International Workers’ Day

Posted on 02. May, 2016 by in Uncategorized

Countries all over the world celebrate May 1st as International Workers’ Day. Also known as May Day or Labor Day in some countries, this is a day to honor the working class and the struggle for workers’ rights. The day was chosen to commemorate the Haymarket Affair, which took place in Chicago on May 4, 1886. Even though this event happened in the US, Labor Day is not celebrated on May 1st but rather the first Monday in September. Let’s learn a little bit about the history of this holiday and why it’s not celebrated on May 1st in the US.

The Haymarket Affair

By Harper's Weekly ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Harper’s Weekly ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After the Civil War, industrial production increased greatly in the US. The city of Chicago was a major industrial center. While this was good for business, it wasn’t so great for the workers. People worked around ten hours a day for six days a week. Soon the city also became a center for organized labor, with workers getting together to demand better conditions. Their main goal was to achieve an 8-hour workday. The slogan of the working class came to be, “Eight hours’ labor, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest.” In late 1884 at a convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, May 1, 1886 was set as the date when the 8-hour workday would become standard.

On that day, thousands of workers across the country went on strike and held rallies. “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay!” could be heard in cities like Detroit, New York, and of course Chicago. Two days later, violence broke out between strikers and police at the McCormick Reaper plant. A few of the strikers were killed and many more were wounded.

The next day, about 3,000 people gathered for a rally in Haymarket Square. Labor leaders such as August Spies, Albert Parsons, and Samuel Fielden addressed the crowd. Although many expected trouble, it was a peaceful event. The Mayor even went home early as he believed everything was calm and orderly. When the last speaker finished, however, a large group of police marched on the rally and ordered the crowd to disperse. A home-made bomb was thrown into the path of police, who responded with gunfire. In the end, seven police officers and 4-8 civilians were killed, while many more were wounded. Learn more about the Haymaker Affair in this video series from PBS:

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The Aftermath

August Spies. Image by stephen boisvert from

August Spies. Image by stephen boisvert from

To this day, no one knows who threw the bomb in Haymarket Square. Police suspected and arrested eight anarchists, who were tried and convicted. Four of them were hanged, and one committed suicide in jail. In the moments before his death, Spies famously said,”The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

Two years after the Haymarket Affair, the American Federation of Labor set May 1, 1890 as the day when American workers should work no more than 8-hour days. At a meeting of the Second International in 1889, it was declared that May 1st would be an international holiday for laborers. The 8-hour workday was slow to be adopted, as there was much resistance from the business community. In 1914, Ford doubled workers’ pay and cut the workday to just eight hours. These changes were not popular with rival companies, but after Ford’s productivity and profits soared, most followed suit. In 1916, the Adamson Act established an 8-hour day for railroad workers with additional pay for overtime. Finally, the Fair Labor Standards Act established the 40-hour workweek, a national minimum wage, and prohibited child labor in 1938.

Why Doesn’t the US Celebrate May Day?

Occupy May Day. Image by davitydave from

Occupy May Day. Image by davitydave from

After another large strike in 1894, President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday in the US, but he did so on the first Monday of September and not May 1st. He and many others believed that commemorating the Haymarket Affair would give support to communism and other radical causes. Many years later, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law making May 1st Loyalty Day in response to a “red scare” – the fear of the rise of communism. The day has been recognized with an official proclamation from every sitting president since its adoption in 1958.

Although it’s not celebrated as an official holiday, May 1st still remains an important day to many. In 2006, millions of people participated in protests across the country for immigrants’ rights. The Occupy movement also chose May 1st as a day for protests and a general strike. Thousands of people also gathered in Los Angeles yesterday to commemorate the day, including members of the labor movement, immigrant rights groups and Black Lives Matter activists

The Most Annoying English Words Online

Posted on 26. Apr, 2016 by in English Language, English Vocabulary

Image from found at:

Image from found at:

The last thing you want to do is offend someone you haven’t even met by being annoying. Unfortunately, this can happen pretty easily in today’s electronic-based world. We often “meet” people online long before we meet them in person and sometimes we never meet them in person!

I found this interesting list (by of “annoying” words that English speakers use online and I thought it would be a good list to go over so you understand them and avoid using them when possible. Not all of these words are “off limits” of course, but it is a good idea to know that some English speakers will find them annoying or irritating, which can lead to a bad first impression.

The overwhelming theme for why these words are so annoying is that they are overused. When people use a word too often it often becomes cliché or annoying. Your best bet is to try to avoid using these words too much.

