Theodore Roosevelt: The Man in the Arena

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Theodore Roosevelt building the Panama Canal
Theodore Roosevelt building the Panama Canal

On April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt gave a moving speech at the Sorbonne in Paris. It was titled the “Citizenship in a Republic” speech but the real takeaway, what it is famous for, is what is now known as Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote.

The speech was well-attended. Edmund Morris, in his biography Colonel Roosevelt, tells us, the crowd included “ministers in court dress, army and navy officers in full uniform, nine hundred students, and an audience of two thousand ticket holders.” The quote has become for some a daily affirmation, that is, said habitually on a daily basis. The quote is:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt’s Accomplishments and Highlights

  • He devised the domestic Square Deal program which had three basic ideas known as the “three C’s”: conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection.
  • Working with Army Colonel Leonard Wood, Roosevelt formed the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry. Known as the Rough Riders, their greatest victory came at the Battle of San Juan Hill, which was the decisive battle of the war.
  • Following the assassination of President William McKinley in September 1901, at 42 years of age he became the 26th President of the United States. As of 2015 he remains the youngest person to assume the office of the President of U.S.
  • In 1902 by the United Mine Workers of America engaged in a strike that threatened the home heating supplies of tens of millions of Americans. President Roosevelt rolled up his sleeves and organized a fact-finding commission. He then threatened to use the U.S. Army to mine the coal and take over the mines. He convinced both the miners and the mine owners to accept the findings of the commission. The strike was suspended and never resumed. The miners got a 10% increase in wages and their working hours were set from 10 to 9 and as a concession to the owners, they didn’t have to recognize the trade union as a bargaining agent from that point on.
  • He imposed railroad regulation by pushing through the Elkins Act of 1903 and the Hepburn Act of 1906 to curb monopolistic power of the railroads.
  • He directed his Attorney General Philander Knox to bring a lawsuit on antitrust grounds against what was known as the “Beef Trust” that monopolized half or more of beef sales in the country. As the trial progressed it was shown that the “Big Six” leading meatpackers had formed a conspiracy to fix prices and divide the meat market among themselves resulting in higher profits.
  • He directed Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, in 1906. The first banned food and drugs and medicine that were not pure or labelled falsely from being manufactured, sold, and shipped. It also mandated that active ingredients be placed on the label of a drug’s packaging and that drugs couldn’t go below the purity levels established by the U.S. Pharmacopeia. This was a huge win for consumers and reduced the likelihood of getting taken in by a scam.
  • He championed the conservation movement. The intention was to protect natural resources inclusive of animal, fungus, and plant species as well as their habitat for the future. He was the first president to put conservation far up on the national agenda. Roosevelt set aside and designated more Federal land for national parks and nature preserves than all prior presidents combined. He went on to establish the US Forest Service. It was signed into law and allowed for the creation of 5 National Parks and established the first 51 Bird Reserves and 150 National Forests.
  • Under his direction the Panama Canal was constructed. At first Colombia controlled Panama and objected to U.S. involvement. Roosevelt sent war ships to block the sea lanes from Colombia and insured that Panama got its independence.

It is clear that Theodore Roosevelt was a visionary, a man of action who stood up for American citizens, and protected their rights. His sense of what we should all strive for is encapsulated in his The Man in the Arena quote. We would all do well to focus on it habitually.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World by Michael Pollan–a Book Review

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Roasted coffee beans and coffee cherries
Roasted coffee beans and coffee cherries

Coffee, java, a cup o’ joe, or sniff, sniff, the afternoon tea and scones. The world runs on the caffeine molecule in coffee and to a lesser extent, tea. Tea is the more ceremonial elixir and coffee the more blue collar but underlying of both is… caffeine. And this is the focus of Michael Pollan’s book. As a self-confessed coffee-fiend I found the historical and social angles of his story fascinating. And this is my book review of Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World.

Whether you make a daily pilgrimage to Starbucks, have a drip coffeepot, or indulge in the slow-motion popular cold-brewing coffee process, you are mainstream if you indulge in coffee or tea. You are an addict but socially and legally benign.

A Brief History of Coffee

Pollan traces the history of coffee and tea consumption from their roots to how they transformed economies, cultures, and the workplace. Coffee as we know it today can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau.

