Daylight Savings

Florida has been in the news for adopting year-round daylights savings time.  The “Sunshine Protection Act” is what the proposed law is known as.  Even if it becomes state law, Congress would still need to act to grant Florida an exemption from federal timekeeping law.

Daylight Savings Time was first suggested by Ben Franklin in 1784. It was widely adopted during World War I. It was repealed in many but not all countries after the war. It was reinstated during World War II and then partially repealed. It did not become widespread again until the 1960s and 1970s.

During two weeks of May in 1965 St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN were on different times. St. Paul switched when most of the country switched times and Minneapolis switched at the time designated by state law. Similar problems existed in other parts of the country due to irregular application of daylight savings existed such as: One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone. For exactly five weeks each year, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were not on the same time as Washington D.C., Cleveland, or Baltimore–but Chicago was. And, on one Ohio to West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles!

The benefits are greatest at the middle latitudes and less so at the equator and the extreme latitudes. The benefits are also greater at the eastern side of a time zone compared to the western side of the same time zone.

Generally sports, tourism, and retail have supported daylight savings while agriculture and evening entertainment have opposed it.

Daylight savings saves energy although studies on this subject have had mixed findings about the extent of the actual savings. It also saves on oil consumption.

Daylight savings reduces the number of muggings that occur.

The Romans did not have daylight savings but the water clocks that the Romans used had different lengths of hours depending on the seasons, so summer hours were longer than winter hours.

Easter Hares and Easter Bunnies

I pretty sure I have posted about this before.  Many people use the terms rabbit and hare interchangeably.  (Certainly they seem to be used that way in the Bugs Bunny cartoons).  However there are differences between the two.  There are some differences between hares and rabbits. One difference is that hares escape from predators by outrunning them. Rabbits escape from predators by hiding from them.  Hares tend to be larger than rabbits.

In parts of Europe the Easter Hare is celebrated rather than the Easter (bunny) Rabbit.

Boxing Day

December 26 is St. Stephen’s Day, honoring the first Christian martyr, Stephen. It also known as Boxing Day. Boxing Day is a holiday in the United Kingdom and all former colonies except the U.S.
Leading up to Boxing Day, tips from employers would be collected in pottery boxes with coin slots. On Boxing Day these boxes would be broken and the tip money collected. These boxes were the forerunner to the modern piggy bank.
Boxing Day is a traditional day for the aristocratic sport of fox hunting as well as the common sport of wren hunting.
Wrens are considered to be the king of birds and not to be hunted on any day but Boxing Day. Now wren hunting is very rare and the wrens are captured and released rather than exterminated on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day has long been a traditional day for outdoor sporting events. This tradition dates back to at least the Middle Ages when jousting tournaments were held on Boxing Day (and during the 12 Days of Christmas generally).

George Washington and Christmas

On Christmas Day when you think to yourself “ah yes today is the anniversary of the beginning of the American sneak attack on the Hessians that led to the Battle of Trenton in 1776 and changed the course of the Revolutionary War”
(if there was one of those chance of winning graphs like they have for sporting events, before Trenton the odds of the British winning were pretty good, after Trenton those odds had been at least brought even again if not moved in favor of the Americans).
Here are some interesting details:
-The British and Hessian forces were settled down for the winter in New Jersey. Those forces were dispersed over a relatively wide area to conserve resources
-Around 2,000 Hessians were in Trenton, New Jersey (only a fraction of the total number of Hessians)
-The Hessians had worn out their welcome in New Jersey and Hessian (and British) patrols were at risk from snipers and so there were fewer patrols
-The British force that was providing the nearest back-up to Trenton was out-of-position
-The British knew that Washington knew that back-up force was out-of-position (18 miles away instead of 6)
-Despite efforts at secrecy the British and Hessians knew that Washington was considering such an attack
-They didn’t think the Americans would attack
-The crossing was supposed to be a surprise
-The crossing began late in the afternoon of the 25th with the army forming up around 4 in the afternoon
-Much to Washington’s anxiety the crossing ran late and the army was already hours behind their timetable before they had even crossed the river
-The Delaware River was about 800 feet wide at the crossing with ice floes floating in the river
-The crossing was done in the dark
-Most soldiers being transported across the river stood (sitting on the bottom of a leaky boat with ice-cold water oozing in would be very cold
-The crossing was a feat of engineering as 16 cannons were also hauled across.
-The cannons gave the Americans extra firepower. The Americans had 4x the number of cannons that a force that size would be expected to be using on the battlefield
-The cannons were extra important as the crossing and battle took place in the middle of a fierce Nor’easter with drenching amounts of rain, snow and ice falling from the sky
-Cannons could still be reliably fired in that sort of weather but flintlock muskets could not
-Glover’s Mariners from Massachusetts, and locals from New Jersey and Pennsylvania provided the naval power to cross the river
-After crossing the river it was still a 5 mile march over rough roads and hills (hauling cannons, in a storm) to Trenton
-Future president James Monroe was second-in-command of a group of about 100 troops that went ahead of the main force to detain civilians and prevent word of the approaching army from reaching Trenton
-Beginning a tradition that continued through D-day, American officers wore white on their hats and soldiers were instructed to follow their officers
-About halfway to Trenton the American army split to take two different roads with Greene leading the more hilly approach to town and Sullivan getting the downhill route
-Before splitting they synchronized watches so that they could attack Trenton simultaneously from two different directions
-A password was worked out so that if the two forces met in town they wouldn’t attack each other by mistake
-The two armies raced towards Trenton hoping to reach there before dawn….

