In case you hadn’t heard, Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend––2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 9, to be exact. I can never remember which of the two time-change weekends is the beginning of DST and which is the end; I had to look it up just now in the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
And I always have to rely on the old mnemonic to remind me which way I have to adjust all the clocks in the house (you never realize how many clocks you’ve got until the time change, right?), the car clocks, my watches … Spring forward, Fall back.
Maxine from “Crabby Road,” by John Wagner
Because frankly the whole thing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. We’re not really saving daylight, are we? We don’t get any more or less of it just because we change our clocks.
And in fact that’s not the idea. What DST is supposed to do, basically, is encourage us to make more productive use of daylight by shifting more of it into the afternoon and evening. (Apparently this idea, like so many things, originated with Benjamin Franklin, but he didn’t conceive of anything like a nationwide resetting of clocks: time zones and widely standardized time settings didn’t even exist in his day.) Proponents also think it saves energy—although if we’re turning the lights on an hour later in the evening, those of us who have to get up early still have them on that much longer in the morning.
The National Geographic Daily News has a good article (“Daylight Saving Time 2014: When Does It Begin? And Why?“) on the history of Daylight Saving Time (it’s properly “Saving,” not “Savings,” by the way, though that’s another thing I can never remember), the rationale behind it, and the ongoing controversies about whether the twice-annual time shift really delivers the benefits it’s supposed to. That’s far from a settled question; many people think we should either abandon DST or make it year-round. Yet another idea was proposed by the Old Farmer’s Almanac in 2007, based on the concept of “civil twilight.” (No, that doesn’t mean we should be polite to each other at dusk, though we should.)
The federal government doesn’t require observance of DST, by the way, and in fact Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories of the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas don’t observe it. Closer to home, neither does Arizona—except for the Navajo Nation, which has territory in New Mexico and Utah as well as Arizona. In Indiana, the situation was even more confusing until 2006, when the legislature mandated that the whole state would observe DST. Prior to that, most of Indiana did not take part in the time change—except for the several counties that did. Adding to the fun is the fact that Indiana straddles two time zones, with most of the state in the Eastern zone but twelve counties in Central. Even that division was not consistently observed in the past, with some counties switching from one zone to another for much of the twentieth century.
As you can see, there is a lot of history behind our practice of changing the clocks twice a year. And it goes back, well past the last century, in unexpected ways. We wouldn’t have a national time change without time zones, and we wouldn’t have time zones without the growth of railroads. We wouldn’t have consistent time zones without meridians of longitude, and both the present system of longitude and the chronometer (the basis of accurate clocks) were developed to help sailors navigate more safely on voyages across the oceans.
Young readers (and the young at heart) can explore the purpose and history of time zones in the book of the same title, Time Zones, by David A. Adler. Longitude, by Dava Sobel, tells about the quest to solve what, in the eighteenth century, was one of the greatest scientific problems of the day. And there are several books and DVDs to read and view if you’d like to know more about the railroads and how they shaped the growing nation and the modern world, in standardizing time and many other ways.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to set your clocks ahead an hour. Even if, on Sunday or Monday morning, you’re tempted to “fall back” into bed.
This weekend I attended the Chicagoland Showcase held at John Hersey High School. For those who don’t know what Chicagoland Showcase is, it is a competition for high school show choirs where they compete in categories such as Grand Champions, Choreography, Vocals, band, and more.
After paying a ten dollar entry fee, I was able to enter the building. There are two separate divisions in the competition. One division is the solo performance competition, and the other is the entire show choir. Performances for entire show choirs began at 8 o’clock Saturday morning, with the final awards at eleven that night.
I arrived in time to watch Wheeling’s show choir, Legacy, perform. Legacy has 44 singer-dancers and the name of their show is “The Dawn Has Risen”. The group opened with the girls in red leather jackets, sparkly white tops, and black yoga pants. The boys wore blue jeans, a grey vest and a white t-shirt. They began with the song “A Change is Gonna Come”, followed by the ballad “Lost in Paradise”. There was an all-guys song featured two spotlighted trumpets, and then the girls returned to sing “Yes We Can” by the Pointer Sisters. The group came back together as a whole to end with the song “Mambo” from West Side Story.