Coffee was a social beverage. It was not only enjoyed in homes, but also in the many public coffee houses, called qahveh khaneh, which began to appear in cities across the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was unequaled and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity. European travelers to the Near East brought back stories of an unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent.

In the year 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam presented a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. The King mandated that it be planted in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. Then in 1723, a young navy officer, Gabriel de Clieu, secretly obtained a seedling from the King’s cherished plant. In spite of a difficult voyage, complete with horrendous weather, a saboteur who tried to destroy the seedling, and a pirate attack, he was able to transport it safely to Martinique.

From there, it couldn’t be stopped. Once planted, the seedling did not only thrive, but it’s credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island of Martinique in the next 50 years. Even more incredible is that this seedling was the parent of all coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, South, and Central America. You’re welcome Juan Valdez, you imaginary Madison Avenue caricature.

Michael Pollan, an Experiment of One

To research and write this book, Pollan shunned coffee so he could write and document caffeine as, yes, a drug, albeit less harmful than say, meth. He also relates his experience of re-acquainting himself with it at the end of the experiment.

If you are like most of us, you take coffee, tea, soda, and the essential ingredient, caffeine, for granted. But a close reading (or in my case, listening to) of this book will educate and surprise you. From a war-time tie manufacturer who increased production via “coffee-breaks” to how London-coffee houses became the places to be for stock tips, you will be amazed how this caffeine molecule transformed the world. Without you noticing.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Strange and Weird Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Does Your Family Have any Strange Holiday Quirks?

by Kelly R. Smith

A Christmas Tree Shootout!
A Christmas Tree Shootout!
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This article was updated on 12/24/20.

Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world. And it’s not just Christians that take advantage of this final festive occasion before the big blow-out that is New Years Eve which signals the end of one year and the ushering in of another; many members of other religions do indulge in Christmas.

The thing is, some of the traditions seem downright strange to Americans. But that’s OK; each to his (or her) own. That’s what makes the world go ’round. Let’s have a look at some of them, in no particular order.

Japan

Kentucky Fried Chicken Buckets
Kentucky Fried Chicken Buckets

While we consider turkey, ham, or something similar to be traditional fare, not so in Japan. Many Japanese folks prefer to make their Christmas dinner Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s advisable to get it on a take-out basis; its popularity is such that reservations may have to be made to eat at a KFC restaurant on Christmas in Japan. I wonder how this got started?

Catalonia

Catalonia Poop Log
Catalonia Poop Log

The Catalonia Poop Log, or Caga Tió, strikes me as odd although festive in a naughty sort of way. It works like this: each and every night starting on December 8th, Caga Tió is “fed” and then covered with a blanket to protect him from catching a cold. On either Christmas Eve or Christmas day he is placed in the fireplace, beaten with a stick, and ordered to poop. He is encouraged, along with the beating, by singing songs. He proceeds to poop candies, nuts and and other treats. One last push yields an onion, a head of garlic, or a salt herring. I’ll pass on the candy, thank you very much.

Caganer, the pooping Christmas figurine from Catalonia
Caganer, the pooping Christmas figurine from Catalonia

Also from Catalonia, we proudly bring you caganer, or defecating figure, set out every year in the nativity scene along with the holy family and the three wise men. In the 18th century, 18th century, the caganer was traditionally represented as a peasant with his trousers down, bare bottom hanging out, complete with a pile of feces underneath. The exact meaning behind this figure is subject to debate, but it’s thought to symbolize fertility. Nowadays caganers can lampoon authority figures and celebrities. You have to ask, what is it with Catalonians and bowel movements?

Italy

 Befana from Spain
Befana from Spain

In some areas of Spain, forget Santa Claus or Sinterklaas; Befana takes center stage. She is reputed to visit homes during the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) and leaves candy and presents in stockings for the good boys and girls. However, the bad children get coal, dark candy, or sticks. Even though she has the appearance of an old hag, in reality she is a kind soul and sweeps homes using a broom before she leaves. This is meant to brush away the problems of the previous year.

Ireland

Guinness Stout from Ireland
Guinness Stout from Ireland

Here in the USA we treat Santa to a glass of milk to slake his thirst and a plate of cookies to fuel him in his travels. Not so on the Emerald Isle; there he gets an offering of Guinness Stout and a slice of mince pie. Aye. I approve of this ritual.

