Monthly Archives: September 2012

Clocks – not just another pretty face

Why do clocks run that direction? Why are they called hands?

Inventors living in the northern hemisphere were trying to mimic the movement of the sun over a sundial, and the shadows moving across a sundial move that direction in the northern hemisphere.

Noon, or 12 o’clock (of the clock) is at the top because of the sundial tradition. The word noon comes from the Latin word ‘nona’ or ninth, because in Roman times, midday was the ninth hour of the day or la hora nona.

The first timepieces were actually bells set up in the town square to call the public to prayer. Like cloche in French, clock literally means bell.

Soon, dials and indicators were added for a visual display in addition to the audible, but the peasants were illiterate and couldn’t read or do math. They could perform calculations by counting on their fingers. Four slash marks were much easier for them to contend with than “IV” when taking one away from five. That’s why when Roman numerals are used, the IV is traditionally IIII to this day.

O’clock is an abbreviation for “of the clock” or “of the bells.”

Early clocks in the 14th century, had a carving shaped like a hand, and the dial moved around it. Soon, the creators realized the hand could be made to move instead, and in 1690 a minute hand was introduced when the pendulum and anchor escapement were perfected, making precision time keeping possible.

Time hasn’t always been divided the same, at least not in France. During the French Revolution, in 1793, France attempted to introduce a decimal time system with 10 hours in the day, 100 decimal minutes and 100 decimal seconds per minute.

The decimal hour was almost twice as long as the present hour, or 144 minutes. The decimal minute was slightly longer than the present minute at 86 seconds, and the decimal second was slightly shorter…0.86 sec. Clocks were manufactured with both markings, but obviously decimal time didn’t catch on, and France discontinued its mandatory use on April 7, 1795.

A case can be made for daylight saving time being made before Benjamin Franklin. Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, liked to be outdoors as much as possible, so the clocks all over Sandringham Estate were advanced by half an hour to give him more time for hunting and shooting. King George V maintained this custom during his lifetime, but King Edward VIII abolished it on his accession in 1936.

Photo courtesy of Jessie Harrel, WANACOMMONS 

Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, not the clock, inside the tower in London. It was recently named Elizabeth Tower, for the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year, 2012.


Skip Kerr’s Clock Collection

The Official Website of the British Royal Family

Daylight Savings Time



This post is a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together

To contribute and link to your book, blog or business, email or comment below, and find out how to be a part of our team of Adventur-istas.



Wondering about Wedding Traditions? – a Coffee Break Escape with MR Anglin

Weddings are a blessed time joining a man and a woman together for life.  But while marriages have been with us since the beginning of human history, wedding traditions have morphed and changed. Some of the ancient traditions we still practice today have interesting beginnings.


Groomsmen and Bridesmaids

Today, it is customary for a bride to have her closest friends or family as her bridesmaids, and the groom his groomsmen.  In fact, the choice of maid of honor or best man can be a source of contention for some families.  However, this tradition has changed a bit since ancient times.

The woman’s consent hasn’t always been a requirement for marriage.  If a man couldn’t find a woman in his area to marry, he went to the next village to kidnap one.  So, the man took one or a group of his friends to help him with the caper.  Only the “best man” would be chosen for such an important and dangerous endeavor.  Likewise, the groomsmen would protect the groom if the bride’s family came to take her back during the ceremony.

Roman law required a witness, which is how bridesmaids originated. The maid of honor would make sure a wreath was prepared, the precursor to the bouquet, and helped the bride get dressed on the big day.  The other bridesmaids would help decorate for the wedding feast, similar to what happens today.

Something Borrowed . . .

“Something old; something new; something borrowed; something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”  This ancient rhyme is repeated as a woman’s wedding day approaches.  Each of the objects has a specific meaning that hearkens back to the Victorian Age.

