Are you unable to sleep at night because your conscience is bothering you? Your conscience is the feeling you get or the voice in your mind that tells you you’re doing wrong. If your conscience is bothering you, you’re feeling guilty (with a feeling of having done something wrong) about something.
Instead of taking sleeping pills, what you might need is the Conscience Fund. The Conscience Fund is an account (place to collect money) the United States Treasury Department (the government department in charge of the country’s money) created to accept gifts of money from people. The U.S. Treasury created this fund or account for people who have stolen money or have committed fraud (crime of cheating others out of money) against the U.S. government and have a guilty conscience. To make ourselves feel better, those who have committed fraud can donate or give money to the Conscience Fund without giving any details or identifying who they are.
The Conscience Fund first began in 1811 when the government received $5 from someone who said he had defrauded (cheated) the government. Since 1811, the fund has collected over $7 million, receiving about $200,000 a year. The money is put into the government’s general fund and used for general expenses (spending).
Most people send in money anonymously (without giving a name or revealing their identity). Some money is sent without any note at all, as in the case of a $155,000 gift from someone in 1990. But others have included a note to explain their transgression (wrong action; action against the rules or the law).
Most money received is in small amounts. For example, one person sent in money and included the note: “Please accept this money for two postal stamps I re-used.” Stamps are those small pieces of paper you purchase to be placed on letters and packages to be mailed. They’re intended to be used only once, but this person used two stamps twice.
Another person sent in this note with their money: “About eight years ago I took from a railroad station an item worth about $25 and this has been on my conscience since, so I’m enclosing $50 to clear my conscience.” To clear (one’s) conscience means to do something to correct something wrong one has done or to recognize one’s mistake so that one no longer feels guilty.
My favorite is this note from a person with a guilty conscience: “‘Dear Internal Revenue Service*, I have not been able to sleep at night because I cheated on last year’s income tax. Enclosed find a cashier’s check (a piece of paper that can be exchanged for cash, a way of sending money in the mail) for $1,000. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the balance (the remaining money; the rest of the money).'” It’s not clear whether this guilty person ever sent in the rest of his or her ill-gotten gains (money earned by cheating or through crime) or if this confession (statement of having broken the rules or committed a crime) was enough to allow for a good night of sleep.
The Conscience Fund is an indication that, as a nation, we value honesty (being truthful). But the relatively (fairly) small amount it collects each year suggests that we are either a nation of very honest people or very dishonest people.
* Internal Revenue Service = the U.S. government department that collects taxes
Here’s a question for you: In the U.S., what is as large as the United Kingdom (the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and was visited by more than 300 million people last year?
The answer: our 59 national parks.
A few days ago, we celebrated the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS), which is responsible for taking care of our national parks and other national sites (important places). One 20th-century historian (someone who studies history) called our national parks “the best idea we’ve ever had.” Many would agree.
Our national parks are as diverse (very different from each other) as the people who live in the U.S. You’ll find rocky cliffs (side of a mountain that drops straight down) and waterfalls in Yosemite. Seven small islands surrounded (to be all around) by clear blue water in Dry Tortugas. Wooded (full of trees) hills in Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah. The lowest, hottest, and driest place in the U.S. in Death Valley. Rain forests in Olympic, one of the wettest places in the U.S. Some of the world’s largest trees in Sequoia and King’s Canyon. Wetlands, crocodiles, and Florida panthers in Everglades. Glaciers (slow-moving sheets of ice) with deep crevasses (cuts in the ice) in Kenai Fjords. The deep, colorful walls of the Grand Canyon. A palace (home for an important person) built by early American Indians in the side of a cliff in Mesa Verde. A quiet path along a slow-moving river in Cuyahoga. Fiery volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes. Trees that are different than any trees you’ve ever seen in Joshua Tree. Trees that have been dead for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years in Petrified Forest. And that’s just a sample (part of the whole group).
There’s no better way to explore the parks than to visit them. But if you haven’t, or can’t, the Internet is a good place to get a taste of them. I invite you to take some time, look around, and discover them for yourself. Here’s how you can do it.
For an overview (quick look) of the national parks, watch See all U.S. National Parks in One Minute (Note: there’s a short advertisement at the beginning.). You may want to watch it more than once! And to whet your appetite (make you hungry) for more, look at Mark Burns’ beautiful new black and white photographs.
Next, look at the short National Geographic Best of… videos from the five most popular parks – the links are below. You’ll enjoy the scenery, see some unusual animals, and pick up (learn) some new “park” vocabulary (Note: there’s a short advertisement at the beginning of each one.).
