Wednesday, September 9

Love Potion Number 9

You know, I'm not really very good with songs--I usually have no idea who recorded what or when, but I do remember song titles and snippets of songs, sometimes even with the right lyrics. So on this auspicious date of 090909, I suppose it makes sense that some song with the number 9 popped into my head. And the song was Love Potion Number 9 which I find curious myself.

Anyway, I was just talking about 9 as the universal number in my classical literature class last week because the number 9 shows up often in The Odyssey, as do many other numbers. I bedazzled (or possibly befuddled) my students by showing that cool property of 9 with the multiplying and adding thing. Multiply any number by 9 then add the numbers of the product, continuing to "reduce" the results and the result will be. . . . . 9. So multiply 435 * 9 and you get 3,915. Then you the numbers or digits of the product: 3 + 9 + 1 + 5 = 18 and then 1 + 8 which equals 9. Seriously, try it with any multidigit number. Go ahead. I'll wait.

There's been a lot of conversation about the significance of the number 9 and the importance of today's date: 090909. For the Chinese, apparently, this ranks second to 080808 which is, as you no doubt recall, the date on which they launched the Olympics and with spectacular fanfare and celebration.

Some of the hoopla seems to be simply because these date configurations don't happen very often, but it is kind of cool. A friend of mine was quite excited at the prospect of 04:05:06 on 070809. I didn't celebrate that event as it was, after all, shortly after 4 o'clock in the morning and lasted but a second. Way too easy to miss.

But we do see the number 9 quite often in literature. In fact, Odysseus refers to 9 quite often and then whatever happens occurs on the 10th day, so he must endure or survive 9 nights. What else is significant about 9? Well, it is the last single digit in base 10. It signifies completeness in the Baha'i faith. There are 9 choirs of angels in the Christian hierarchy of Angels. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. The number 9 is considered a perfect and divine number in Hinduism. There are 9 forms of the Chinese dragon. So it seems there could be something to the idea of the number 9 and what it seems to represent. After all, there is that special and very powerful love potion number 9.

Tuesday, September 8

Slow down, you move too fast

Apparently Simon & Garfunkel were right. For those of you old enough to remember when Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were a duo, you probably recall "Feeling Groovy" also known as the "59th Street Bridge" song. The song began with these memorable lines:
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
The pace of the song is a fun, happy-go-lucky, breezy sort of tune that tends to make you feel, well, groovy.

Anyway, earlier today I heard someone talking about breathing patterns and the doctors have found most Americans take about 20 breaths per minute. I feel like I'm going to hyperventilate just thinking about breathing that fast. Apparently optimal breathing is about 6 breaths per minute with a longer exhale than inhale. And, of course, you should be breathing from your diaphragm, not your chest. I also heard that we get approximately 80 to 90% of our energy from the way we breath, which seems odd, but I understand how panting at 20 breaths per minute could be exhausting.

An article in Wikipedia suggests that optimal adult breathing is 12-20 breaths per minute, which means that 6 is really, really slow. The article also states that of two groups being tested for optimum breathing, [o]ne of the groups learned 'complete yoga breathing,' a style of respiration that encourages slow, deep breathing at a rate of about six breaths per minute. Those patients continued practicing the breathing method at home for an hour a day. After a month, the patients practicing the breathing technique breathed more slowly, had higher levels of blood oxygen, and performed better on exercise tests."

So there may be something to that slow breathing. No doubt, there is something to the idea of slowing down, relaxing a bit more, "looking for fun and feeling groovy"!

As for my breathing count? I should mention that my blood pressure, even when I'm really incredibly stressed remains low. I counted my breathing and found that I'm at 12 breaths per minute. Not bad, I suppose, but apparently room for feeling a little more groovy.

Monday, September 7

Labor Day 2009

Today is Labor Day. The last long weekend before school starts in many parts of the country. The last gasp of summer, if you've actually had summer. The last long weekend for any kind of getaway weekend. The last back-to-school sale weekend.

Labor Day, though, has a history. It is over 100 years old as the very first day celebrating those who work for a living was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City and sponsored by the Central Labor Union. In 884, the Central Labor Union selected the first Monday in September as the date for the holiday and the union urged other organizations to mark that date as a "workingmen's holiday." The idea quickly spread with the growth of labor organizations and labor unions, and the following year, Labor Day was celebrated in many of the industrial cities in the country.

Legislation for Labor Day evolved. Oregon was the first state to pass Labor Day legislation doing so in February 1887. Four more states enacted Labor Day legislation that same year: Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. By 1890, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit and by 1894, 23 other of the then 44 states in the U.S. had legislated Labor Day. In June 1894, Congress created national legislation designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day for the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories.

In the early days of the holiday, emphasis was on the workers and the contributions of the workers. Certainly the labor unions took advantage of the holidy to purport the advantages of the labor organizations but it is quite clear that, over the years, any declaration of appreciation for the American worker has been sidelined in favor of blow-out sales, last-minute vacations, the start of school (and football), and just a welcome three-day weekend.

How we work has changed dramatically since 1882. The role of the agragrian society is still hugely important and the work of some farmers hasn't changed appeciably in over 100 years. They still work long hours and nearly every day of the week. Many industrial workers in the U.S. have labor unions that protect the number of hours they work, the duration and number of number of breaks they get, and just about everything else that can be covered in a contract. The rest of us workers, whether we have the corner office still often reviled by the labor unions (though a good many labor "bosses" seem to have such offices themselves) or a cubicle in the dun-colored "cubicleland," just do our jobs, without union protection and often without any safety net if we work in an "at will" state. If we are hourly employees, we work our hours, as required, and probably most of us do the best job we can because we are fortunate enough to like our work and/or because we have personal integrity to do the best we can. And we work overtime when asked because we do get overtime pay and because we may worry about the consequences of not working overtime when asked. Most of us, though, are team players, whether hourly or salaried employees, and want to do the best we can for our places of work.

If we are salaried employees, we probably work long hours because of expectations and/or because of the work that needs to be done. When there are layoffs because of a recession or other economic factors, many of us take on the work of others--without grumbling too loudly or being careful to whom we grumble--and do what needs to be done.

I'm not saying that everyone in the American workforce is happy with his or her work situation; I'd be willing to bet that a significant number are not. And I'm not saying that we should abandon Labor Day because the holiday no longer celebrates the American worker as overtly as it was once intended. I am saying, however, that because we have such a holiday, whether our work is "blue collar" or "white collar," whether it is a trade or a profession, whether it is a factory or a school or a towering office building, it might not hurt for those of us who are in supervisory positions to take a few minutes on Tuesday to say "thanks" to the folks who work for us and with us.

I would also say that even though we have managed to create a day of recognition for administrative assistants (no doubt an invention of Hallmark), Tuesday would be a very good day to take the time to thank those people who make your day-to-day work possible: the folks who clean your buildings, who work as security, who provide whatever support is necessary to make sure your business runs as it needs. Those folks work hard and so often in the shadows or behind the scenes, but they are as critical to anyone's success as anyone else in the building.