Something old represents a tie to the family, and is traditionally something from the bride’s mother or grandmother.  Something new represents a bride’s future happiness. The bride also borrows something—preferably from an older woman who has had a happy marriage—to represent the bride borrowing a little bit of marital happiness for her own union. Blue represents love and fidelity. In ancient Israel, women wore blue ribbons on the border of their dresses for that reason.

As for the sixpence . . . brides put them in their shoe to represent wealth.

Why the Wedding Party Dresses Alike

Groomsmen and bridesmaids often dress alike for the ceremony. That tradition dates back to a time when the groomsmen dressed similarly to the groom, and the bridesmaids to the bride.  Why?  It was hoped that if evil spirits decided to harm the bride and groom, they would be confused as to who the bride was and who the groom was.  It also worked for any human who sought to harm the bride and groom.

It’s fun to know the source of these Western wedding traditions, and watch as new ones are added to the sacred ceremony observed in every culture around the world.

M. R. Anglin writes YA fiction with a fantasy twist. In “Lucas, Guardian of Truth,” an eleven year old boy with a vivid imagination must trust a mysterious creature that transports him to Kalaria, a place where nothing is as it seems. There, Lucas learns that he is the Guardian of Truth, destined to save Kalaria from the Mind Master, a creature bent on destroying the planet, and his imagination as well.  Visit MR at

This has been a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together. Please visit our authors’ books, businesses or blogs, we’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to be a part of our Coffee Break team, we’re always looking for new adventuristas!

Sources for the wedding traditions:


50 Shades of Gracie

When she was six weeks old, she could fit in the palm of your hand. Do not let her diminutive size fool you.

In the spirit of what’s trending, I bring you, the 50 Shades of Gracie. More or less.

After a long day playing, little dogs must be bathed. Ow…sharp teeth!

The first four years flew by. Happy Birthday, Gracie!

Gracie’s got her “sister,” Chloe, the ever-patient Bichon Frise, pinned. (Don’t worry, Chloe can hold her own.)

I will help.

Dog T.V.

Get back in the pool where you belong!

On a warm day, a hot dog enjoys a delicious puppy-pop. (There’s a frozen, homemade pup-sickle in there somewhere.)

Are you kidding me? You call that a golf stroke?


I sorry.

Can I come back inside pretty please?

Somebody needs a hobby.

Ok, I’ve got this!

“This certificate entitles Gracie to all the rights and privileges of an Intelligent Agility Dog.” (Because she needs more rights and privileges…?)

Tired Gracie. 
Somebody turn off the lights, a girl needs her beauty sleep.

And now you know why I call her the tightly-wound mini-pin on springs.

AUTUMN CHANGES Book Two in the Seasons of Cherryvale

At long last, the sequel to Fresh Start Summer is here. Thanks for your patience, encouragement, and continued support. 

“Along with shorter days and cooler nights, big changes are stirring up Cherryvale. While the trees along the CherryPath exchange summer-green garments to autumn’s crimson and gold, Grace and Maggie scurry to prepare for the town’s annual Harvest Festival, but spar over how to help pop star Tiffany Lane adapt to her new lifestyle and adoptive hometown. A surprise visitor—or two—spice up the town like cinnamon in Grace’s pumpkin walnut muffins just in time for The Scrapbook’s preview opening. The second book in The Seasons of Cherryvale, Autumn Changes continues the stories of the friendly folks and charming small town introduced in the much loved Fresh Start Summer, and Grace & Maggie Across the Pond.”

Will peaceful Cherryvale ever be the same after all the changes blown in on the autumn wind?

Available in paperback from Amazon. Kindle version now available!

Bonsai – Beautiful glimpses at nature in miniature

Regal, elegant, and attractive bonsai.

Bonsai (pronounced BONE-sigh) is made up of two root words, ‘bon’ meaning tray and ‘sai’ which means plant. Bonsai, or “tree in a pot,” translates the same from both Japanese and Chinese. (Mispronounce it by saying “banzai,” and you’re exclaiming “ten thousand years!”)