For a closer look, the NPS website is the best place to go. Here are the NPS home pages for the 10 most popular national parks. When you get to the home page, click on Plan Your Visit > Places to Go to explore the park.
A few months ago, the company that provides me with home Internet and phone service sold that portion (part) of their company to another business. Since then, there have been many news reports about service problems. I’m one of the customers who has been affected (felt the change or influence).
Below are excerpts (short sections) from an actual phone call I made to my Internet provider (company that provides Internet service) to report my problem. The same company provides my landline (regular phone; not cell phone). The person who took my call was named “Kimberly.”
Kimberly: What is the problem you’re having?
Me: My Internet has been slow for the past couple of months. This morning, service was cutting in and out (sometimes working, sometimes not). And even when I have service, it’s running (operating) very, very slowly.
Me: So I’m calling to get my Internet service fixed.
[It takes about six minutes to access my account using my PIN (Personal Identification Number used for security purposes) and for me to give her a phone number she can call me at in case we’re disconnected (call ends unexpectedly). I repeat my phone number three times before she gets it right.]
Kimberly: Okay, what happens when you have no service?
Me: Nothing happens. When I have no service, I have no service.
Kimberly: I mean, are you not getting a dial tone (the stuttering (short, repeated) sound you hear when you pick up a telephone when its not in use)?
Me: I have FiOS (a type of Internet service using “fiber-optic” wires). I don’t have dial-up (using a telephone line) Internet service. And I’m not calling about my home phone service. I have a problem with my Internet service. That’s what I’m calling about.
Kimberly: [Long pause.] Do you have pets?
Me: Huh? What?
Kimberly: Do you have pets?
Me: No, I don’t have pets.
Kimberly: Can you tell me what kind of router (device needed to send digital data, required for Internet service) you have? I am going to troubleshoot (solve common problems using established steps).
[The call has already lasted 20 minutes and from what I’ve read about other customers’ experiences, I was confident that troubleshooting over the phone would not help. Others have reported being on the phone for three, four, or more hours going through troubleshooting.]
Me: I’d like to get a service call (repair work done at the location).
Kimberly: I’m supposed to troubleshoot, but if you request it, I can schedule it.
Me: Yes, please order a service call.
Kimberly: Okay, they can be there Monday at 8 a.m. [Six days later.]
Me: All right. If they don’t show up (arrive as scheduled), is there a number I can call?
Kimberly: You can call the number you just called. I have to tell you that if they don’t arrive by 8 a.m., the window (the timeinterval (beginning and end time) for arrival, usually for work to be done) is expanded (made longer) to 5 p.m.
Me: Excuse me? I don’t understand.
Kimberly: If they’re not there at 8 a.m., then they will be there anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Juneau – the remote (far from other places) capital of Alaska – was writing a song about work. And she needed more ideas.
Call turned to (went for help to) Twitter and asked her followers, “What were your first seven jobs?” She used the hashtag (label to identify a topic) #FirstSevenJobs and included her own:
#FirstSevenJobs: babysitting, janitorial (cleaning offices, etc.), slinging (informal: serving) coffee, yard work (taking care of area around a building or buildings), writing radio news, voice-overs (speaking on videos or TV without being seen), data entry (putting information into a computer)/secretarial.
Call got the help she was looking for, and more. #FirstSevenJobs quickly became a meme – an idea that spreads quickly from person to person, especially on the Internet. Many thousands of people answered her question. Magazines and websites wrote articles about #FirstSevenJobs. And researchers used #FirstSevenJobs information to compare the jobs teenagers work today with teenagers’ jobs from almost 50 years ago. All of this . . . in about 10 days!
Call says her favorite answer came from Buzz Aldrin, an American astronaut. He was one of the first two people to land on the moon and the second to walk on it. Here are his first seven jobs:
#FirstSevenJobs: dishwasher, camp counselor (responsible for children at a summer camp), fighter (military airplane) pilot, astronaut, commandant (officer in charge of a U.S. Air Force school for pilots), speaker, author.
Sheryl Sandberg, a top Facebook executive and someone we would consider very successful, didn’t get off to a good start (begin with success): she was fired from her first job as a babysitter. The parents were upset because she opened the door for a stranger and accepted and paid for a pizza that no one had ordered. She got a second baby-sitting job, but was fired from that one, too, because she fell asleep on the job.
Call has been fascinated by the responses because they describe “each person’s really tiny journey . . . You get to see thousands of strangers reflecting (thinking) about that journey – jobs they were good at, hated, learned what it was like to have a bad boss, what it was like to be a good boss, what it was like to be your own boss . . . you get a picture of a human (person) behind each one [each answer to her question].”