I also watched Buffalo Grove High School show choir the Expressions perform their show “Metamorphosis”. The Expressions is directed by Deborah Utley, with 40 singer/dancers, 14 band members and three crew members. The Expressions opened with “True Colors”, followed by their next song “Metamorphosis”. The group then performed “Wings of Change” and “Fly Away”. The music then slowed to the beat of “Defying Gravity”, the group’s ballad, sung by Brian McCallister. After the ballad, a group of four singers performed “Butterfly” leading into the popular song “Wings” by Little Mix. The group ended on a high note with the song “Higher” by Taio Cruz.
BG featured five soloists in the solo competition: sophomore Dylan DeWitt who performed “One Song Glory” from Rent, junior Cole Festenstein who sang “Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar, junior Milan Babic who sang “Til I Hear You Sing” from Love Never Dies, junior Jesse Brooks who performed “Out of the Blue”, and the winner of the Best Male Soloist award, senior Brian McCallister who performed “She Was There” from The Scarlet Pimpernel.
During the award show that night, the Expressions won awards for Best Vocals, Best Choreography, Best Band and Best Male Solo in a show. The show choir also took home Grand Champion of Chicagoland.
The Expressions will compete this Saturday, March 8th, at the Wheaton Warrenville South High School Choral Classic Competition, and the following Saturday, March 15 at the Mundelein High School Invitational.
I recently watched the newest remake of The Great Gatsby (2013) and if I sum it up by calling it “The Great Ghastly”, I think you can guess what I thought of it. Personally, I wish movie makers would stop trying to film F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels – it never works.
At any rate, it got me remembering some wonderful films based on novels.
On top of my wonderful list is my favorite film of all time Pride and Prejudice (1940). Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson were beautifully cast in this charming movie. (Although Olivier really wanted his then lover Vivien Leigh to play the female lead, however, the studios ruled and she went off to make a different film.) The costumes may be off by decades, but the witty script by Jane Murfin and Aldous Huxley (yes – the Aldous Huxley) hits all the right marks. Rounding out the cast are such great performers as Edna May Oliver, Edmund Gwenn (Oscar winner for Miracle on 34th Street), Mary Boland, Ann Rutherford, and Melville Cooper.
I also am very fond of the more recent remake of Pride & Prejudice (2005) starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, and recommend it as well.
Another author who translates well to film is Charles Dickens. I highly recommend the 9 hour (yes, I said nine hour) filmed stage version of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1982). Roger Rees is incredible in the title role, and David Threlfall’s Smike will break your heart.
I also highly recommend the 2002 feature film version starring Charlie Hunnam (pre-Sons of Anarchy), Anne Hathaway, and Christopher Plummer, called simply Nicholas Nichleby.
Oliver Twist has been filmed many times, and most notable is the 1948 version starring Alec Guinness, Robert Newton and John Howard Davies. But don’t miss the Academy Award winning musical version Oliver! (1968). Ron Moody’s Fagin is a delight.
David Copperfield has been filmed many times as well. MGM’s 1935 version is my favorite. Starring Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, and W.C. Fields – what’s not to love.
For “Jane”, I recommend the versions with Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine (1944), George C. Scott and Susannah York (1971),
and the TV-miniseries starring Timothy Dalton & Zelah Clarke (1983). However… skip the 1996 version starring William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg. The principals have zero chemistry and just look bored throughout.
If you will watch Wuthering Heights, stick to the 1939 version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. It may have been filmed on a soundstage, but has the look and feel of the bleak moors. Best of all, it mercifully stops about halfway through the novel and doesn’t continue through the next generation.
I cannot leave out Victor Hugo. Les Miserables has been filmed dozens of times and I recommend the 1935 version starring Fredric March and Charles Laughton.
However, if you enjoy musicals, last year the brilliant theatrical version of Les Miserables was finally brought to the screen. Hugh Jackman was competent as Jean Valjean as was Russell Crowe as Javert, and Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for her performance as Fantine. The music is the star, however. (Next time there is a stage version in town, go see it! The live theater version puts the movie to shame.)