Variations of the horticultural art form date back hundreds of years, so long that the actual ancient origins from which it sprouted blur, but everyone agrees the roots are in the Orient.

Other forms of miniature gardening exist, but differ in subtle ways. In tree penjing, a Chinese method, specimens have a wider range of tree shapes, are more “wild-looking,”  and are placed in brightly-colored and creatively-shaped pots.

Bonsai are more simplified in shape, more refined in appearance, with larger trunks in proportion to their foliage. They are customarily planted in unobtrusive, low-sided containers with simple lines and muted colors to draw focus to the plant itself.

Enthusiasts agree that bonsai are “enjoyed and practiced by diverse cultures, utilizing the lessons of nature to improve the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of mankind and our relationship to our environment.” (from Bonsai Clubs International)

Just any old small tree doesn’t qualify as bonsai. The tree, or trees, should exude majesty and elegance. Growers strive for miniaturization, proportion, asymmetry, poignancy, and no trace of the artist, and use wiring, grafting, pruning, clamping and defoliation to achieve their desired result.

Growers prefer woody, deciduous varieties. Shapes vary from formal and informal upright, forests, slant, and rock-based styles, among others.

Forest style bonsai. Up close, it’s hard to tell these trees from their giant cousins.

Tools and pots are important. Pots are usually ceramic, come in a variety of shapes and colors, and may be glazed or unglazed. They have drainage holes for fast-draining soil, allowing excess water, which is crucial to growing healthy specimens, to flow out. Pots usually have vertical sides, so that the tree’s root mass can easily be removed for inspection, pruning, and replanting.

Another view of the forest style.

Tools necessary, besides strong fingertips for the best pruning, include tiny tweezers, saws, wire and cutters, and rakes.

Proper tools for effective Bonsai trimming and care.

Fun Fact from Bonsai Outlet: The oldest living bonsai is over 300 years old, a White Pine affectionately known as the Yamaki Pine, in honor of its donor, Masaru Yamaki. The Yamaki began its life in the 1600s and, despite being less than five miles away from the impact site, it survived the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. It is now housed in the US National Arboretum. 

Thanks to the San Diego Bonsai Club, where these photos were taken at their exhibition in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, located within the U.S. National Arboretum, in Washington, D.C. has the largest, and most valuable exhibition in the United States.

Visit these sites for more information, and to see beautiful photos of this natural art form:

Bonsai Outlet

Ruth Morgan’s Beautiful Bonsai Secrets

Bonsai Clubs International

A pleasing miniature display including bonsai, and various elements, including rocks and pebbles. The tube delivers frequent watering into the pot.

This post is a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together

Click on this photo to read more 7 Minute Adventures.


To contribute and link to your book, blog or business, email or comment below, and I’d be thrilled to hear your story idea.




Sudoku: Puzzling Numbers, Logic, and an odd name

Where did the international phenomenon, Sudoku—pronounced soo-DOH-koo, really come from, and how did it become such a popular hit? (Don’t make the mistake of calling it sodoku, which is a disease carried by rats!)

Puzzling can help stimulate brain cells according to
(photo credit: Sharp Brains)

Each number is a single digit, and when completed, they make up a Latin square, where no two numbers are repeated twice.

The 18th century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler developed the concept of “Latin Squares,” where numbers in a grid appear only once, across and up and down. In the late 1970’s, US based Dell Magazines, with the help of independent puzzle maker, Howard Garnes, adapted Euler’s concept with a 9 X 9 square grid. They called it “Number Place.”

Sudoku is actually a logic puzzle, since the squares can be filled in with letters, numbers or shapes.

In the mid-1980s, Maki Kaji, the president of the Japanese puzzle giant, Nikoli, Inc., urged the company to publish a version of the puzzle that became a huge hit in that country. According to the London Observer, Nikoli gave the puzzle its current name.