Here are my first seven jobs:
#FirstSevenJobs: yard work, construction work (building houses and other buildings), furniture factory, mail room clerk (responsible for the mail at a small manufacturing company), delivery truck driver, night watchman (nighttime guard at a school), radio announcer.
Speak to anyone who has worked for the United States Postal (Mail) Service and they’ll tell you that a lot of strange things have been sent in the mail. Perhaps the strangest were children.
In 1913, the U.S. post office (mail service) announced that it would begin a service called “parcel post” to send items that were too big to fit into an envelope. A “parcel” is a package wrapped in paper or other outer covering ready to be transported or mailed. According to post office policy at the time, the only living things that could be sent were bees and bugs (insects). However, it’s human nature (natural for people) to push the envelope (extend the limits of what is possible or allowed), so people started sending all types of things. In 1914, the first child was sent using parcel post.
This child and all of the others sent during this period were not packed (placed and sealed) in boxes. Instead, most of them had mailing labels (pieces of paper with the address of the person mailing and receiving the item written on it) and stamps sewed (attached using thread) or pinned (attached using a long, thin piece of metal) to the children’s clothing. At that time, the weight limit for mailed packages was 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms), so as long as the children weighed less than that, their parents thought it was worth a try (might be possible).
Why did parents mail their children?
Postage (the amount paid to mail) was much cheaper than buying a train ticket. Some of the mailed children either lived in rural (in the countryside)areas or were sent to relatives (family members) who lived in rural areas. The only people who visited these isolated (far from other people and cities) places on a daily basis (every day) was the mail carrier (person delivering the mail), so the child could quickly and reliably be “delivered.” In those days, mail carriers were also considered trusted and upstanding (honest and respected) members of the community and could be relied upon to look after (care for) the children being sent. (I’m not maligning (insulting; speak badly of) mail carriers today. It’s just that most people don’t have those same expectation today.)
Many traveled only short distances. The longest trip was taken by a six-year-old girl sent by her mother in Florida to her father’s home in Virginia, about a 800-mile (1290-kilometer) journey (trip). Little Edna was just under 50 pounds and cost 15 cents in postage, about $3.85 in today’s dollars.
Mailing children was not a common practice (didn’t happen a lot), but there were some well-publicized (made so many people knew about it) cases. In 1920, the post office finally officially made it against policy (the rules) to send people in the mail.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever received or have heard of being sent through the mail?
From Wikipedia, Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution
The U.S. has more than 130,000 square miles (about 340,000 square kilometers) of national parks, at least one in every state. They are cared for (operated; maintained) by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), which will soon celebrate its 100th birthday.
Yosemite, one of the most popular, is in the Sierra Nevada, or Snowy Range (group or line of mountains), in California. Ansel Adam‘s photos and John Muir’s books and articles have introduced many to Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada and played an important part in the beginning of the NPS.
Muir, an immigrant from Scotland, once wrote that “The mountains are calling, and I must go….” He lived alone for 15 years, observing, experiencing, and writing about the Sierra Nevada. Today’s blog post is from The Yosemite National Park, an article he wrote for The Atlantic magazine in 1899. I have made some changes to his article to make it easier to read.
Of all the mountain ranges I have climbed, I like the Sierra Nevada the best. Though extremely high and rugged (rough), it is welcoming and easy to explore. Its beauty invites a visitor on and on, higher and higher, delighted and fascinated. Filled with divine (God-like) light, everything you see glows (shines with light), and every plant, animal, or rock beats (like a drum) with the heartbeats of God.
The Sierra seem to get more light than other mountains. The weather is mostly sunshine, made even more beautiful by occasional magnificent (beautifully impressive) storms. Nearly everything shines, from base (bottom) to summit (top)—the rocks, streams (small rivers), lakes, glaciers (slow-moving sheets of ice), waterfalls, and forests. It could easily be called the Range of Light, not the Snowy Range, because it is white only in the winter, while all the year it is bright with light.
Yosemite National Park – 36 miles (58 km) long and 48 miles (77 km) wide – lies in the center of the Sierra Nevada. The famous Yosemite Valley (land between mountains) lies in the heart of it. The Valley includes the beginnings of the Tuolumne and Merced rivers, two of the most musical streams in the world; uncountable lakes and waterfalls and smooth silky meadows (grassy areas); the noblest (majestic; dignified) forests; the highest granite domes (rounded tops of mountains); the deepest canyons (narrow rocky valleys); snowy mountains rising into the sky twelve and thirteen-thousand feet (3700-4000 m), with avalanches (snow falling down a mountain) roaring down their long white sides; water rushing noisily through narrow canyons; and glaciers working slowly and silently in the shadows to create new lakes.