A more contemporary classic is To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Academy Award winner Gregory Peck turns in one of the greatest performances of his career. This film is still powerful and it’s message still poignant. Not to be missed!
For the fantasy lover, don’t miss the Lord of the Rings trilogy based on the works of R.J.J. Tolkien consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and the Oscar-winning Best Picture of the Year for 2003, The Return of the King. I wish I liked the new “The Hobbit” trilogy, the first of which is already available (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), but I have to say I found it wanting; as in, I was wanting the short novel to be turned into one movie instead of stretched out into three. But that’s my opinion, and not everyone’s, so judge for yourself. Movie #2 came out this holiday season, and I’m sure I’ll see it, but I do not have Great Expectations.
Yesterday was National Grammar Day! But really, I am not a grammarian. I know it is hard for people that know me to believe that. I do not consider myself to be a pedant. I will not correct an incorrect usage of “its or it’s” or a misuse of “you’re” left on a comment on a website. In my mind I will think less of you for making that error, of course. And I still find it annoying. There is one glaring exception to my Zen-like approach to English syntax. That is the phrase “begs the question.”
It is completely jarring to me and raises my hackles whenever I read that phrase in print or less commonly hear it in speech. Why? Because the phrase is almost always incorrectly used! So much so that I can no longer follow your conversation if you just used it! It does NOT mean “prompts the question”! What does it mean? It is a specific term used to describe a logical fallacy in debating. What is particularly galling to me is that professional writers who are paid to write incorrectly use the term! I can excuse a 13-year old on social media butchering the English language but paid journalists? It raises the question, “did they learn proper writing in school?”
So any tips on how to use the phrase correctly? Well, there are lots of rules on using English correctly: such as using “me” as an object and “I” as a subject. Fortunately there is a simple hint on using “begs the question” correctly. NEVER use it! There is no need for you to ever write or say the phrase “begs the question” ever. Okay, maybe if you are the coach of a debate team you may possibly use it correctly.
For more information you can check out begsthequestion.info, a website whose laudable mission is to stamp out the misuse of this phrase.
The New York Times style guide also clearly gives journalists some tips.
The Winter edition of the KidZone Press: Whatcha Need To Know is hot off the presses! Congratulations to our published writers: Jake N., Lorraine J, and Vageesh R. They submitted stories on the topic “Once Upon a Time…” as well as some great Kids’ Speak pieces! You can get your copy of the Winter edition in the KidZone or by clicking here.
Love to write? Have a favorite animal? Kids grades 2-8 can visit the KidZone Desk in February to pick up a submission form for the Spring edition and write their own story about “My Favorite Animal.” Or, get creative and a submit a Kids’ Speak on a topic of your choice! Kids’ Speak pieces can be short stories, information about a topic you’re interested in, a poem, an interview or even a joke! Need help getting started on your article? Visit the KidZone Desk and we can help you find a great book to get you going in the right direction. Happy writing!
Although the ground is covered in snow and ice and about as soft as steel plating, now is the time to think about what to grow in the months ahead. Even the smallest backyard can produce flowers, vegetables and herbs. If you are limited to a patio or balcony or if you only have room for a few pots indoors don’t be put off, you can still be a gardener.
We have some great books that can help you get the most out of your small growing spaces. When you look out of the window in June and see those flowers blooming or taste your first tomato in July you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Start planning now!
Container Garden Idea Book edited by Lee Anne White
Continuous Container Gardens by Sara Begg Townsend and Roanne Robbins
The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell
Small Plot Big Harvest by Lucy Halsall
Small-Space Container Gardens by Fern Richardson
All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
One of my most enjoyable conversations as of late was with my godson, Michael. I had a school assignment for my masters program in which I needed to interview a child regarding his/her reading preferences, and Michael was my willing guinea pig. Usually when I see him, we talk about school and his transition into junior high, his avid interest in basketball, and our families. With this assignment, though, we had the opportunity to engage on a uniquely academic and emotional level. It was enlightening for me to discover that Michael and my younger self shared a lot of commonalities in our reading choices and behaviors. We both like (or liked, in my case) to read as soon as we get home from school before starting homework. Doing so helps both of us disconnect from our days and relax. We also like many of the same genres, such as science fiction and fantasy, and read some of the same books, such as The Hobbit and The Giver. What was most astonishing to me, though, was hearing him so articulately express why he likes to read so much. He said that it allows him to leave his daily life and lose himself in another world. This reasoning was exactly the same one that turned me on to reading at a young age, and it’s something that I continue to strongly believe in. Discussing these ideas made me feel close to Michael on a different level than I ever had before. I, therefore, encourage you to talk with your children, family, and friends about their reading tastes and habits. You may be surprised to discover how many reading commonalities you share with others.
