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Armistice Day

Armistice Day celebrations in Toronto, Canada in 1918

Front page of The New York Times on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.

Armistice Day (which coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, public holidays) is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the ceasefire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire.

The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, to commemorate those members of the armed forces who were killed during war. An exception is Italy, where the end of the war is commemorated on 4 November, the day of the Armistice of Villa Giusti. In the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway World War I is not commemorated as the three countries all remained neutral.

The Initial or Very First Armistice Day was held at Buckingham Palace commencing with King George V hosting a “Banquet in Honour of The President of the French Republic[1] during the evening hours of November 10 1919.

The First Official Armistice Day was subsequently held on the Grounds of Buckingham Palace on the Morning of November 11th 1919. This would set the trend for a day of Remembrance for decades to come.

Most countries changed the name of the holiday just prior to or after World War II, to honor veterans of that and subsequent conflicts. Most member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, like United Kingdom and (as Canada in 1931), adopted the name Remembrance Day, while the United States chose All Veterans Day (later shortened to ‘Veterans Day’) to explicitly honor military veterans, including those participating in other conflicts. “Armistice Day” remains the name of the holiday in France, Belgium and New Zealand; and it has been a statutory holiday in Serbia since 2012.

In many parts of the world, people observe a one or more commonly a two minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. local time as a sign of respect in the first minute for the roughly 20 million people who died in the war, and in the second minute dedicated to the living left behind, generally understood to be wives, children and families left behind but deeply affected by the conflict. The two minute silence was proposed to Lord Milner by South African Sir Percy Fitzpatrick in 1919.[2] This had been the practice in Cape Town from May 1918, although it had quickly spread through the Empire after a Reuters correspondent cabled a description of this daily ritual.[3]

From the outset, many veterans in many countries have also used silence to pay homage to departed comrades. The toast of “Fallen” or “Absent Comrades” has always been honoured in silence at New Zealand veteran functions, while the news of a member’s death has similarly been observed in silence at meetings.

Similar ceremonies developed in other countries during the inter-war period. In South Africa, for example, the Memorable Order of Tin Hats had by the late 1920s developed a ceremony whereby the toast of “Fallen Comrades” was observed not only in silence but darkness, all except for the “Light of Remembrance”, with the ceremony ending with the Order’s anthem “Old Soldiers Never Die”. In Australia, meanwhile, the South Australian State Branch of the Returned Sailors & Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia similarly developed during the interwar period a simple ceremony of silence for departed comrades at 9 p.m., presumably to coincide with the traditional 11 a.m. time for Armistice ceremonies taking place in Europe (due to the ten-hour time difference between Eastern Australia and Europe).

In Britain, beginning in 1939, the two-minute silence was moved to the Sunday nearest to 11 November in order not to interfere with wartime production should 11 November fall on a weekday. After the end of World War II, most Armistice Day events were moved to the nearest Sunday and began to commemorate both World Wars. The change was made in many Commonwealth countries, as well as Britain, and the new commemoration was named Remembrance Sunday or Remembrance Day. Both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday are now commemorated formally in Britain. In recent years Armistice Day has become increasingly recognised, and many people now attend the 11am ceremony at the Cenotaph in London – an event organised by The Western Front Association, a British charity dedicated to perpetuating the memory of those who served in the First World War.[4]

In the U.S., the function of Veterans Day is subtly different from that of other 11 November holidays. Unlike the situation in other countries, where that calendar date is set aside specifically for honoring those who died in action, Veterans Day honors all American veterans, whether living or dead, killed in action or deceased from other causes. The official national remembrance of war dead is instead Memorial Day, originally called ‘Decoration Day’, from the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers, which originated in the years immediately following the American Civil War.

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Starbucks digressions

To the staff:

If there are more employees than customers in the store and I’m waiting, that’s a problem.

Do you really need exact change? Spot me the goddamn penny so I don’t have 99 cents of change.

I understand I need to repeat my order twice.  3 times is your problem.

Is not brewing decaf after dinner that much of a cost saver?

To the first person on line:

If you’re paying with cash, don’t fumble for change. You’ve had more than ample time to pull out your wallet.

If there are people waiting-don’t refill your card.  Don’t have a conversation with the Barista.  Don’t tell them what you’re up to.  Don’t tell them about your new band, new book, new boyfriend/girlfriend, new job.  The people behind you don’t care.  They just want coffee.  Order coffee and move on.  If your order takes more than 30 seconds that’s a problem.


It’s okay to order the silly drink for your significant other.  If it’s for you and it includes the words  triple shot, whipped cream, pumpkin, frozen, cookie, or Frappucino-we’re all secretly laughing at you.

To the person at the milk/sweetener area

Again, this shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds. Don’t camp out there. Don’t be the person taking up the whole counter.  Adding 1/3 of  Splenda with 1/4 of Sweet and Low and 3 second pour of nonfat milk is ridiculous.  This is not a science experiment.

