Thursday, October 31, 2013

Four Things I've Recently Learned

I walked to work yesterday morning. It was clear and sunny, and I wanted to get some exercise and some photos. I found this guy sanding the metal fence outside a house being renovated in Maida Vale. I love that line of leaves at his feet.

I have learned four interesting things within the past few days:

-- For some reason, I always believed the author Daphne du Maurier ("Rebecca" and "The Birds") was a French man, possibly from the 1800s. Why I thought this I have no idea. Maybe I was getting du Maurier confused with Alexandre Dumas. Anyway, I am now involved in a lengthy project at work to clean up our electronic catalog, correcting typos and providing additional information about books where needed. In the course of this project, I discovered that Daphne du Maurier was actually a woman (as the name would suggest), was actually British, and wrote from the 1930s onward. I'm now wondering how many times in conversation I used a male pronoun to refer to her, thus broadcasting to everyone that I am an idiot.

-- From Eric Schlosser's new book "Command and Control," about the history of nuclear weapons, I learned that after the U.S. developed atomic bombs in the 1940s there was a strong movement to create a one-world government, among people who believed it was the only way to prevent the bombs' re-use and spread. Even some people in the military thought this was the best solution. A book of essays was published to that effect titled "One World or None," and more than half the Americans surveyed in a poll said they wanted the United Nations to become "a world government with power to control the armed forces of all nations, including the United States." The U.S. even considered sharing its atomic secrets with Russia in the 1940s -- when Russia did not yet have the bomb -- as a way to forestall an arms race. But more conservative voices prevailed, and we wound up with the Cold War. Fascinating!

-- I learned that if you have clocks that automatically reset themselves when there's a time change, as many clocks do nowadays, putting them in the window apparently helps them figure out the correct time. This is our faculty lounge at work, where clocks from throughout the building have come for their autumn reset. (We just went off Daylight Saving Time, or British Summer Time as it's called here, on Sunday.) As you can see, some of the clocks have figured it out, and some haven't.

-- I learned that some British kids do trick-or-treat, even though none have ever knocked on our door. Dave took Olga for a walk last night and was approached by two kids in face paint near the corner pub. He said other people were giving them money, but Dave told them, "Go home. You're a day early." Fortunately I don't think they know where we live.


  1. I have to chuckle at you think Daphne du Maurier was a man!

    Kind of hard to imagine "One World."

    Love the clocks! What a great photo. We go off daylight savings time this weekend. Right now it's so dark in the morning that I have trouble dragging myself out of bed. Now it's going to be dark by 5:00 p.m. which is just as bad. Oh well, that's makes it cozier and I can change into my bathrobe all that much sooner!

  2. Say what with those clocks? I've never heard of such a thing- putting them in the window. How strange. Almost as strange as us deciding to "change" time twice a year. Almost as strange as one world government.
    This would be a good time of year to reread "Rebecca" which is a fabulous book. Or, at least I thought it was when I read it back a million years ago. Alfred Hitchcock sure made a good movie of it.

  3. I love Dave's comment...made me laugh!

  4. Great pictures!

    I need to read the book about the A bombs. Sounds truly fascinating.

  5. Your last two facts learned had me laughing out loud.
    My alarm clock automatically resets itself twice a year. Unfortunately, Arizona doesn't use DST so the change is not needed. In addition, it changes on the European schedule and not the American. It has a series of time zones loaded in it and I've selected the Arizona time zone so it shouldn't change at all. So I guess what it boils down to is that my alarm clock is just as retarded as the clocks in your school that can't figure it out. But, I don't think sitting it in the window is going to help it.

  6. Oh I've been that idiot many a time. And I think I thought she was a man too... There IS some writer with a woman's name who's a man. Hmmm...

    Our "atomic clocks" like to be near windows too to get reset. One year we ended up putting one out on the hedge because it couldn't get its act together.

  7. Lynne: I had to chuckle too. Good grief.

    Ms Moon: I'd never heard of the clock thing either, but apparently it IS a thing, as Bug mentions below.

    Vivian: It made me laugh once I realized our house wouldn't be egged!

    Reya: It IS fascinating, but it is a big ol' book. Maybe a little too much detail.

    Sharon: How weird! Your clock clearly thinks it is European. :)

    Bug: I can think of a few writers with men's names who were women (George Eliot, George Sand), but not vice versa. Unless you're thinking of Evelyn Waugh, maybe? Evelyn really IS a man's name traditionally -- I'm not sure how it became a woman's name in the states.

  8. That's exactly who I was thinking of! And it's funny that I can't seem to get Evelyn as a man's name since my own name (Dana) is also a man's name :)

  9. The clocks trying to reset themselves in the sun for some reason tickled me. What a hoot! And I live Dave's comment too. Now that's a teacher.