grade girl and her family.

Phantom, it turned out, was not the right cat for us. She was afraid of everything: loud noises, sudden movement, and the other cats. Sudden incontinence was the response to these factors, so she needed a calm environment with an understanding owner. Her salvation was the veterinary assistant.

It looked as though Kinky would be our cat as my son’s teacher, Mrs. B., was all set to adopt Peop (as we had started calling her). But when Mrs. B’s husband objected, the adoption was off. I was secretly glad as Peop had become my personal assistant, supervising whenever I worked at my desk, and I wanted to keep her.

So our little family of three cats was set. Or so I thought.

One day in early April I had an appointment to have Mama Purr spayed. Then the unthinkable happened. She escaped the house and was gone for 24 hours. The last time that happened…

Purr looking beautiful and irresistible to the eligible bachelors

Yep. She was pregnant once again.

Purr got bigger and bigger and soon we were anxiously awaiting the new arrivals. She rejected Peop and Kinky (something which was true for the rest of her days) who moved upstairs to hang with the family and Purr stayed downstairs as she began the process of nesting once again.

Unfortunately, I had an out of town conference which took me away at the critical moment. With Grandma and Grandpa there to watch the kids we were all set.

Then on day two of the conference, a flurry of emails from my nine year old son announced the kittens’ arrival.

Peop helping the author with editing.

“Mom,” the first email proclaimed, “Purr has four kittens!”

I noticed a string of emails from him and clicked open the second, then the third, fourth and fifth emails.

“Now there are five!”

“Mom – there are six kittens!”

“Now there are seven!”

My stomach dropped as I counted three more emails in the thread. How many kittens did Purr just have? What were we going to do with all those kittens?!

I open the next email.

“Purr has eight kittens!” the email happily proclaimed.

It took every ounce of courage to open the next one.

“That’s all.”

I let out a shudder. While eight would be hard to manage I was thankful it had ended there.

Kinky wanted to be king of the household but Purr never let him usurp her throne.

When I arrived home the next day I found a moving mass of cats in the laundry room. Purr looked oh so pleased with herself.

Soon the reality of having ELEVEN cats in the house took over. The litter box for Mama and babies required cleaning every two hours. I took old vinyl tablecloths and turned them upside down in the laundry room to keep the carpet (who puts carpet in a laundry room? Asking for a friend) from getting urine soaked. Our house smelled like a cattery. Probably because it was.

When our niece came to visit, the kids ‘introduced’ her to the new kittens – three of which are shown here.

That summer all we did was manage cats and eventually were able to find homes for the crew, much to Purr’s dismay. And Purr? That randy lady did make it to the vet (as did Peop and Kinky) so that future, possibly record breaking, litters of kittens would not happen.

But had I known then that the record was 19 I totally think Purr could have broken it. Then she would have been famous and I would have had a nervous breakdown. It probably worked out for the best.

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat

https://pets.thenest.com/record-number-kittens-born-one-litter-8346.html

Bobsledding Along

The Debut of Sledding in the Olympics

February 9, 2021

Over the years, a variety of competitions have been added to the Winter Olympics. On February 9, 1932, the two-man Bobsled made its debut and has been a fan favorite ever since.

Photo of a USA 2 man Bobsled team at the 1932 Olympics

For anyone unfamiliar with the event, think sledding but much, much faster. The first competitions, predating the Olympic Games, occurred in St. Moritz, Switzerland in the 1800’s.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Its foundation began when hotelier Caspar Badrutt (1848–1904) convinced some wealthy English regulars to remain through the entire winter at his hotel in the mineral spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland. He had been frustrated that his hotel was only busy during the summer months. By keeping his guests entertained with food, alcohol, and activities, he quickly established the concept of ‘winter resorting’. Within a few years, wintering at Badrutt’s St Moritz hotel became very fashionable in Victorian Britain. However, with increased numbers this led some guests to search for new diversions. In the early 1870s some adventurous Englishmen began adapting boys’ delivery sleds for recreational purposes.”

The hotel guests loved the sleds and soon they competed in races down the streets and alleys of St. Moritz. The ‘runs’ became longer and the speeds faster which led to crashes and injuries. Complaints from the townspeople increased.

Sledding the streets of St. Moritz circa 1903

(Badrutt’s) “solution was to build a basic natural ice run for his guests outside the town near the small hamlet named Cresta in the late 1870s. Badrutt took action because he did not want to make enemies in the town and he had worked hard and investing a lot of time and money in popularizing wintering in St. Moritz so he was not going to let customers stop coming due to boredom.”