Sudoku translates to “the digits (su) must be single (doku).”

Nikoli helped refine the puzzle by restricting the number of revealed or given numbers to 30 and having them appear symmetrically. The game became increasingly popular in Japan and started becoming a fixture in daily newspapers and magazines. Almost two decades passed before the game was taken up by “The Times” newspaper in London as a daily puzzle.

The game has spawned books, wooden sets, electronic puzzles, computer games, at least one television show, (a British game show), a card game using 81 card decks, a tribute song that received so many hits and downloads the hosting site had to be taken down, computer apps, competitions, and if you Google Sudoku, you’ll get more than 97 million hits.

Sudoku Trivia: there are about five billion possible Sudoku puzzles. The permutations for correct answers are over six sextillion.

For more information, here are just a few sites:

Wikipedia: Sudoku

Sharp Brains

A Coffee Break Escape 7 Minute Adventure

Beverly Nault avoids anything to do with numbers whenever possible in Southern California, but puzzles over Facebook and Twitter, defying logic in every status update.

Coffee Break is always looking for new “adventuristas” to contribute short, interesting, and fun pieces, so click through to find out how (its free!) to become a team member. Did I mention it’s free?



Single-handed Sailing – going solo without GPS

On April 24, 1895, Joshua Slocum set sail from Boston, alone, in a tiny sloop he had rescued from disrepair and abandonment, to become the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe.

The trip covered 46,000 miles and took three years to circle back to Newport, Rhode Island on June 27, 1898. No GPS. No bottled water. No Facebook or twitter.

Born for the sea, when Josh was 16, he ran away from home (he had already left once at age 14 to work on a deep sea fishing boat) and became a seaman, crewing many deep-water sailing ships, working his way up from “rail meat” to ordinary seaman on merchant vessels bound for Europe and beyond.

Working his way up the ladder, Joshua obtained his first command on the California coast in 1869, and sailed for 13 years out of San Francisco to China, Australia, the Spice Islands, and Japan. From his logs, Josh wrote about his experiences, and self-published “Voyage of the Liberdade” in 1890, and “Voyage of the Destroyer,” both at his own expense. His most popular book was yet to be written.

Josh had yearned to own a vessel since his youthful days tossing on the cold waters of the north Pacific. In 1892, a friend, Captain Eben Pierce, offered Slocum a ship that “wants some repairs,” and Slocum eagerly traveled to check out the fixer in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The “ship” was a rotting oyster sloop propped up in a field. It was called the “Spray.”

Three years later, the re-built and restored sloop was again seaworthy, and Josh set out for his around the world journey, never before accomplished, as a singlehanded voyage. Slocum navigated by the lunar method and dead reckoning, using a cheap tin clock for approximate time, and noon sun sightings for latitude.

A ‘singlehanded’ voyage can include stops, but no additional crew or assistance is permitted while advancing the boat’s position as it transits toward the next destination. This historic achievement made Captain Joshua Slocum the patron saint of small-boat voyagers, navigators and adventurers all over the world.

A modern “Spray” design –

Photo courtesy of Bruce Roberts.

To this day, sailors design and build new sailing ships based on the original lines of Joshua Slocum’s “Spray.” Several have been built in timber based on the original lines provided in his epic classic Sailing Alone Around the World, still considered one of the best adventure books of all time, recounting his remarkable achievement.

On November 14th, 1909, at the age of 65, Captain Slocum set out on another lone voyage to South America from Martha’s Vineyard, but was never heard from again.

Links for more information:

Joshua Slocum Society 

Bruce Roberts Sailing

If you have a story to tell, I’m always looking for 7 Minute “adventuristas” to contribute short, interesting, and fun pieces, so click through to find out how to become involved in  Coffee Break Escape.

Beverly Nault writes safely from her armchair in Southern California, navigating the globe by the Internet, and communicating via social media on Facebook and Twitter. Visit her at