Sunday Seven – Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th Century. She was a nun and a missionary who dedicated her life to helping the orphans in Calcutta (India). She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, and was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta after her death in 1997. On this Mother’s Day Sunday, I want to dedicate my Sunday Seven to her quotes.

  • A life not lived for others is not a life.
  • I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create ripples.
  • Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
  • If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
  • It is a kingly act to assist the fallen.
  • Peace begins with a smile.
  • We fear the future because we are wasting today.
  • Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

“the German War is at an end”

This is how Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced the end of World War II 75 years ago today. On May 8, 1945, after six years at war in which millions of young lives were lost, the guns finally fell silent over Europe. The Allies defeated Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and the day became known as VE – Victory in Europe – day.

75 years later the generation that fought this war remains undoubtedly the greatest generation. The sacrifices made by the young men and women of this generation defy understanding, and we owe them an unpayable debt of gratitude for the freedoms we all take for granted. The men that fought this war, those that are still alive, continue to inspire and amaze us to this day. One such hero is World War II veteran captain Tom Moore who turned 100 years old on April 30th.

Captain Tom celebrating his 100th birthday

War veterans like Captain Tom know how to inspire – they have seen the worst of humanity, they have lived to tell about it, they choose to see the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. Captain Tom has singlehandedly brought the UK – perhaps even the world – together at this time – across generations and across all financial and racial boundaries. Captain Tom, a lifelong fan of Britain’s Health system (NHS) decided to walk a 100 laps of his garden by his 100th birthday to raise $1200 for the NHS.

Captain Tom completing his 100th lap for charity
Captain Tom as a young man in the army.

A world dealing with a pandemic found its hero – and Captain Tom raised $40 million. He received 125,000 cards on his birthday, a Royal Air Force flypast, and a possible knighthood. And like all people of his generation, Captain Tom told the world to remain positive and hopeful: “For all those finding it difficult: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away.” What an amazing man!!

As the world battles with an enemy of a different sort, on this day when six years of darkness ended, we should pause and remember the heroes of World War II that sacrificed so much, and learn to live life with the same grace that they showed during and after the war, and continue to show to this day.

Names with meaning

Nike’s logo mimics the namesake winged goddess of victory

I realized last week how many corporate names have interesting origins – either in literature or in ancient Greek or Roman mythology.

Oracle – a US tech firm based in Redwood Shores, California chose the name Oracle for itself (from 1977 to 1983 it was called Relational Software, Inc.).  An oracle is a priest or a priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from the gods in classical antiquity. It has also come to mean a person or thing regarded as an infallible authority or guide.

The Delphi Oracle

Gilead Sciences – is the name of a pharmaceutical company located in Foster City, California. In biblical times, Gilead was a mountainous region of ancient Palestine, east of the Jordan River. It is also the name of a Jewish tribe in the Genesis.

The largest online retailer..The largest river

Amazon – The largest online retailer is named after the mythological (Greek) race of female warriors as well as the largest river in the world. With all that backing no wonder it’s the largest online retailer in the world.

Adobe – the pdf company is from San Jose, California. The word adobe is one that I came across in Art History recently (which triggered this blog!!) when we were studying the Great Mosque in Djenne, Mali. The mosque was made of a material called adobe which is a combination of clay and straw which is mixed together and then dried in the sun. The company however was named after a creek that ran close to the founder’s house.

Aetna – This is an insurance company that was founded in 1850. The company was named after an active volcanic Mount Etna in Sicily. In Greek and Romany mythology Aetna was the Sicilian nymph, and the mountain in Sicily was named after her.

Hermes – founded in 1837, Hermes is a leading French luxury goods retailer. In Greek mythology, Hermes was a God associated with speed and good luck. He served as a messenger for Zeus and the other gods, He is also a patron of travelers, writers, athletes, merchants, thieves, and orators. In Roman mythology Hermes was known as Mercury.

Nike – Founded in 1964 in Beaverton, Oregon, Nike is most famous for its shoes, but also sells athletic apparel and equipment. The company has a very well-known symbol “the swoosh.” Nike takes its name from Nike, the Greek winged goddess of victory.

Starbucks – this coffee company that we all know and love was founded in Seattle in 1971. The name Starbucks is inspired by the character in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Starbuck is the first mate of the ship Pequod and is the voice of reason on the ship. According to Starbucks, the name evokes the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders.

Moby Dick & Starbucks

It’s May Day!!

There’s Mayday and there’s May Day – the 1st day of the month of May which falls right in between spring equinox and the summer solstice.

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!!

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday !!– interestingly has nothing to do with the lovely month of May. It’s the international signal for a distress call over the radio – and it has to be used only when the distress is real, life-threateningly real. And it has to be said three times so there is no confusion over static radio signals as to what the caller is saying.

Mayday as a distress signal started in 1923, when a radio officer at the Croydon Airport in London came up with this term – primarily because it sounded like the French word for help me m’aider. Also it had no ‘s’ or other sounds which tend to get lost over radio signals. For non-life-threatening issues the signal is pan-pan pan-pan pan-pan which is a derivation of another French word “penne,’ which means breakdown.