Nowhere will you see the impressively beautiful work of nature more clearly side by side with the most gentle and peaceful things. Nearly all the park is filled with deep silence. Yet it is full of pleasant company, full of God’s thoughts, a place of peace and safety in the middle of the most impressive beauty and activity, a new song, a place of beginnings, full of lessons about life, mountain-building, never-ending, unchanging, unbreakable; with sermons (messages from God) in stones, storms, trees, flowers, and almost human-like animals.
But to try to put all this into words is a hopeless task. The simplest sketch (drawing, or a description of a thing) of each part would need a whole chapter in a book. No amount of space, however small the writing, would be large enough. I can only begin to strongly encourage good travelers to come to the feast (meal of celebration).
*Put another nickel in In the nickelodeon All I want is having you And music, music, music
That song, Music, Music, Music by Teresa Brewer, became a #1 hit in 1950 and sold more than one million records. I thought of it recently when I walked past a nearby Rocky Cola restaurant, a throwback (something similar to something that existed in the past) to the restaurants of the 1950s, and saw the jukebox inside.
When I was in high school, if you and your friends wanted to listen to popular music you often went to your favorite cafe (small restaurant that served light meals and drinks) and listened to it on a jukebox, a coin-operated machines for playing music. Teenagers spent many hours sitting in cafes, drinking Cokes or milkshakes (a drink made out of milk and ice cream), and listening to their favorite music. Just like in the television program Happy Days.
Jukeboxes were large, brightly decorated music-players (photo 1). Each one held a number of plastic records (circular discs for storing music) and a device for selecting and playing them.
Most records held one song. To play a song, you put a nickel (five-cent coin) into the jukebox, found the song number on a list of song titles, pressed the buttons on the jukebox for the song – a letter and a number, like D3 – and the jukebox found the record with your song and played it.
In some cafes, a special extension of (addition to) the jukebox (photo 2) made it possible for you to choose the music you wanted from your table or at the counter (long flat area for serving food) you sat at to eat.
Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb, also invented the first technology for recording music and other sounds. But it was Louis Glass, a San Francisco bar owner described as a “wild-haired inventor,” who created the first jukebox in 1889. It used Edison’s technology for playing a recording and required a nickel to play one song. Rather than the high-quality speakers of later jukeboxes, Glass’s customers had to use listening tubes, similar to a doctor’s stethoscope (instrument for listening to a patient’s heart or breathing), attached to the jukebox. Only four people could listen at the same time.
The popularity of jukeboxes grew during the early part of the 20th century and was greatest from the 1940s through the mid-1960s. Thousands of them were made by companies like Wurlitzer and Seeburg. In the 1940s, 75% of the records produced in the U.S. went into jukeboxes.
Only two companies – one in the U.S. and the other in the U.K. – make jukeboxes today, mostly for throwback restaurants like Rocky Cola. If you’d like to learn more about jukeboxes, check out How the Jukebox Got Its Groove.
* A nickel is a five-cent coin; a nickelodeon is a coin-operated piano or jukebox, the topic of the blog post.
That’s not entirely (completely) true. I love the the warm temperatures and the sunshine. But there is one element (part; factor) of summer I dread (don’t look forward to): mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are those little insects that fly around, bite people, and suck (pull into the mouth) their blood. If there is a mosquito within 50 miles of me, it will find me. It will then feast (eat a lot) on me and bring a few friends for the buffet (meal where you can eat as much as you like).
Scientists say that many things attract (are appealing to) mosquitoes. Mosquitoes may be attracted to certain blood types, as one study found. (Your blood type is either O, A, B, or AB. It can be neutral or + (positive) or – (negative).) In the study, people with type O blood were bitten nearly twice as often as people with type A blood. I’m AB+, so I’m not sure where I stand (what my position or status is).
Wearing dark clothing can attract mosquitoes who use sight (the sense that allows you to see) as well as smell to locate victims (people who are harmed).
Mosquitoes can also detect chemicals and gases (substances in the air; not a liquid or a solid) that come off of people’s bodies, such as carbon dioxide (the gas that people breathe out) and lactic acid (a chemical that is released from muscles when we exercise). Even drinking beer can attract mosquitoes to your skin.