Austria

Krampus, Christmas demon from Austria
Krampus, Christmas demon from Austria

The poop log’s got nothing on this guy! Krampus is half-goat, half-demon, he’s the stuff of nightmares and meant to keep the kiddies in line. During the Christmas season he punishes those who have misbehaved, in contrast with old St. Nick, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. They sometimes work together, kind of a good-cop, bad-cop act. Classy, eh kiddies?

Compared to Other Countries…

Taken altogether, our whole Santa Claus, reindeer, and elves thing seems fairly tame! It never ceases to amaze how different societies handle these things. I hope you got a few chuckles learning about these strange and weird Christmas traditions. If so, share with your friends and social media.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


New Year’s Eve Trivia and Fun Facts

Auld Lang Syne, Times Square, and Champagne

by Kelly R. Smith

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Happy New Year's Eve!
Happy New Year’s Eve!

This article was updated on 12/16/20.

Ads we feature have been independently selected and reviewed. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission, which helps support the site.

New Year’s Eve only comes once a year (obviously) and is known far and wide as the preeminent night to party hearty and sneak that kiss when the ball drops on Times Square. But you might not know that it has a long history and the trivia to go with it. Don’t forget to make your New Year’s resolution something realistic this year like improving your credit score.



The Origin of the New Year’s Kiss

Most historians agree that the New Year’s Eve kiss made its debut in the Middle Ages and had is derived from either German and English folklore. Both cultures enjoyed the tradition. The basic idea is that the first person you encounter in a new year will set that year’s tone. So choose wisely; most people’s inhibitions are fairly low at this point (beer goggles). In any event a kiss is the best ritual to start the new year with. Of course, with that whole COVID-19 pandemic thing…

The Party Statistics are Staggering

Statistics suggest that about 22% of us will be passing out before the clock strikes 12 midnight.  That really narrows the field of kiss-kiss prospects (unless you’re really into some serious weirdness). This is where the designated drivers have an edge; that seems like a pretty good strategy. Now, who’s ready for a liver detox?



Those of Us Lucky Enough to Live In the South Eat Black Eyed Peas On New Year’s Day

Not only does this start us off with a hearty helping of fiber, the tradition also brings us good luck. This meal is derived from from a Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) custom so why the Northerners haven’t fully embraced the tradition is a mystery. It started when the first Shepari Jews moved to Georgia in the 1730s. 

Additionally, Tripsavvy.com tells us that, “Most Southerners will tell you that this culinary custom dates back to the Civil War. Black-eyed peas were considered animal food. The peas were not deemed worthy of serving to General Sherman’s Union troops. When Union soldiers raided the Confederates’ food supplies, legend says they took everything except the peas and salted pork. The Confederates considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies, and survived the winter. Peas then became symbolic of luck.”

The Iconic Times Square Ball Drop

The countdown and subsequent ball drop dates back to December 31, 1907. Ever since then, it’s been reenacted every year except for a couple during World War II. The Times Square ball today is made of Waterford Crystal and weighs 11,875 pounds. Needless to say, you don’t want that ball to come crashing down on the assembled mob below. It can display 16 million colors! There have been seven versions over the years and it is owned by the building owners of One Times Square. Its got a diameter of 6 feet and takes one minute to drop. The hoopla accompanying its glorious descent is ear-shattering. This year, amid the China Virus pandemic, it is doubtful that Mayor de Blasio will let celebrants congregate en masse.

New Year’s Used to be Celebrated on March 20th.

No, it wasn’t always on January 1st. Why is it now? Because Julius Caesar made the rules back then according to the Gregorian Calendar. Before that, New Year’s was on March 20th according to Mesopotamian rules. That is coincidental with the Spring Equinox, which makes sense. Of course today it is illegal to celebrate it in Saudi Arabia. That’s right, the same peaceful and tolerant people that brought New York all the fireworks on 9/11.

These are just a bit of New Year’s trivia and fun facts to stump your fellow party animals with. Now go get that party hat on already!

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

The Importance of Rituals

Charles Darwin's Daily Rituals
Charles Darwin’s Daily Rituals
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So. This is the most important bit. Insomnia. Can’t sleep, brain runs like a freight train right through the night. But the thoughts keep coming, the leftover refuse of books recently read and audio-books droning on I assume.

