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“Knocker-Uppers” The Human Alarm Clocks Of Industrial-Era Britain (via Flashbak)

I wake up without an alarm each morning, but there are mornings where I’m 20 or even 30 minutes past the time I usually rise.
Of course I’ve got any number of devices that I can set as alarms.
Before those devices we used an alarm clock (or two).
Some of you might even remember the wake-up call, where you could book someone to ring you up.
This article on Flashbak recalls the time when folk had the job of going around and knocking on doors (or windows) for a fee.
Knocker-Uppers have passed into history, but the struggle to get out of bed continues.
From the article:

Known as the “knocker-upper” these predawn risers would pass by working-class buildings, rapping on the windows of those who need to get up.
Rural laborers, used to keeping time with the seasons, relocated to manufacturing towns and cities at significant rates. They not only had to adjust to dangerous, fast-paced industrial work, but to new schedules. Night shifts in factories disturbed circadian rhythms; dock work in London depended on the movement of the tides. There were alarm clocks at the time, but they were expensive and unreliable.
Some workers might only find out they’d been called in for a shift from the knocker-upper that morning. Such was the case for many clients awakened by Doris Weigand, Britain’s first railway knocker-upper (below in 1941). Conditions could be cutthroat. “In London’s East End,” Paul Middleton writes “where life for the employed was forever balanced on a knife edge, being late for work could mean instant dismissal and a speedy spiral for those workers and their family into poverty, homelessness and destitution.”
Knocker-uppers used canes, long batons, and even pea shooters…

read the rest at Flashbak.

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Why The Queen's Christmas Decorations Remain On Display Until February (via Hello!)

Our decorations were packed away yesterday, after the twelve days of Christmas had concluded.

I noticed a story about why the Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas decorations remain on display until February 6. Looking around it seems various media sources have been reporting the story; the earliest I found was from Hello! back on December 26.

The reason is sentimental, sweet, and long-standing.

Read about it at Hello! (or google the subject and take your pick of sources)

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The Origins Of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’

Hallelujah is a song composed by Leonard Cohen and performed by hundreds of popular music artists.
Come Christmas time you may hear another set of lyrics that have been composed as a seasonal (Christian) version.
If you want to know more about the background of the song this Mental Floss article has a few facts I hadn’t read before.

The article makes the observation that the many, many, many (too many) renditions of the song might make it seem overexposed, but the word at the heart of the song “Hallelujah” is both an invitation to, as well an expression of, praise.

In 2009, after the song appeared in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, Cohen agreed with a critic who called for a moratorium on covers. “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told The Guardian. “But too many people sing it.”
Except “Hallelujah” is a song that urges everyone to sing. That’s kind of the point. The title is from a compound Hebrew word comprising hallelu, to praise joyously, and yah, the name of god. As writer Alan Light explains in his 2013 book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah,” the word hallelujah was originally an imperative—a command to praise the Lord. In the Christian tradition, it’s less an imperative than an expression of joy: “Hallelujah!” Cohen seemingly plays on both meanings.


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Life Beyond The Meme For Hide The Pain Harold (via The Guardian Online)

One of the faces that launched thousands of internet memes features an image sourced from stock photos of a mature aged gent with a fixed smile and eyes that seem to portray mixed emotions about the situation he’s found himself in.
He was dubbed ‘Hide the pain Harold.’
Oddly enough he features in large numbers of memes aimed at pastors.
I have no idea why.
None whatsoever.

This article from Guardian online relates how András Arató, of Budapest, came to be the subject of the photo, and how he has sought to claim the identity that had achieved online notoriety, even making something of a later-life career out of the situation.
Turns out he really is smiling on both the outside and the inside.

Well worth a read:

I’m 74 now. I spent 40 years as an engineer. I did a bit of public speaking then, at conferences and lectures, but that was very different from appearing on television talkshows and YouTube videos. As an engineer, it was really me. Now, it’s role play: I’m Hide the Pain Harold. But I’m not actually a sad guy – I think I’m rather a happy one.

Read the whole article at Guardian online.

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People Who Don’t Know The Answers To Obvious Questions (via Amit Katwala at Wired)

This article is part of a recurring feature at Wired where people write about their obsessions.
Amit Katwala’s obsession is with people who don’t have an answer for online surveys where the answer should be obvious.
For example, apparently, “Three per cent of Brits ‘don’t know’ whether they’ve tried surfing before” and “five per cent of Brits don’t even know if they’ve planned their own funeral.”
Perhaps it says something about demographics, comprehension, or the reality that there is a significant number of folk out there who just don’t know, don’t care, or just want to mess up survey results.

From the article.

So what’s going on here? It’s possible – and probably quite likely – that people selecting ‘don’t know’ to these questions aren’t actually unclear about whether they pay attention during airline safety demonstrations or if they’ve ever nicked anything from the self-service checkout.
Sometimes it might be because they don’t understand the question, don’t care about the question, or don’t want to to be honest about just how much time they’re spending with their finger jammed up a nostril. There are also a small number of people who simply tick ‘don’t know’ to every question, although YouGov says its panel team typically removes people that do this.
Read the whole post at Wired.

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The Two Women Who Create The Names For Generic Prescription Drugs (via David Lazarus at the LA Times)

This column from the LA Times responds to a question about the way prescription drugs are named.
Not the brand names, there are marketing departments that do that, but the pseudo-chemical sounding names that are used for those drugs when referred to in non-brand contexts.
Turns out that a couple of women in an office in Chicago create them.
An interesting job.

The aim is to avoid products being given “generic names that sneakily come too close to the original manufacturer’s name or the eventual brand name, which could give the company an unfair advantage after the patent expires and generic makers try to compete.
In other words, the generic has to be sufficiently different from the original brand so no confusion is possible.”

Read the article and meet the two staff members of the United States Adopted Names program at the LA Times.

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Mathematics And Perfect Reverse Parking

It’s always a bit of a surprise when maths proves to have practical relevance in everyday life.
Here’s some links to articles on the subject.
The researchers in London who did the math.
And Men’s Health magazine translates it into prose for those of us who are non-math types.
1. Pull alongside the car ahead of the spot you want and align your rear tires with that car’s bumper.
2. Turn your wheel toward the curb as far as it will go.
3. Back up until the center of your inside rear tire aligns with the street side edge of that forward car. Straighten the wheel and keep backing up.
4. When your outside tire aligns with that same edge, turn your wheel out toward the street and keep reversing.