The Bobsled – either the two-man or four-man – is controlled by a steering mechanism in the nose of a bullet shaped ‘car.’ The participants sit in a crouched position facing forward inside the car which is guided by the pilot. The additional participants serve as pushers to gain initial speed and then as ballast which helps the Bobsled go faster down the icy track.

Besides Bobsled another winter event, the Luge, also involves excessive speeds. The Luge, however, is sport where the participant lays face up on an open, lightweight sled and uses his or her feet to guide it.

You can ride an actual bobsled on the Olympic Track from the Whistler games… just a six hour drive from Seattle!

Both sports are rather heart stopping at times. The world record for Bobsled speed is 125 mph! Lugers generally race between 75 and 90 mph.

Given a choice between watching the summer or winter games, I’ve always been a bigger fan of the snow sports whether it’s skating, skiing, or sledding.

I think this may stem from my childhood days growing up in Yakima. While most of winter in Yakima tends to be marked by sunny, cold, and dry, there are usually a few big enough snow events which made sledding – which is an inexpensive pastime – possible. The street I grew up on was perfect for a beginner sledding experience. It had a slope, but was gentle enough that a five year old could manage it.

As the years went on, I graduated to bigger hills. A walk south to where 31st Avenue crossed Tieton drive brought we adventurous sliders to the top of a rather daunting slope. At the bottom of that slope lived my cousins. When we got bored with our pedestrian hill we ventured to theirs.

Then, the year I was twelve I was allowed one day to head to the holy grail of all sledding hills in Yakima: Franklin Park.

From top to bottom, the hill is probably about 60 feet. The center of the 45 degree slope is flat like a cookie sheet. But on either side are terraces, each of the half dozen around 10 feet high. After a big snow, of course, the hill comes alive with hundreds of kids and every one of them wants to slide down the sloped ‘cookie sheet’ in the middle. It doesn’t take long for the snow to reveal the un-slidable grass from the activity of all those kids.

Franklin Park in Yakima is a magnet for kids after a big snowfall. The center section was always the most popular spot but when the snow was gone even the terraces (the lumpy looking sides) beckoned the brave.

On the particular day I was allowed to go I ended up relegated to trying to figure out how to sled the terraces. I lay down on my sled, hands on the cross bar and inched my way to the top of the highest terrace; the sled dropped down over the edge and I flew. For exactly 10 feet before the sled lurched to a stop in the deep snow.

This was not, you might imagine, a particularly successful method of sledding. But I persevered and dragged the sled to the next terrace ledge, lay down and once again pushed the sled over the ledge, pretty much bouncing down the next terrace with a similar result.

Now I cannot recall for sure on which terrace disaster struck, but strike it did during this, my first and only time sledding at Franklin Park.

Down the slope I went and when I got to the bottom of the third level, the front of the sled reared up and smacked me in the face. I rolled off the sled, the stinging pain letting me know my decision making abilities were not very good. But the worst part of all was that my glasses, which I needed for distance vision, lay broken in two in the snow.

Despite that experience, I have persisted. There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as when you gain momentum and go hurtling down a slippery slope, knowing that you are likely out of control, but loving the speed and the flying sensation.

Kids having fun sledding at the family cabin near White Pass

Our family cabin was, for years, a destination for New Year’s or President’s Day weekends. When the kids arrived, we introduced them to the joys of sledding and everyone looked forward to those trips.

On one particular afternoon, we were all outside playing in the snow and my dad had driven up from Yakima. He had to have been in his late 70’s at the time, but there he was sliding down the hill with the kids and having a great time. Or he was right up until the boat sled in which he was riding sailed over a berm and he landed hard, bruising his tailbone. It was at that moment he declared his sledding days over. About five years ago I did the exact same thing in the exact same spot and, like my dad, ended up bruised and battered.

We all frequently ended up sprawled out on the snow at the end of the sled run

I have my doubts that I’ll ever get back on a sled but I haven’t counted it out quite yet. After we sold the cabin this past summer, two of the metal boat sleds came to live in my garage. Now all I need is a snowy day. Not too far from where I live is an epic hill which would be perfect for a run.