Let’s take a look at each of them:

selfie – A selfie is a picture you take of yourself.  People take a lot of selfies these days and post them online, especially on social media. This word is less annoying than the act it describes, which can be very annoying. I guess a good question to ask yourself before posting a selfie is: “How much do other people really want to see a picture of me? The answer is probably: less than I think.

literally – This word comes from the root word ‘literal’. It means ‘exactly’, ‘precisely’, or ‘in truth’. Unfortunately, English speakers misuse this word a lot. People use the word ‘literally’ to emphasize something or to show strong emotion. For example “I literally died the smell was so bad.” This obviously isn’t true, because if a person literally died they would be dead and couldn’t tell us about the bad smell they experienced. Try to use this word sparingly.

awesome sauce – This expression means the same thing as ‘excellent’ or ‘great’. So, why not use one of those words instead? This expression is very informal and should only be used with friends, and since some people find it irritating it might be best to use it very little.

lol, rofl, lolol – These are abbreviations that mean: lol=laugh out loud, rofl = rolling on floor laughing, and lolol is just an exaggerated form of lol. All of these abbreviations are used to indicate that you find something (usually something you see online or on social media) funny.

amazing – This word is used to express great surprise or wonder. It tends to be overused and therefore its meaning has lost some of its strength.  Try to only use this word when describing something that truly cause you to be surprised or in awe.

-ageddon or -pocalypse: These are suffixes that come from the words ‘Armageddon’ and ‘apocalypse’, which both refer to the complete and final destruction of the world. That is a pretty big deal – the end of the earth is no small thing! But the media has recently started to add these suffixes to words that describe natural disasters or storms to make storms sound bigger and scarier. For example some storms have recently been called ‘snowpocalypse’ and ‘snowmageddon’. Using these suffixes is a way of sensationalizing a storm.

yolo – This acronym stand for: you only live once. It implies that you should enjoy life, even if that means taking risks. This is a great sentiment, as it encourages people to live life to the fullest. The problem is some people use ‘yolo’ to describe very mundane daily activities, for example “Yolo so I’ll have an extra piece of chocolate.”

#hashtag – I explain what a hashtag is in this previous post. Hashtags are used A LOT in social media and now people are using the word ‘hashtag’ in their speech as well. This is the reason some people find this word so annoying. Here is an example of how it might be used in speech (remember you don’t want to do this!), “I love getting dinner out with you, hashtag date nights are the best.”

no offense – This phrase is intended to mean ‘please don’t take offense for what I say.’  The only problem is people only use this phrase when they are saying something offensive. It is better to say nothing at all rather than to say something offensive with ‘no offense’ tagged on before or after your remark.

using CAP LOCKS – Using cap locks (or all upper case letters) is the equivalent to shouting when you write. People often use cap locks when they want to emphasize something. Using cap locks is fine now and then, I’ve done it once in this post in fact. Be sure not to write too much with the cap locks on your keyboard though because the person reading what you write will feeling like they are getting yelled at.

Exploring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Posted on 21. Apr, 2016 by in Culture, Travel

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

We already introduced the Great American City of Cleveland earlier this month. Now it’s time to explore one of the city’s most famous attractions – the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

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“One of the most popular places to visit in Cleveland is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This museum dedicated to rock and roll was opened in 1995.

There are many exhibits in the museum, such as the Evolution of Rock and Roll. Learn about the history of this style of music through the roots of rock, and more.

Often referred to as the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley gets his own section in the museum. You can even see his custom-made motorcycle and shiny suit.

In the area titled “Cities and Sounds,” visitors can learn about the rock and roll scene in Detroit, San Francisco, London, Seattle, and more. Other genres are also covered, such as heavy metal and hip-hop.

Many legends are here, such as Aerosmith, the Allman Brothers Band, Michael Jackson, James Brown, David Bowie, the Who, and Bruce Springsteen.

Of course, you’ll also find the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix.

There’s lots to see, from cool cars and drum sets, to Phish’s giant flying hot dog. There are original lyrics on display, as well as many clippings from rock magazine Rolling Stone.

Other special exhibits include the Architects of Rock and Roll, featuring Les Paul and his famous guitars, Video Killed the Radio Star, and on our visit there was one area dedicated to Pink Floyd’s classic album The Wall.

My personal highlight was seeing these original guitars from the Grateful Dead. I also found their names on the wall, and caught them in the short film along with another favorite, Bob Marley. A visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a must for any music lover.”