Every so often, I’m going to do a profile on a local high school teacher who I feel is very interesting. This week I conducted an interview with Biology teacher Paige Fullhart, from Buffalo Grove High School. Ms. Fullhart has been a teacher at Buffalo Grove for the past 11 years, and is a former competitive weightlifter. In her free time she enjoys hiking with her dogs Cali (an eight year old boxer/pitbull mix) and Boo (a two year old lab/coonhound mix), as well as spending time with her nephew TJ and niece Emmi.
What made you become a teacher?
I used to be a microbiologist after I graduated from college. And I hated it. So I went back to school and got my teaching certificate.
What is the craziest thing a student has done in a lab?
We do this lab during the genetics unit using PTC paper [a paper that has a foul taste only to those who carry the dominant gene for it. People with the recessive gene taste nothing]. I pass out all my labs on normal 8×11 paper. One student I had though the 8X11 paper was the PTC so he started licking it all over.
I heard you have an interesting story about a snake?
I used to have a pet snake that we kept in the biology room in a tank. Apparently he didn’t like the tank because every so often he would escape, climb up the side of the wall in the classroom, and try to get into the ceiling.
Why did you start weightlifting?
I used to run long distance but every time I did, I would get really sick. My doctor said, “Paige you need to find a new sport,” so I decided to try weight lifting. It feels better than anything because it builds strength and confidence which is a great combo. It also increases your heart rate and metabolism so as I get older, it’s a good thing for me to do. I competed in weightlifting for six years.
What is your favorite moment of your teaching career?
I had a student named Jerret when I taught junior high in Highland. When he was around 5 he went deaf due to meningitis and his parents got divorced. At 13 and 6’’ tall, he was lonely and shy because he talked differently because he couldn’t hear. One day this mother duck wandered into the courtyard and laid eggs. When the eggs hatched, the mother duck tried to lead them out of the courtyard, over a sewer grate and all the baby ducks fell down the sewer. One of the cooking teachers, whose room was right next to the courtyard, came to me and said “Paige, I can’t even teach class because all I can hear is the mother duck crying for her babies. You have to save them.” During lunch, I went to go save the ducks and Jerret asked me if he could help because no one would sit with him at lunch. I said okay. We got down there and I tried to stick my arm down the sewer, but the ducklings got scared and hid so I couldn’t reach them. Then Jarret had the idea to use the speaker and microphone he carried so he could hear. We trapped the mother duck with a net and put the microphone near the mother and the speaker near the babies. That way, when the mother called for her babies, they would come running to the speaker and I could pull them out. It worked! After that Jerret became a different person, he tried out for the volleyball team and was more confident. Jerret still sends me Christmas cards. This whole experienced made me realize it isn’t just teaching biology, it’s being a role model.
If you read the Chicago Tribune, you may have noticed Scott Stantis’s cartoon a few weeks ago:
See larger image at Scott Stantis Cartoons
… and I’ll bet we all know how that poor guy still feels!
Punxsutawney Phil is the legendary groundhog, resident of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who emerges from his burrow on the morning of February 2 to predict how much more winter we can expect. Phil has his own website, tended to (as is Phil himself) by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, and even his own Facebook page. By the way, those top hats in Stantis’s cartoon? Part of the Club’s ceremonial costume, going back to its founding in the 1880s.
We do have a local groundhog, called Woodstock Willie; his hometown has had its own celebration since 1993, when the movie Groundhog Day was released (set in Punxsutawney, it was actually filmed in Woodstock in 1992). So far Willie has gained only a measure of local fame and has not quite attained Phil’s gravitas; he is, in effect, the Second Groundhog. But no matter: this year at any rate Willie and Phil are in agreement. Both saw their shadows, and both woodchucks chucked at us the prediction we knew in our hearts was coming: six more weeks of winter.