Mosquitoes have plagued (bothered) me all my life. To add insult to injury (to make things even worse), I have Skeeter Syndrome, which is an allergic reaction to mosquito bites. (“Skeeter” is a nickname for mosquitoes in some parts of the United States.) Instead of the small itchy (with a strong feeling of wanting to scratch) bump (small, round, raised area) that most people get, I get large welts (red, swollen areas) that itch for a long, long time.
Even better, I discovered a couple of years ago that fleas like me, too, and I’m allergic to their bites as well. Fleas are those very small insects that like dogs.
Finally, I’ve come to terms with it (have accepted a difficult truth): I am delicious. I hope no vampires are reading this blog post.
What words come to your mind when someone says, “Los Angeles”?
Were “farms” or “farming” on your list? Farms are where farming – growing crops (plants grown for food) or livestock (cows or other animals) – is done.
If not, don’t feel bad. Probably not many people think about farms or farming when they think about Los Angeles today. One hundred years ago it was different. From the early 1900s until the 1950s, farms and farming were an important part of life in Los Angeles County – the city of Los Angeles and the area around it. And Los Angeles County produced more food products than any other county in the U.S.
A new book – FromCows to Concrete (mixture of water, sand, and cement used to build things): The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles – written by Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber tells the not-well-known story of farming in Los Angeles. I think it’s worth sharing (telling about).
The story begins many years ago, when California still belonged to Spain. Spanish settlers (people who moved here to live) discovered that the area around Los Angeles was a good place for growing things and established (started, created) Los Angeles as a food center for southern and central California. Even before that, the people who lived here harvested (gathered) crops that grew here naturally.
In the 1800s Los Angeles was California’s “first wine country,” long before Napa and Sonoma Valleys north of San Francisco became well-known for their vineyards (where grapes are grown) and wineries (where wine is made from grapes).
Citrus fruit – like lemons and oranges – quickly became one of the main crops in the Los Angeles area, and by the early 20th century, much of Southern California was full of citrus and other fruit trees. Farmers also grew vegetables – like cauliflower, celery, and tomatoes – berries, and even flowers. Immigrants from Holland raised milk cows and built dairies (places where milk is collected and milk products made). And keeping bees for honey was popular.
The growth of farming in the early 1900s was stimulated (helped) when people were encouraged to create neighborhoods where “small farm homes” were built on 1-3 acres (.4-1.2 hectares) of land so the homeowners could grow crops to eat and sell. During the Great Depression, the government helped people who moved to California to start some of these small neighborhood farms.
The number of these small farms grew from about 1,300 in the 1920s to 5,000 in the 1930s. In the early 1950s, there were 10,000 of these small farms in Los Angeles County. In 1940 the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (organization that encourages business) claimed that nearly half of the food Los Angeles ate came from farms within 50 miles (~80 km) of the city.
After World War II, many people moved to Los Angeles for jobs in aircraft and other new industries. Soon schools, shopping centers, streets, and freeways replaced most of the neighborhood farms. Most of them are gone today, but you can still find a few if you look in the right places.
Today is Flag Day in the United States. On this day, in 1777, the Second Continental Congress of the United States adopted (decided to officially use) the design of the American flag:
Resolved (It is decided), That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes (long lines), alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field (background), representing a new constellation (group of stars in the sky).
In 1916, 100 years ago this year, President Woodrow Wilson declared (officially announced) that today, June 14th, would be Flag Day, a day Americans should honor (give respect to) their flag. While it is not an official government holiday, there are many cities and towns that remember this day with parades and small celebrations.
I’ll celebrate Flag Day this year by introducing you to a popular song about the American flag, one most Americans still know (even if they don’t remember that today is Flag Day), George M. Cohan‘s “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
Cohan wrote the song as part of his 1906 musical, George Washington, Jr. The words of the chorus (the main part of the song that repeats) are the most famous part of the song. They are:
You’re a grand (wonderful) old flag,
You’re a high-flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave (move in the wind).
You’re the emblem (symbol) of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave (courageous). Ev’ry (poetic version of “every”) heart beats true
Under the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag (being too proud of something).
But should auld acquaintance be forgot*,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
* = This is a line from the popular song sung traditionally on New Year’s Eve, “Auld Lang Syne.” In the original song, it was meant as a question, “Should we really forget our old friends?” (The answer, of course, is no.)
Here’s a recording of the entire song by the great American actor, James Cagney, from a movie about the life of Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, released in 1942. (The chorus begins at around 1:12 on the video.)
If you live outside of the U.S., does your country have a similar day to honor your flag?