But, with no big snow storms on the horizon, I’ll do the next best thing. I typed in ‘virtual luge’ on my computer and got hundreds of hits. For best results, view it on a full size TV. And for a couple of minutes you can see what it would be like to ride a two man bobsled. And you won’t even need to wear a helmet or your mittens. But a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of whip cream would be heavenly.

And a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobsleigh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luge

Facebook answers, clockwise from upper left corner: 2 Man Bobsled, Ski Jumping, Single Luge, Ice Hockey, Ice Dance

Fifteen two, fifteen four

It’s all about the board

January 5, 2021

Early January is a good time to hunker down and find amusing pastimes. What with the tiresome and ongoing lockdown, occupying oneself with solitaire might be fun. Or, if you are sequestered with another person, I suggest Cribbage.

Cribbage was invented by English Poet Sir John Suckling in the 1630’s. An older game, Noddy, was the inspiration for cribbage. Noddy, now considered an historical game, is rarely played.

Three cribbage boards in my collection plus a ‘perfect’ crib hand which counts 29.

On the other hand, Cribbage has been referred to as “Britain’s national card game” and is the only game which can be legally played in pubs and clubs. All other games require special permission!

A standard 52 card deck and a piece of paper and a pencil is all one really needs to play the game. However, most aficionados use a cribbage board. A traditional board features two ‘tracks’ of 60 holes each, drilled into a piece of wood. Over the centuries, cribbage boards have been made from a variety of materials including ivory, horn, leather, and bone. Plastic and manufactured stone are more modern materials which have been used in recent years.

The game play is fairly strait forward for two people. Six cards are dealt to each player. Each player then chooses two of the cards to place in the ‘crib.’ Whoever dealt the hand gets to count the points in the crib. On the next hand, the other person deals and counts the crib. Once the two players have removed their two cards, the non-dealer cuts the cards and that card is flipped over.

Where strategy comes in is to figure out what the best combination of cards should be kept and which should go to the crib.

For those unfamiliar with cribbage the Infallible Wikipedia provides information on how to play. The link is below.

Rather than use this space to discuss the minutiae of the game, however, I was captivated when I started reading about what is known as the O’Kane cribbage board. Naval legend is that just prior to a submarine bombing mission in 1943 Lieutenant Dick O’Kane broke out his cribbage board to play a game with the commanding officer, Lt. Commander Dudley Morton.

The O’Kane Cribbage Board

From the Defense Visual Information Distribution Services website:

“Morton dealt O’Kane a perfect cribbage hand of 29 — the odds of which are 1 in 216,580. The crew would take this extremely rare hand as an omen of good luck. The following day, Wahoo sunk two Japanese freighters.

Two days later, Morton and O’Kane played another game of cribbage in the wardroom. This time Morton dealt O’Kane a hand of 28 — these odds being 1 in 15,625. Morton was furious, vowing to never play O’Kane again, according to O’Kane’s book, “Wahoo: The Patrols of America’s Famous WWII Submarine.” The hand proved to be another stroke of good luck as later another enemy freighter was spotted and promptly sunk. Wahoo ended up being one of the most successful submarines during World War II.

O’Kane’s luck with the board would continue as he took it with him to become the commanding officer of USS Tang (SS 306). Tang would go on to set the record of most ships sunk on a patrol. O’Kane received the Medal of Honor for his actions while commanding Tang.

On Oct. 25, 1944, Tang was sunk by its own torpedo. Only nine Sailors survived, O’Kane being one of them. The survivors were picked up by a Japanese frigate and taken as prisoners of war. The original board went down with the submarine.”

O’Kane replaced the board and, upon his death in 1994, it was given to the oldest submarine in the fleet, at that time the Kamehameha. For over 25 years the board has been passed down to the oldest submarine when the current ship is decommissioned. Considered a good luck charm, it is currently aboard the Chicago.

Submariners playing a game with the O’Kane Cribbage Board

My first recollection of seeing people play cribbage dates to the mid 1960’s. We are at my Aunt and Uncle’s house for Thanksgiving. In addition to them, my parents and siblings, my cousins, and my maternal grandparents, I clearly recall my great-grandfather, Charles Hancock, was also present. Everyone called him Big Grandpa. Which really confused me as a child. He was a skinny little old man – barely taller than I was – whose baggy pants were held up with suspenders. He had thick glasses and was, by then, at least 90 years old. Ancient in the eyes of a child.