So here it is. I’ve been thinking about how important rituals are. Sometimes the big ones that your church orchestrates. Sometimes the little ones that we do everyday.

One of my big ones: when she-who-must-be-obeyed is home on the weekend, in the morning, I always say “Do you want some coffee?” Of course she says,”yes.” That’s part of our morning ritual. Then I make it for her.

And so it goes.

Rituals and Monotheism

Rituals have been around since the beginning of time. They can keep things the way they are or they can change things. A good example is in the years after Moses brought the Jews out of Egypt. Egyptians believed in many nature-centered Gods. All societies were along those lines. But things were about to change.

When God revealed his existence to Moses, he also started laying out many rituals — the Feast of Ingathering, resting on the Sabbath, the redemption of the firstborn son, observation of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and many others.

What is the reason for all these detailed rituals? In his book The Rational Bible: Exodus, Dennis Prager tells us, “One way people guard against the temptation to create idols and other false gods is by observing regular rituals that keep them focused on the One True God. One of the appeals of idols is that they exist physically, whereas God does not. The practice of physical rituals helps keep people attuned to the reality of God’s presence; otherwise, God can become too abstract and difficult to connect to.”

Rituals in Sports

Some rituals in sports can seem downright quirky but they do serve a purpose. Good luck and the idea that if things are done ritualistically, the outcome will be favorable. For example, Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts in every game; Curtis Martin (New York Jets) reads Psalm 91 before every game.

Before every serve, Serena Williams bounces the ball exactly five times. 
Wade Boggs, third baseman (Boston Red Sox), woke up at the same time each day, ate chicken before each game, took exactly 117 ground balls in practice, took batting practice at 5:17, and ran sprints at 7:17. (Boggs also wrote the Hebrew word Chai (“living”) in the dirt before each at bat.

Rituals and Superstitions

Many rituals are performed to keep bad things from happening. Remember step on a crack; break your mother’s back? Is it still applicable from beyond the grave? No sense in taking any chances. The advent of the Fitbit has created a new ritual — get those 10,000 step in or wallow in guilt.

Here are a few more: knocking on wood to bring good luck or to bring rain. Avoiding walking under ladders or crossing paths with a black cat. Unlucky Friday the 13th can cause anxiety in even the bravest and most rational souls. If you happen to look at the clock when it shows same figures for hours and minutes (10:10 for example) you can make a wish.

If you are walking with someone and you are forced to separate and each of you walk around either side of a pole, you have to say “Bread and Butter” three times or else it brings bad luck.

Daily Rituals

One reason to indulge in daily rituals is to keep our lives in balance; routine breeds stability. For men, a morning shave is not just good hygiene. It also prepares us for the upcoming day.

A daily walk or run is a healthy ritual. Doing it in the morning can clear the night’s cobwebs and prepares us for the day. Doing it in the evening can relax us and help us to unwind. It’s common to tackle emails the first thing when arriving at work. With that task in the rear view mirror the real work can begin.

The bottom line is that the importance of rituals can’t be understated. They give life a comforting stability in a chaotic world. Now, I’m off for my morning run so I can get on with my day and be productive. Knock on wood.


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History of Labor Day

by Kelly R. Smith

A Labor Day American flag under a blue sky
A Labor Day American flag under a blue sky
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This article was updated on 09/02/20.

Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September in both the United States and Canada. Its purpose in America is to celebrate the contributions that everyday workers have made to the prosperity, strength, and well-being of the nation. It is also recognized as the unofficial last day of summer and a day to celebrate national sovereignty.

Origins of Labor Day

Although different labor groups and trade unionists proposed days to celebrate, eventually a September holiday called Labor Day was first proposed in the early 1880s. Alternate stories of the event’s origination exist.

One popular belief is that the event originated in connection with a General Assembly of the Knights of Labor held in New York City in September of 1882. Concurrent with this clandestine Knights gathering, a public parade featuring various labor organizations was held on September 5 under the general organizers of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York.