Punxsutawney Phil is presented to the multitude, February 2, 2014
You may have asked yourself some time, why this particular day? And why a groundhog?
As with many of our holidays, the traditions surrounding February 2 are many-layered, coming down to us through a succession of cultures. The Old Farmer’s Almanac notes that February 2 is called Candlemas in the Western church calendar (from the candles lit in churches to commemorate the presentation of the child Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem) but also has the older name Imbolc (“lamb’s milk”) because lambing season started about then. This old name reminds us how closely many holidays are tied to the changes of seasons and the events of the agricultural year. In terms of the calendar, Imbolc/Candlemas/Groundhog Day is a cross-quarter day, falling (more or less) halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
To quote the Almanac, “It was not held as a good omen if the day itself was bright and sunny, for that betokened snow and frost to continue to the hiring of the laborers 6 weeks later … If it was cloudy and dark, warmth and rain would thaw out the fields and have them ready for planting. Our Groundhog Day is a remote survivor of that belief.”
Northern Europe had many traditions of weather being predicted by the actions of burrowing and hibernating animals, which became centered around February 2. In England this animal was often a hedgehog, which was common in rural areas there; in Germany it was often a badger. When European colonists came to North America they brought these traditions with them, but didn’t find the same animals. Hedgehogs aren’t native to this continent at all, and the American badger lives further west than the early settlements. But they found plenty of groundhogs, and that’s the animal they recruited for the job over here.
Hedgehog in snow, photographed by “H,” Little Sealed Packages
(Scientifically speaking, of course, neither hedgehogs nor groundhogs are “hogs” at all. The groundhog is a rodent, as our desperate cartoon guy disparagingly notes, and the hedgehog belongs to a subfamily distantly related to the shrews.)
Want to learn more about Groundhog Day? We’ve got non-fiction books and DVDs in the Youth Services department. (And fiction too; for example, why does it always have to be Punxsutawney Phil? Why not Phyllis?) Or you can read all about weather, weather forecasting, and weather myths, both upstairs and down. If you’d rather just learn about groundhogs—or the woodchuck, which is the Library of Congress subject heading—we can help you there, too.
But, you know—getting back to Phil and Willie and their fellow weather beasts—when you do the math, it kind of puts burrow-based prognostication in perspective. Try it, if you have a calendar handy. Put a shivering, frostbitten digit on February 2 and count six weeks from there, and you land on … March 16. March 15 in a leap year. Only six more weeks of winter? We should be so lucky!
Fourteen years ago, my son was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome at the age of seven. Tourette’s syndrome is a hereditary neurological movement disorder that is characterized by repetitive motor and vocal tics. It is neither a progressive nor degenerative disorder; rather, symptoms tend to be variable and follow a chronic waxing and waning course throughout an otherwise normal life span. The exact cause of Tourette’s syndrome is unknown. There are different levels of severity of the disorder.
So why am I telling you this? I recently saw the movie Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. It was like watching my life to a lesser degree.
Pat (Cooper), who has bipolar disorder, returns home after living in a mental facility for eight months and tries to get his life and failed marriage back in order. His wife had cheated on him, which triggered his bipolar episode. He meets Tiffany (Lawrence), who is dealing with depression and anger issues after her husband died in an accident. Pat and Tiffany form a bond and begin to try and make sense of their lives. The movie shows Pat’s loving and supportive family and friends and the struggles he faces to function successfully in society. Although my son doesn’t have bipolar disorder, Tourette’s is a part of the arena of neurological disorders that includes bipolar, Parkinsons, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, depression, and the list goes on. He struggles from many of these issues and is struggling to find his “silver lining” every day.
As the parent of a child who struggles with this, the movie gave me comfort knowing that I don’t have to feel alone when dealing with these issues. Just like the families in the movie we too can find our “silver lining” in accepting and adapting to a challenging disorder. As Pat said, in Silver Linings Playbook, “This is what I believe to be true. You have to do everything you can and if you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.”