But the one thing Big Grandpa loved to do was play cribbage. After Thanksgiving ‘dinner’ –which was ALWAYS served at 1 p.m. – he and my oldest cousin, Patricia, adjourned to the living room. Big Grandpa brought out his cribbage board and cards and they sat across from each other at a folding card table and played, oblivious to the cacophony of us younger kids engaged in other activities nearby.

Their game was lively with one or the other laying down a card with enthusiasm as the lead shifted back and forth. Occasionally the volume of conversation would rise and there would be exclamations of surprise; and it was clear they were both fully engaged and enjoying themselves.

Several years later, as a teenager, I learned how to play cribbage. Over the years, I have found many willing individuals to join in a round or three. One of my more memorable opponents was a co-worker, Paul, who is legendary for his big laugh and even bigger personality. Most every day we’d break out the cards and board and play while eating our lunches. Others would come into the break room and watch the game for awhile, sometimes kibitzing and offering suggestions. But we paid little attention to others, it was far more important to win and the competition was fierce.

One day, after Paul counted a coveted 29 hand he jumped up and did a victory dance then bragged that he was certain he won more often than I did. I disagreed and the contest was on. From then on, every time we played I would mark down who ‘won.’ By the time we both left that company, I had bested him at a rate of winning three games for every two he won. No doubt when he reads this he will remember it differently. But I have a steel trap mind for stuff like that and it’s true.

Live opponents have been much more difficult to find in recent years. For some time now I’ve had a digital game on my phone and will play it, usually, once or twice a day. I get mad at it because I’m sure it cheats and deals itself better cards. But I’ve also learned that it, unlike a human opponent, is very predictable in its methods, always playing its lowest card first and always making a ‘15’ rather than a pair or strategizing how to make a run if there is an option.

The upside is that I’ve gotten much better at the game and currently have a 70 percent win rate, better than my 60 percent win record with Paul.

My Great Grandfather’s folding leather cribbage board, circa 1940

Of course I still prefer playing with an actual person using real cards and one of my several boards. But the most treasured board of all is the one which we found when cleaning out my parents’ home in 2019. It’s a small folding board, made of brown leather, likely intended to be carried in a pocket like a wallet. An internet search turned up little information on it but I was able to discern that this style of board was manufactured in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I know it belonged to my great grandfather as his initials C.E.H. – Charles Edwin Hancock – are written in ink on the interior fold. It’s still in great condition.

Maybe my family can start a tradition – like the O’Kane board – and the cribbage board is kept by the oldest person in the family, passed down to subsequent generations. We can start that just as soon as I’m done being the keeper of Big Grandpa’s cribbage board. Or maybe we should hold a tournament and whoever wins the most games gets to keep the board. I like that idea and think I have a pretty good chance. Time to go practice with the computer.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cribbage

https://www.dvidshub.net/news/351195/okane-cribbage-board-passed-down

‘Like An Exocet Missle’

Perhaps a not so great invention

November 24, 2020

“I’ve always liked squirrels – but once you’ve had one land on your head travelling about 30mph you can easily go off them.”

This little tidbit probably deserves to be classified in the ‘you can’t make this stuff up’ file. It was on November 24, 2001, when British inventor, Mike Madden, decided to give his latest invention a whirl.

“Just what, exactly, are you accusing me of doing?” – photo by author of one of her backyard marauders.

The results of his research, however, left him with whiplash and a big headache.

Mr. Madden had recently invented a hat which allowed the wearer to feed birds. The top of the hat would be filled with bird seed which would provide his feathered friends a perch where they could sit and eat their fill, especially during the winter months.

But Mr. Madden never counted on an ever opportunistic squirrel to foil his plans.

While the Infallible Wikipedia is silent on this particular topic, a United Kingdom site, the Metro News, offers this:

“…he also attracted the attention of a squirrel which leapt on him from a tree and made off with the bird feed.

Mr. Madden was left rolling on the ground with whiplash injuries and has since been forced to wear a neck brace.

The 48-year-old said: ‘It came at me like an Exocet missile. I didn’t have time to blink. There was a crash, a bang and a wallop. It felt like I’d been hit by a sledgehammer.’”

There’s so much amusement in this article but I think my favorite part is where he says it came at him like an Exocet missle. Even funnier is the name of where Mr. Madden lives: Crackpot Cottage.

Like all of you I questioned the veracity of this article. But research has proved it to be true. The BBC also carried the story in, granted, a slightly more sedate telling:

“The 48-year-old welder has been taking pain-killers and wearing a neck brace since the accident near his home in Crackpot Cottage, Honley, in Huddersfield.