Thanksgiving Parade

(From Tom Turkey’s Thanksgiving Trivia Challenge):

For many people part of the their Thanksgiving includes attending or watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  When was the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

A.  1904

B.  1924

C.  1944

Daylight Savings

An interesting fact about Daylight Savings, the U.S. goes off Daylight Savings on November 5 whereas the U.K. goes off Daylight Savings on October 29.

For lots more information about Daylights Savings see this detailed history that someone else has already written up

The bones of Saint Nicholas

There is an interesting story in the Denver Post. I was worried the this story was about some Zombie Santa “Christmas movie” that was coming out. It is is not. It is about the grudge match that Turkey and Italy have over who has the bones of St. Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was buried in Turkey and in the 11th century some enterprising fellows stole him and took him to Bari, Italy and setup a pilgrimage site there. Turkey says they got the wrong bones…(I’m sure Turkey has made this claim before)

Obviously the author of this story has never read L. Frank Baum’s “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”.  That story gives Santa a backstory separate from Saint Nicholas.

Constitutional Convention ended on this day in 1787

Sunday the 17th is the 230rd anniversary of the end of the Constitutional Convention. This convention met in the summer of 1787 with the purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation, the document that had governed the United States since 1781 when all states had ratified it. The convention moved quickly from amending to creating a new governing document – the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation protected states’ rights. The Articles can be viewed as creating a league of friendship between the states. (In fact Article III describes it as a “league of firm friendship”). Cooperation was required. The central government was very weak, lacking the power of taxation. States had to voluntarily contribute money and no state ever gave the full amount asked of it. The Articles did not provide for executive or judicial branches. The Articles required 9 out of 13 states approval to pass legislation or for Congress to otherwise act.

Generally the Constitution (plus the Bill of Rights) has worked well to address the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution gave the federal government greater control over key economic issues such as currency and regulating trade. It is easier to pass legislation (although far from automatic). The Bill of Rights has strengthened the protections of customary individual freedoms from stronger government.

Mexican Independence Day

It has been a long summer break.  Back to work.

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day:

Mexico celebrates Independence Day on September 16. On September 16, 1810, a priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo gave a speech to the villagers in the village of Dolores calling for independence. Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821. Independence did not free Mexico from the class struggles that had occurred under Spanish rule and during the next one hundred years Mexico was marked by repeated religious, political and social upheavals.

-From the international section of my book “Thomas Jefferson’s Independence Day Trivia Challenge”

Declaration of Independence

On June 7th, 1776, Richard Henry Lee made a motion in the Second Continental Congress to declare independence.

Congress felt that if the motion was approved, a proper document justifying independence was needed.

So a committee was created…

The Committee for the Declaration of Independence was also known as the Committee of Five.  Its members included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, John Adams, and Robert Livingstone.

Thomas Jefferson did most of the writing, the other members of the Committee did some editing to his work.

