By no means am I eager to scoot September out the door and usher in October, which is quite often the beginning of winter in this northern hellscape town I call home. But I’ve got a theme planned for next week’s articles, and I don’t want anyone to miss the wacky fun and wild party opportunities for October. This is a month full of festivities, so you’d best polish up your favorite drinking chalice and concoct at least two or three good excuses for missing work.
Sure, we have Thanksgiving to look forward to, or Columbus Day down south – everyone loves a day off. And yes, the little kids will be begging door-to-door for candy while their moms (and maybe dads!) try to rock the slutty nurse costume they bought at the closed-down Office Depot-turned-Halloween store. But those are too obvious.
Like any month, October is filled with important observances that too many of us let slip by without noticing, probably because the evil forces at the big calendar companies refuse to slap them between the moon phases on their precious annual offerings. Well we don’t subscribe to such biases here. Religious holidays? Entrenched secular celebrations? Forget that crap. Let’s talk about Global Handwashing Day.
Don’t worry, you still have more than two weeks to buy your loved ones their Global Handwashing Day gifts. Back in 2008 at the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, the… well, the water-people, whoever would attend World Water Week (mermen perhaps) suggested a day of global handwashing awareness. The UN signed off and declared October 15 as the day everyone is supposed to pay attention to their bathroom habits and publicly shame those filthy souls who walk straight from the stall out the door. Read more…
If you’re ever looking to torment your brain with impossible logistics and a seemingly unattainable global cooperation, I recommend you do a little reading on time zones. It has taken centuries to scrunch this mess into a workable system, and even now it’s a jumbled splatter.
The theory behind it is simple. Noon in Chattanooga should look the same as noon in Tel Aviv. To accomplish this, someone had to divvy up the globe into imaginary regions. The starting point was chosen to be Greenwich Mean Time, or the time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, because hell, if the British were going to be the first to take the initiative and figure this crap out, then they get dibs on the starting point of standardized time.
Whoever plants the big spinny thing in the ground first gets to rule the world’s clocks.
The first method was simple. It was also stupid. For every degree of longitude away from GMT a place was located, they tweaked time by four minutes. This would mean that New York and Boston – about two degrees apart – would differ in time by eight minutes. People didn’t travel a lot back then (nobody ever complained about horse-lag), but when trains suddenly showed up on the scene, figuring out when one train might collide with another on the same track became something worth watching. Read more…
The great thing about eponyms is that some of them are a complete surprise. An eponym can work its way into our collective vocabulary so smoothly, we forget that the thing in question was named after somebody. And while it’s not a long drive from common knowledge to the fact that Calvinism was named after 16th century theologian John Calvin, or that the Franklin Stove was named after Ben Franklin, some of these other nuggets of eponymity may surprise you.
According to Greek mythology, Europa was a hottie from Phoenicia. She caught the eye of Zeus, who – not being one for smooth talk and flattery – turned into a bull and abducted her to Crete, where she became queen. Zeus appreciated her willingness to buy in and stick around, so as a gift he recreated the bull image among the stars. This is the Taurus constellation we have today.
Maybe it was because Europa was a such a good sport, or simply that the Greeks were the first ones to start naming things on a grand scale. But her name stuck around and eventually came to designate the an entire continent. Read more…