He said: ‘I was out walking through the woods with my friend Craig Bailey.We had only just started the walk when ‘kaboom’ – I was on the floor.

‘I didn’t see much of what happened but Craig told me he saw the squirrel flying through the air and land right on my head.’”

(The above video is just over 20 minutes long and worth every moment!)

Over the years, filling bird feeders only to have them hijacked by squirrels has been a frustration. I’ve tried greasing the pole only to watch in amusement as the gray interlopers slide down them like some dancer in a backroom dive. Soon, however, a more acrobatic squirrel discovers that it can leap to the feeder, bypassing the obstacles.

I’ve tried putting out a second feeding area for the squirrels but that never satisfied them. Soon they co-opted all feeding stations and their ranks seemed to increase exponentially.

The worst year, however, was back in 1994 when we moved into a house off East Lake Sammamish parkway near Redmond. The previous owner loved, loved, loved the squirrels. So much so that she fed them by hand from the kitchen windows.

We had only been there a few weeks when I happened to open one of the windows to let in fresh air only to discover that the squirrels also wanted to come in the house.

Maybe that was okay for the previous house frau, but I had a four year old son and a one year old daughter. Call me over protective but potentially rabid and flea infested squirrels hanging out with my children wasn’t in the plan.

As the weeks wore on and I wasn’t feeding the squirrels, they became more and more aggressive. Additionally, I couldn’t keep track of how many there were as they were always swarming and running about. I couldn’t take the children outside to play; we were prisoners in our house.

Thankfully, my dad came to the rescue and brought us an animal trap which he was used in the family fruit orchards.

Once the trap was seeded with nuts, it took less than an hour to capture the first squirrel. The bigger question then was ‘what do I do with it?’

Looks suspicious. Photo from ridmysquirrel.com

Soon I had loaded the squirrel, still in the cage, into the back of our trusty Astro Van, and the kids and I headed off to a local park to set the creature free.

Between the hubby and I, this happened SEVEN more times over the next week and a half.

Finally we were down to the last squirrel. And this guy was not going quietly into that good night.

He hissed at me, he ran at me, he tried to claw his way through the windows. And he wouldn’t fall for that old peanut in a cage trick.

Then, finally, he could no longer resist the temptation. I heard the clang of the metal shutting the final inmate in. For this trip I had to wrap the cage in a blanket as the squirrel continued his aggressive behaviors biting at me through the wire. I, however, prevailed and he was released with his compadres. I avoided that park for a time.

After a while I put up new bird feeders and soon there were squirrels figuring out how to get to them. But it was as if, with the relocation of the previous residents, the new ones no longer retained a memory of hand feeding or coming in to the house. Finally, we could go outside without fear of a squirrel attack.

When we moved to our new abode two years ago, I finally kicked the bird feeding habit. Well, at least in regards to seed. My pets are hummingbirds whose feeders do not attract furry interlopers.

But I did see on the internet a really cool looking hat that you wear to feed them. Seems legit. Maybe I’ll add it to my Christmas list.

Hummingbird hat from https://goodlivingguide.com/hummingbird-feeder-hat/

Squirrel brains a nutty professor | Metro News

BBC News | ENGLAND | Squirrel gets nut

B3Mya.4Wpjb.1.jpg (1920×1080) (rmbl.ws)

A big thanks to my brother who included this in his weekly radio show prep!

Prime Meridian

Time Is a Construct

October 13, 2020

When one thinks of impressive British cities, London immediately comes to mind. It is, after all, steeped in rich tradition, full of historical buildings, awash in history.

A few miles west of central London, however, is a place also with rich traditions, historical buildings, and brimming with history. It is a place whose name has become common due primarily to the decision by the International Meridian Conference on October 13, 1884.

It was on that date that Greenwich was declared as ground zero, so to speak, for determining – literally – the longitudinal address of every place on earth.

The story began hundreds of years earlier when Greenwich, located a little over 7 miles west of Parliament Square in London, developed into an important maritime port. At the time, it was a separate entity from the capital although it has long since been annexed into the city of London. Its location on a broad section of the Thames river, and proximity to the seat of power, made it a logical location as it is a short 50 miles to the North Sea. It was from this location the British Empire launched its navy and, arguably, several hundred years as the world’s greatest power.

One of the challenges that the seafarers encountered was to develop an accurate navigation system. Using the position of the sun during the day, and astronomical star charts at night, sailors were able to determine their location based on where they started or the “Prime Meridian.”