Another belief holds that the idea of Labor Day was the brainchild of Peter J. McGuire who held the position of a vice president of the American Federation of Labor. He suggested the initial proposal in the spring of 1882. According to McGuire, on May 8, 1882, he offered a proposal to the fledgling Central Labor Union in New York City that a day be designated for a “general holiday for the laboring classes”. He further recommended that the occasion should commence with a street parade as a public demonstration of organized labor’s solidarity and strength followed by a picnic, to which participating local unions could sell tickets as a fundraiser.

There is no dispute that in 1887 Oregon became the first state in the country to name Labor Day as an official public holiday. In 1894 it became an official federal holiday and thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day. Since then, all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories have recognized Labor Day as a statutory holiday. Note that some holidays are not officially sanctioned, such as St. Patrick’s Day.

Is Labor Day the Same as May Day?

May 1 is an internationally-recognized holiday and is known as May Day or International Worker’s Day. Is there a correlation between May Day and Labor Day? Not really. May Day is much more politically charged and has less of a flavor of worker’s accomplishments and more a flavor of Communist, Socialist, and Anarchist politics.

In particular, President Grover Cleveland was one of the people concerned that a labor holiday held on May 1 would become an implicit commemoration of the Haymarket Affair and would strengthen socialist and anarchist movements that backed the May 1 commemoration around the globe.

The Haymarket affair (also called the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was the violence that ensued after a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday, May 4, 1886, at the Haymarket Square in Chicago. It started as a peaceful rally supporting workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers the day before by the police. An unknown individual tossed a dynamite bomb at police as they worked to disperse the meeting. The bomb blast and following gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; dozens of others were wounded. It sounds remarkably similar to the mayhem, rioting, and looting conjured up by Black Lives Matter and Antifa today in America, 2020.

Labor Day Activities

Like any federal holiday, it is not just another day off from work but it is also a time to relax and spend time with family and friends. Because of the nice weather at this time of year it is an opportunity for outdoor activities like barbecues, fun runs, and ball games. Things will be a little different this year because of COVID-19.

There are also many Labor Day sales since many school years have just begun or are about to begin. Many sporting events are coordinated around this day.  National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams usually play their first games that weekend and the National Football League (NFL) traditionally play their kickoff game the Thursday following Labor Day. The Southern 500 NASCAR auto race has been held on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina from 1950 to 2003 and since 2015.

So whatever activities you choose to do on Labor Day, remember that actual labor is not one of them!



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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Secret Societies: the Illuminati

Does this Secret Cult Have a Hand in Controlling the World?

by Kelly R. Smith

A gathering at an Illuminati ceremony
A gathering at an Illuminati ceremony
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This article was updated on 12/23/20.

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Secret societies have always held a special place for the curious. Whether credible or not, who doesn’t love hearing about a good conspiracy theory about powerful figures lurking in the background and plotting world domination? As far as secret societies go, the Illuminati looms large. There is even recent speculation that social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter have been working with them as a method for evoking social engineering.

Origins of the Illuminati

Like most things conspiratorial, there has been much theorizing, speculating, and downright exaggeration of the origins of the Illuminati, giving it something of a cult status. There are no shortage of conspiracy theories in the digital age; the current one involves deaths involving COVID-19.

The generally-accepted facts are these–the name usually relates to the Bavarian Illuminati which was an Enlightenment-era secret society thought to have been founded on May 1, 1776. The society’s stated goals were to oppose superstition, obscurantism (opposition to the increase and spread of knowledge or deliberate obscurity or evasion of clarity), religious influence over public life, and abuses of state power.

 The organization wrote in their general statutes, “The order of the day is to put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them.” The Illuminati along with Freemasonry and other secret societies were outlawed through on the order of the Bavarian ruler Charles Theodore with the encouragement of the Catholic Church, in 1784, 1785, 1787, and 1790. In the several years following, the group was vilified by conservative and religious critics who claimed that they continued underground and were responsible for the French Revolution.



Many influential intellectuals and progressive politicians were members, including Ferdinand of Brunswick and the diplomat Xavier von Zwack, who held the post of the Order’s second-in-command. It also attracted literary men such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Gottfried Herder and the reigning dukes of Gotha and Weimar.

The Mystique of the Illuminati

What would a secret society be without a rumored conspiratorial agenda? The lore of the Illuminati is rich with these rumors. It has been said that they conspire to control global affairs by masterminding events and planting clandestine agents in government and corporations, in order to gain political power with the likes of Vladimir Putin to influence and to establish a New World Order.

