Today I read a story in the New York Times about the small town of Jackson, NY and their effort to make English the official language of the town. English versus Spanish and immigration and border debates have been hot topics in the last few months.

Many people in the United States do not realize that the country has no official language. The 2000 US Census reported that 300 languages are spoken in households throughout the country. English is spoke at home by 82% of the population but is not the official language, only the most commonly spoken. The second most common language spoken is Spanish, at 12% of the population. The third most common languages spoken are the forms of Chinese languages, which make up about 2 million speakers.

Twenty nine states have English as the official langauge of business and government. However, this most does not have an impact on the U.S. official language.

I believe that America is a country that purposely has no official language because it was built by immigrants who did not necessarily all speak the same language or originate from the same culture.

However, I will leave it up to my readers to decide what they believe.

What do you think?


In a recent post, The Daily Beast blog named the Craziest Cities in America. Apparently the criteria was the following: Psychiatrists per capita, Stress, Eccentricity, and Drinking. Okay, I can see how these factors come into play when examining for craziness. Rowdy drinking is probably the first on the list for me in terms of craziness. Then it would be followed by eccentricity, because eccentric people basically make a city interesting and crazy on its own, nothing wrong with a few nuts running around. Stress at home and on the job could also probably create a bit of stress. But psychiatrists per capita? Really? That just means that a bunch of men and women who have medical degrees have congregated in a specific area. It DOES NOT mean that the population is necessarily mentally unstable.

The largest city in my state of Rhode Island, Providence was named #3 on the list of craziest cities.

Psychiatrists per capita: 6 out of 57
Stress: 38 out of 57
Eccentricity: 21 out of 57
Drinking: 7 out of 57

I know that Providence is probably tiny compared to all the other cities on the list, so maybe that’s why it has so many psychiatrists? Anyway, Cincinnati is the craziest city. Who knew? Apparently those Mid-Westerners know how to have a good time and go a bit nuts on the way there.

This week I came across an interesting article from the New York Times about the new immigration legislation passed by the state of Arizona. Here is a link to the article: This is a highly debated topic in many national news organizations and around the United States, raising the issue of racial profiling.  President Obama has even come out and called the legislation misguided.

I’m not sure how I feel about this topic. I know illegal immigration is a large problem in border states, but I have never been personally effected by this because I live in the Northeast. I thought the NYT article linked above gave a human face to immigration, but it did not address the problems with illegal immigration in terms of tax paying and job security for citizens. I think I can see both sides of this issue, and have not come to a conclusion for myself.

I love taking Internet quizzes and getting all the neat little results that are supposed to tell you something about yourself. Today’s quiz I found in my email through a service called Media Buzz, which gives me advice about finding a grown up job in marketing, advertising, or PR. The Title: How outgoing are you?

If you know me, even a little bit you know I love to talk. I love telling stories, asking questions and generally learning about humanity. Outgoing is sometimes an understatement. So no shock came to me when my result after answering 14 questions was the following:

You are totally outgoing


You might have guessed this already, but you’re probably the life of the party everywhere you go and a really big personality. More likely than most people to feel energized after interacting with others, your outgoing personality is definitely a great asset in the workplace and in your (probably incredibly active) social life. Networking and the ability to make new friends are key aspects of success.
But remember that there’s definitely a time to listen to the other person. There’s a value to thinking before you speak and sometimes spending time working things out with yourself can really help you discover new solutions. Who knows what you could learn!

The graphic that accompanied the post is a bit strange, but I think the fact I have a “big personality” was very right. I sometimes get in trouble for talking too much, or saying anything that comes to my mind. My family and friends of my childhood would tell you I used to be a shy child. Now, I can do any type of public speaking and talk to almost anyone. I guess growing up has a profound affect on the evolution of personality and communication skills. Writing has always been my way of expressing my unique viewpoints to the world and now I have the verbal communication skills to match that.

Try the quiz for yourself and tell me if it is correct for you!

The United States Census is not something that excites every American citizen. In fact, it usually starts a political debate among citizens, which always has the potential to get ugly.  Since the time of George Washington in 1790, the Constitution has mandated that every person be counted in the country every ten years.