After the Declaration was prepared, Congress actually voted on the motion

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s June 7th motion to declare independence.  Richard Henry Lee was a cousin of the American soldier Henry Lee (a cavalry commander).  Future U.S. president John Adams wrote to his wife predicting that the second of July would be celebrated as Independence Day.

The vote for independence on July 2 is considered to have been unanimous with 12 states voting for independence and one state (New York) abstaining.  Several days later New York voted for independence.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of the document known as the Declaration of Independence.  The Fourth of July is celebrated as Independence Day.

The Liberty Bell was rung for the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776.  This bell-ringing celebrated the first public reading of the Declaration.

A quote from Leviticus 25:10b is inscribed on the Liberty Bell.  “…and proclaim liberty throughout the land and to its inhabitants”.  The passage is about the Hebrew practice of a jubilee.  Jubilees occur once every 50 years.

Most members of the Continental Congress signed on August 2, 1776.  They signed a formal version that had been drawn up on parchment.  Broadsides (posters) of the Declaration were printed and distributed right away after the Declaration was approved on July 4th.  24 of these broadsides are known to still exist.

Since signing such a document greatly increased the chances that the signer would face capital punishment if arrested by the British, president of the Congress, John Hancock, signed his name in a defiantly large font size.

No signers were killed as a direct result of signing but the British did attempt to capture signers as well as target the homes, businesses, and property of signers.  About one third of the signers were reduced to poverty as the result of such depredations during the Revolutionary War.

The Declaration of Independence occurred after the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill.  Somewhat ironically the battle of Bunker Hill was the deadliest battle for the British during the war and the war hadn’t even properly started yet.  (Bunker Hill was fought in June of 1775).

The Battle of Long Island (August-September 1776) was the first major battle to be fought after the Declaration of Independence.

Father’s Day

Since 1972 Father’s Day has been highlighted by the president at the request of Congress. From 1972 through 1998 the request was made by a joint resolution. In 1998 the request was stuck into the United States Code.
36 USC 109 says
The third Sunday in June is Father’s Day.
(b)Proclamation.—The President is requested to issue a proclamation—
(1) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on Father’s Day;
(2) inviting State and local governments and the people of the United States to observe Father’s Day with appropriate ceremonies; and
(3) urging the people of the United States to offer public and private expressions of Father’s Day to the abiding love and gratitude they have for their fathers.”
Prior to the federal government stepping in, there was no Father’s Day. Just kidding.
At a YMCA in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd gave a speech requesting that the ministers in the city give a sermon honoring fathers. Within a few decades June Father’s Day celebrations were common nationwide. Despite attempts right away and in the intervening decades, there was resistance at the federal level to making it an official holiday and it did not become an official holiday until 1972. This delay is in stark contrast to Mother’s Day which received Congressional recognition in 1914.
Happy Father’s Day!

Magna Carta and the Due Process Clause

Three chapters of the Magna Carta are still valid law today. They include the chapter on religious freedom (1), the chapter protecting the rights of towns (9), and the most famous chapter of the Magna Carta, the one protecting due process rights (29). The chapter numbers refer to the 1225 text because that text was used when the Magna Carta was enrolled as a statute in 1297.

Magna Carta represented a significant step forward in legal protection from arbitrary laws.

Magna Carta Chapter 29
“No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or deprived of his freehold or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, nor shall we go upon him, nor shall we send upon him, except by a legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land”

The U.S Constitution Amendments 5, 14
“nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”
“nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”

The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights Article 9
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile”

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day. Congress approved of the first U.S. Flag on June 14, 1777. The blue stands for justice. The white stands for liberty. The red stands for apple pie. Strike that. The red stands for bravery. The 13 stripes represented the 13 states. In 1794 two more stripes and stars were added for Vermont and Kentucky. In 1818 it was decided that adding stripes for each new state was not going to work and so the flag returned to its original 13 stripe design with only a star for each new state. What does the circle of stars represent on the original flag?

Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention convened on May 25, 1787.  The Convention was supposed to convene earlier in the month but due to slow travel did not have enough members present for a quorum to begin.


A tax on paper (The Stamp Act) pushed the colonies closer to independence.


Which presidential power listed in the Constitution has never been used?

A. Commander-in-chief leading an army in the field

B. Legislative adjournment

C. Line item veto