They are said to have influenced a number of novels, films, television shows, comics, video games, and music videos in order to achieve their notorious agenda. These are much cleverer ways to change society rather than the thug groups today like Antifa.



Their Rocky Relationship with the Rosicrucians

The Rosicrucians can be described as a rival secret order and the Illuminati did their best to keep their distance. The goals and beliefs of the two societies were at loggerheads with each other.

The Rosicrutians were against the church, pro-monarchic, and held a world view conflicting with the Illuminati’s vision of a rationalist state run by philosophers and scientists. Also, the Rosicrucians were not above promoting their own brand of mysticism with fraudulent seances.

The Illuminati continues to be a fertile breeding ground for all sort of conspiracy theories such as subverting national soverignty. U.S. presidents are frequently thought of as being in cahoots with them to influencing world events such as when President Bush the Elder made his famous “New World Order” comment.



They are also rumored to have had a hand in the Battle of Waterloo, the French Revolution, and the Kennedy assassination. What do you believe about the Illuminati Nd other conspiracy theories about world domination? Please participate in the poll on the right side bar of this page.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

The Character that was Removed from the Alphabet


The ampersand, a useful character banned from the alphabet
The ampersand, a useful character banned from the alphabet

The ampersand. We all see it more than we actually write it and yet it is one of the handiest characters around. In fact one of its primary uses is in business names, presumably so that they will fit on business cards.

Unlike the Oxford comma, there is no raging battle among grammarians about the use of this character.

Where Did the Ampersand Come From?

The physical shape of the character predates the name (ampersand) by at least 1,500 years. Back in the first century, Roman scribes plied their trade in cursive. Because of this they penned the Latin word et which means “and” they linked up the e and t. As time went on the combination of letters came to signify the word “and” in English too. Some versions of the character, like that clearly reveal the origin of the shape.

“Ampersand” as a name came years later when “&” was a full-fledged member of the English alphabet. During the early 1800s school children reciting their ABCs finished their recitation with the &. It was too confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” So instead the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” is Latin for “by itself,” so the students were basically saying, “X, Y, Z, and by itself and.” As time unfolded, “and per se and” was slurred together into the very word we use today — ampersand. When a word comes about from a mistaken pronunciation, it’s called a mondegreen.


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What is the Oxford Comma and Why Care?

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Please use the Oxford comma for clarity.
Please use the Oxford comma for clarity

This article was updated on 09/26/20.

It is often said that the English language is the hardest to master, at least as a second language. This is hardly surprising given the vast number of colloquialisms, spelling variants, accents, and word-construction options. (see, I just used the Oxford comma).

English is a fascinating language in that it has roots in many different languages and the origins of many words have been forgotten. For example, did you know that Baltimore is an Anglicization of the Irish Baile an Tí Mhóir, which means “town of the big house?” The same applies to grammar. Few people know that the ampersand character was once in the alphabet, but alas, it was banned long ago. More the pity.

But what is the Oxford comma? Oxford Living Dictionaries tells us, ” The Oxford comma is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list: We sell books, videos, and magazines. It’s known as the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by printers, readers, and editors at Oxford University Press.  Not all writers and publishers use it, but it can clarify the meaning of a sentence when the items in a list are not single words: These items are available in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.”

Should You Use the Oxford Comma or Not?

Ah, one of the great grammatical debates. There are writers on both sides of the fence and very few are convinced to hop over that fence of their own volition.

Largely it is a point of personal preference. I like to use it because it lends an air of clarity to the prose; no room for the reader to guess the writer’s intent. Opponents are likely to cite brevity as a reason to omit it. But seriously fellow scribe, how much real estate does one more comma consume?

Preferences aside, most of us write for money or grades and we must bow to authority. The Oxford comma is stylistic, which simply means some style guides, university professors, and employers require its use while others do not. For example, AP Style, the style guide that many newspaper reporters follow, doesn’t demand the use of the Oxford comma. That said, your employer may demand it for the sake of publication consistency.



So, each writer must make up his own mind given the circumstances. Meanwhile, the great debate over the Oxford comma rages quietly on.


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