In 2010, the citizens of the United States will be counted once again in a lengthy process that actually creates temporary jobs for many people in a depressed economy. The first census that I was aware of occurred in 2000, when I was around 12 years old. I remember seeing the census paper on the kitchen counter, and looking over the questions that it asked. I wondered why we needed to fill it out and why the government did not already know my name, age and address. Ten years older, and one college education later I now understand the complexities of this system and why it is implemented.

Lately, I have looked at old Census documents for a historical project and was actually quite amused or even appalled at the lack of political correctness of the questions asked on early census records. Due to privacy laws, census records can only be released to the public after 72 years. The oldest census I viewed was from 1930, and it had my grandpa on it as a small child! I’m a history geek, so this may not be relevant to all my readers and I get excited with small discoveries such as that.

I have compiled a list of the five most interesting questions asked on the censuses of years past. These questions can range from ridiculous to downright cruel, but none would be asked in 2010.

1. Do you own a radio set? (1930)

Why would the government need to know this? Television had not been yet invented and radio was extremely popular in 1930. But asking people if they owned one? I do not think the federal government needs to know that.

2. Is this person deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper or convict? (1840)

Lumping people with physical and mental disabilities, as well as the poor and the criminal is not a good idea. Blind is one thing, murder is something completely different. Good thing they separated these categories in later censuses and then did away with it all together.

3. Whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy ? (1910)

4. Number of slaves (1800)

5. Color- White (w); Black (B); Mulatto (M); Chinese (C); Indian (I)  (1870)

There were only five races in 1870 in the United States? False! Indian and Chinese are not the only two Asian races that exist in the world. I also agree that today’s race identifiers are limited, but the ones of 1870 were ridiculous.

Facts about Census (from Census website)

  • The first census began more than a year after the inauguration of President George Washington. At its conclusion, the U.S. population totaled approximately 3.9 million and the largest cities were New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Boston, MA.
  • Following the abolition of slavery in 1865, ex-slaves were named in the 1870 census for the first time. Before then, they were simply recorded numerically by age.
  • The 1900 census included Hawaii (annexed in 1898) for the first time. Census takers counted approximately 154,001 inhabitants on the islands.
  • The 1940 census collected information about the population and its housing. It was also the first decennial census to use advanced statistical sampling techniques. Sampling allowed the addition of a number of demographic questions without unduly increasing the overall burden on respondents and data processing
  • Census 2000 incoroporated a $167 million advertising campaign to reach every person living in the United States. This advertising contributed to a reversal in the decline of response rates experienced since the 1970 census.

(All facts from

A History of The Presidential Signing Pen (clip)

The afternoon commute often can be long and tedious, so I often listen to NPR to pass the time. One of my favorite programs by far is All Things Considered, which highlights various viewpoints on current topics. In light of President Obama’s signing of the Health Care Reform Bill the reporter talked about a little known tradition surrounding  bill signing.

This tradition is that of the personalized presidential pen, which according to Time Magazine was begun by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and then symbolically gave away 75 presidential pens to Congress members and others who had supported him on the bill. The first pen he gave away was to Martin Luther King Jr.

Apparently this process can be very long, because the president has to actually sign the bill with each individual pen, sometimes one letter at a time. Obama only used 22 pens for this bill, but imagine when LBJ had to use 75 for his signature! I like a good ceremony, but this one seems painstakingly long. Many of these pens stay with the original recipient but many are housed in presidential museums.

The Associated Press has a YouTube clip which I will embed below, which shows him physically signing the bill:

Last week during a channel surfing session, I came across the Oprah show, which had an interesting theme, genealogy. Oprah talked to Lisa Kudrow, an actor who is part of a new NBC television show called Who Do You Think You Are? This program documents the journeys of seven American celebrities, who research their family heritage across the globe. I decided to record last week’s episode of the show, which airs 8 pm EST on NBC, and was pleasantly surprised with the experience.

As a student of history, I have always been interested in genealogy and family history. In my family, we have been lucky enough to have written records, clippings, and photographs that document the history of my paternal grandfather’s branch of the family. In my aunt’s home sits two volumes of pure genealogy published in 1915 and 1923 that tell the story of my family in America and list all the known ancestors of the period. However, we have never looked that closely at the old dusty volumes until a few weeks ago. What I found in those books delighted my whole family, particularly my grandfather. My family came to America from Surrey, England in 1638, only 18 years after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock! This inspired a renewed interest in genealogy for me, and some interesting stories to uncover.

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