Final observations

Stay off of your phone during any of the above.

People really don’t like the taste of coffee and will add just about anything so it doesn’t taste like coffee.

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An interesting take on Halloween

The ever-more early arrival of holiday merchandise is an unpleasant fact of modern life, but this is not another story about holiday creep. This is another story about a creepy holiday.

The consensus is that the lucrative, high treat/low trick modern Halloween we know today got started in Anoka, Minnesota in 1920, when civic leaders decided, after too many broken windows and overturned outhouses, that a socially acceptable, child-friendly celebration might redirect youthful exuberance toward more fun and less vandalism. The new, tamer Halloween celebration succeeded in redefining the holiday. By 1937, Anoka had convinced the US Congress to name it the “Halloween Capital of the World,” and the idea had spread far across the country.

After a hiatus in the 1940s due to World War II’s sugar rationing and blackout restrictions, Halloween came into its own as a children’s holiday in the 1950s and 1960s. Trick-or-treating kids initially wore homemade costumes, and newly-built suburbs resounded with gentle echoes of the rowdiness of the 1920s in the form not of overturned outhouses, but rather the occasional soaped window or toilet papered tree. The very real menace once associated with the holiday was a memory; the commercialization was well underway.

Due to widespread (and generally illegitimate) fears of poisoned candy, and allegations of razor blades concealed in apples, the holiday changed direction again by the early 1970s. Parents became more involved, using safety concerns as an impetus for hosting decoration-intensive parties, both private and public (often hosted by local schools). Now that the holiday had been moved into the public arena, where keeping up with the Joneses was crucial, store-bought costumes became more common than homemade ones, and adults got into the habit of wearing costumes, too.

Halloween was rapidly becoming more and more organized, with less emphasis on trick-or-treating, and more on polish and presentation. Period reporting indicates that in the mid-1970s Halloween was worth about “$400 million in candy sales and $37 million in costume rental and sales income.”[1]

Clearly, the holiday that repeatedly came close to being banned forever has come a long, lucrative way. Originally a red-letter night for juvenile delinquents, and once merely a celebration for children, Halloween is now indisputably a big night for adults as well

As difficult as that bit of information may be to digest, what’s most remarkable is that the tremendous retail boon that comes each October 31st can be directly traced back to overturned outhouses more than 90 years ago.

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Bringing coals to Newcastle

Selling, carrying, bringing, or taking coal(s) to Newcastle is an idiom of British origin describing a foolhardy or pointless action.[1]

It refers to the fact that historically, the economy of Newcastle upon Tyne in north-eastern England was heavily dependent on the distribution and sale of coal—by the time of the first known recording of the phrase in 1538,[2][3] 15,000 tonnes of coal were being exported annually from the area[4]—and therefore any attempt to sell coal to Newcastle would be doomed to failure because of the economic principle of supply and demand.[1] The phrase “To carry Coals to Newcastle” is first documented in North America in 1679 in William Fitzhugh‘s letters (“But relating farther to you would be carrying Coals to new Castle”)[5] and first appears in a printed title in Labour in vain: or Coals to Newcastle: A sermon to the people of Queen-Hith, 1709.

Timothy Dexter, an American entrepreneur, succeeded in defying the idiom in the eighteenth century. Renowned for his eccentricity and widely regarded as a buffoon, he was persuaded to sail a shipment of coal to Newcastle by rival merchants plotting to ruin him. However, he instead got a large profit after his cargo arrived during a miners’ strike which had crippled local production.[6][7]


Although the coal industry of Newcastle has declined in its relative importance to the city since its historic heyday, the expression can still be used today with a degree of literal accuracy, since the harbour of Newcastle in Australia (named for Newcastle in the UK after abundant coal deposits were discovered there and exploited by early European settlers[10]) has succeeded its UK namesake by becoming the largest exporter of coal in the modern world.[11]

With the increasing onset of globalization, parallels in other industries are being found, and the idiom is now frequently used by the media when reporting business ventures whose success may initially appear just as unlikely. It has been referred to in coverage of the export to India of Saudi Arabian saffron and chicken tikka masala from the United Kingdom,[12][13] the sale of Scottish pizzas to Italy,[14] the flowing of champagne and cheese from Britain to the French,[15][16] and the production of manga versions of William Shakespeare from Cambridge for Japan.[17]

Even though its original geographic origin may have been displaced, this cliché continues to be used.[18]

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canary in a coal mine

An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that mining workers would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.


canary in a coal mine (plural canaries in a coal mine)

  1. (idiomatic) Something whose sensitivity to adverse conditions makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.
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The famous cuckoo clock speech from “The Third Man” (1940’s film)

Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.

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