Of course, it was not only the British who needed this technology. Dozens of “Prime Meridians” were established throughout history. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Sphere sculpture and ‘prime meridian’ line where you can locate 0 degrees longitude. Photo from Wikimedia

“The notion of longitude was developed by the Greek Eratosthenes (c. 276 BC – c. 195 BC) in Alexandria, and Hipparchus (c. 190 BC – c. 120 BC) in Rhodes, and applied to a large number of cities by the geographer Strabo (64/63 BC – c. 24 AD). But it was Ptolemy (c. AD 90 – c. AD 168) who first used a consistent meridian for a world map in his Geographia.

Ptolemy used as his basis the ‘Fortunate Isles’, a group of islands in the Atlantic, which are usually associated with the Canary Islands (13° to 18°W), although his maps correspond more closely to the Cape Verde islands (22° to 25° W). The main point is to be comfortably west of the western tip of Africa (17.5° W) as negative numbers were not yet in use. His prime meridian corresponds to 18° 40′ west of Winchester (about 20°W) today. At that time the chief method of determining longitude was by using the reported times of lunar eclipses in different countries.”

By the 1800’s, the whole Prime Meridian thing was a mess with dozens of civilized countries establishing their own locations. In Germany it was Berlin, France had Paris, Denmark had Copenhagen and, of course, Britain had Greenwich.

It was the British, however, who led the way. The Infallible Wikipedia continues:

“Between 1765 and 1811, Nevil Maskelyne published 49 issues of the Nautical Almanac based on the meridian of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. ‘Maskelyne’s tables not only made the lunar method practicable, they also made the Greenwich meridian the universal reference point. Even the French translations of the Nautical Almanac retained Maskelyne’s calculations from Greenwich—in spite of the fact that every other table in the Connaissance des Temps considered the Paris meridian as the prime.’

In 1884, at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., 22 countries voted to adopt the Greenwich meridian as the prime meridian of the world. The French argued for a neutral line, mentioning the Azores and the Bering Strait, but eventually abstained and continued to use the Paris meridian until 1911.”

Once the French came around, so did the entire world with the term ‘prime meridian’ and Greenwich synonymous.

Personally, I have always found the concept of an arbitrary line stretching from top to bottom of earth kind of weird. And then there is the whole plus/minus hours to figure out how many hours ahead or behind one might be from Greenwich.

Here in Washington State we are eight hours behind until we are not. I find myself constantly having to count on my fingers whenever I read something that establishes a particular event happening at, for example, 11.45 UTC. Which stands for Coordinated Universal Time. Shouldn’t the acronym be CUT? But I digress.

In 2018, the autumnal equinox arrived at 1:54 a.m. on September 23rd in Greenwich. But it was still September 22nd here when it arrived at 6:54 p.m.

Although I’ve never crossed the International Date Line (located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and drawn in such a way as to not cross any populated islands), my one trip to England involved getting on a plane in Seattle around 9 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, flying up and over Canada and Greenland, then landing in London the next morning.

My parents’ – who had traveled to Europe before that trip – had a method worked out. They’d arranged for our hotel to be ready earlier in the day. When we arrived it was agreed that we’d all go to sleep for about 3 hours, then get up in the afternoon, and proceed with the local time.

That afternoon, we did a bit of walking about London, went to dinner, and then retired at the same time as most of England’s citizens would. The adjustment was easy.

Of course on the return trip we arrived back home earlier than we left. Talk about mind bending. It took me a solid three days to readjust.

Nowadays I try to avoid taking any flight which involves leaving at night and arriving at my destination the next morning. My theory is that we are only allotted so many ‘all-nighters’ in our lives and I’ve used most of mine. I pulled more than one all-nighter during college and too many to count from when my children were babies.

My children are both now grown so they are no longer inclined to keep me awake all night. It’s my oldest, however, who has coined the phrase “Time Is a Construct.” After all, in the grand scheme of life, does it really matter if it’s 1:53 p.m. or 12:53 p.m.? Perhaps we will find out in a few weeks when ‘time’ falls back.

The one thing I do think I will need to make an exception to are the overnight flight rules. I am sorry I missed visiting Greenwich when I was there before. I’ve decided that, for at least once in my life, I really want to be in the right time and place. Literally.

For those other geeky musers like the author, a couple links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_meridian_(Greenwich)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwich_Mean_Time