May Day on the other hand is a word that relates to this day which traditionally is celebrated with May flowers in baskets and dancing around maypoles. All across Europe, the seeds sown in springtime had started to sprout and this was cause for celebration – cattle were driven to pasture, special bonfires were lit, and people decorated their front doors and filled baskets with May flowers. Many of these festivities were shunned by the Puritans, and traditional May Day celebrations never really took hold in the US.

Starting with the 19th Century May Day took on a new significance – it became the International Workers’ Day –  a day that celebrates the struggles and gains made by the labor movement such as the fight for an 8 hour work day in the US. May 1 was chosen as Workers’ Rights Day in 1889 as an homage to the May 4, 1886 Haymarket Riots in Chicago. The communist states embraced this day and used it unite workers against capitalism. It became famous for the spectacular annual May Day parade in the Red Square in Moscow. After the decline of communism, the importance of this day diminished in the communist countries.

(Images courtesy Old Farmer’s Almanac).

For the love of trees – Sunday Seven.

Have you noticed how beautiful and lush trees look at this time of year? I love going for a walk on the trail near my house and walking amongst the trees – a sense of calm washes over me when I am with the trees. I decided to do this week’s Sunday Seven about trees and what they mean to different people.

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. Nelson Henderson.

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. Khalil Gibran.

Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking. Wangari Maathai.

When you’re outnumbered by trees, your perspective shifts. Jessica Marie Baumgartner.

What a joy it is to see, trees dancing in the rain! Charmaine J. Forde.

Things that can’t move, learn to see. Louise Glick.

Believe me, for I know, you will find something far greater in the woods than in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you cannot learn from the masters. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Be like a tree, let the dead leaves drop. Rumi.

(Image – Gustav Klimt, The Park, 1910 or earlier. MOMA)

From the Romans to Twitter

The journey of the hashtag is long and storied – it saw many lives before it became the powerful organizer of tweets by topic. Like many of the other symbols, its first known use too was by the Romans.

The Roman libra pondo lb

Its origins started with the Roman use of the short form “lb” for libra pondo or “pound in weight.” Eventually, with its use in English, and as people started writing faster, a line was placed across the lb until it started to look like #.

The # symbol appeared on the 3 key on Remington typewriters in the 1870s

The # was included as a character in printers, though it continued to be called pound sign. And then in the 1870s it reached the typewriter (often on the 3 key).

The # symbol saw another life as an octothorpe when it got included on the telephone keypad. It was this inclusion on the phone keypad that made it a well-known symbol to the general public. The # on the phone started to signify numbers in automated customer service systems, and it would have stayed like that forever, had it not been for Chris Messina’s attempt to organize Twitter.

Looking for a way to organize twitter by topicality, Chris Messina chanced upon the # symbol, and used it for the first time in a tweet on August 23, 2007, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

With #barcamp, the # symbol begins a new life

Chris Messina used the # symbol as an organizing tool for the Twitter community. Twitter did not have a way to support groups, and using the # symbol provided a way to categorize by topic, and indicate topicality. He only picked it because it already existed on mobile phone keypads, and was therefore readily available to use.

And with that, a symbol that started its journey with the Romans finally achieved greatness in social media as a hashtag. On a daily basis around 125 million hashtags are shared daily on Twitter.


For centuries, lighthouses have been the guiding light that have helped weary travelers find the way home. Standing steadfast at the edge of turbulent waters, these lighthouses have been a beacon of hope since ancient times. The US coastline is dotted with more than 1000 lighthouses – starting with the Boston Light in 1716, which still sits on a rocky island 10 miles out in the Boston Harbor.

These lighthouses were instrumental in building the nation – the colonies built lighthouses along the coast to make navigating their shores safer for maritime sailors. They also played an important role during the Revolutionary Wars, as a result of which in 1789, The First Federal Congress passed the Lighthouse Act which was the nation’s first public works program. The US Lighthouse Board, established in 1847, was the second agency of the US Federal Government. The list below shows lighthouses from Maine to Michigan.

These lighthouses became the guiding light which guided the settlers to new lands across the vast expanse of this nation’s coastlines and lake shores.

The Hook Lighthouse in Ireland as been guiding sailors for over 800 years.

The oldest working lighthouse in the world is the Hook Lighthouse which was built around 1210. It was built by the monks who had lived in a monastery there since the 5th century, and had a practice of lighting a warning beacon at Hook Head. This tradition of warning sailors and fishermen continued for centuries until a lighthouse was built around 1210.  

St. Augustine Lighthouse: the oldest lighthouse in Florida

The 1868 Lighthouse Board Report included this statement, “Nothing indicates the liberality, prosperity or intelligence of a nation more clearly than the facilities which it affords for the safe approach of the mariner to its shores.” With these lighthouses that dotted the coastline, the United States has always kept the light on at night, making sure its people find their way home safely.