The Miniaturist

I am currently watching the atmospheric BBC Television adaptation of the novel The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. It concerns Petronella (Nella) Oortman, the poor, eighteen-year-old daughter of an impoverished and recently deceased country gentleman whose Mother advises her to marry a wealthy merchant named Johannes Brandt, who is rich and in his late thirties. Following the wedding Nella moves to Johannes Brandt’s luxurious home in Amsterdam where she meets his aloof cold sister Marin, who is in her twenties, and the servants Cornelia and Otto. However Nothing is as Nella expects. Marin and Johannes behave suspiciously, Then when Johannes, eventually does come home from his busy work he seems curiously uninterested in Nella, treating her more like a friend than a wife.

Brandt gives Nella a wedding present of a dollhouse designed to look like their nine-story home in miniature, However Marin is angry and considers it a waste of money. Nella asks a miniaturist to add realistic furnishings to it. These are delivered by a young chap named Jack Philips. Nella notices that the three items she ordered are suspiciously lifelike. including models of Johannes’ two dogs, a chair and a cradle. Gradually The miniaturist, whom she never meets, begins sending her more lifelike dolls and furnishings which are eerily accurate giving Otto serious misgivings about the miniaturist and soon Nella also starts to feel uncomfortable.

Meanwhile Johannes continues working for the Meermanses whose wealth consists of a large store of sugar from Surinam. Agnes is the overdressed and bling-laden wife, Frans the indulgent husband. Agnes loves to play status games, flaunting their supposed wealth in a way that even her husband seems to find embarrassing and Marin clearly despises. Nella decides she’s going to visit Johannes at his place of work but gets a bit of a shock.

Nella discovers many secrets from Cornelia and encounters a mysterious woman in town. Jack gets jealous, and Agnes suspects that Johannes is up to no good when she witnesses something shocking which could get Johannes executed. Then Otto and Johannes disappear and Gradually Nella discovers a world of secrets, lies and religious hypocrisy, whose pious façade disguises a hidden web of illicit passion, Murder and Jealousy involving Johannes, Marin, Otto, Cornelia, Jack, Frans and Agnes. Then a visit to Marin’s chamber reveals that there are hidden passions beneath the cold, Calvinist exterior, and that Marin is hiding a rather large secret of her own regarding Frans Meermans. Meanwhile The Miniaturist starts sending more miniatures which include cryptic messages which start taking on an ever more symbolic nature, that seem to mirror reality until it appears as if the dolls have a life of their own and the Miniaturist actually has the power to influence peoples fates…

Junkanoo/ Kakamotobi

Junkanoo is a street parade with music, dance, and costumes of Akan origin in many towns across the Bahamas every Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day (January 1), the same as “Kakamotobi” or the Fancy Dress Festival. The largest Junkanoo parade happens in the capital Nassau, New Providence. There are also Junkanoo parades in Miami in June and Key West in October, where local black American populations have their roots in The Bahamas. In addition to being a culture dance for the Garifuna people, this type of dancing is also performed in The Bahamas on Independence day and other historical holidays. Dances are choreographed to the beat of goatskin drums and cowbells.

Junkanoo may have been named after a folk hero named John Canoe or it may have been derived from the French gens inconnus (unknown people) as masks are worn by the revelers. There is a possible Igbo origin from the Igbo yam deity Njoku Ji referencing festivities in time for the new yam festival. There may also be a link with the Igbo okonko masking tradition of southern Igboland which feature horned maskers and other masked characters in similar style to jonkonnu masks. Many of the colonies Jonkonnu was prominent, Bahamas, Jamaica (as Jankunu), Virginia celebrated Jonkonnu. Similarities with the Yoruba Egungun festivals have also been identified. However, an Akan origin is more likely because the celebration of the Fancy Dress Festivals/Masquerades are the same Christmas week(Dec 25- Jan 1st) and also John Canoe was in fact an existing king and hero that ruled Axim, Ghana before 1720, the same year the John Canoe festival was created in the Caribbean.

The festival may have originated several centuries ago, when slaves on plantations in The Bahamas celebrated holidays granted around Christmas time with dance, music, and costumes. After emancipation the tradition continued and junkanoo evolved from simple origins to a formal, organised parade with intricate costumes, themed music and official prizes within various categories. The Junkanoo parade has featured in movies including the James Bond film Thunderball (erroneously described as a local Mardi Gras-type festival), After the Sunset and Jaws The Revenge, as well as in the season one episode “Calderone’s Return (Part II)” of the 1984 television series Miami Vice, taking place on the fictitious island of St. Andrews. In the television show Top Chef: Allstars Season 8, episode 13, “Fit for a King”, the contestants danced at the Junkanoo parade, learned about its history and competed to make the best dish for the Junkanoo King.

Charles Babbage FRS

Mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer and English Polymath Charles Babbage, FRS was born 26 December 1791. Babbage attended country school inAlphington near Exeter, then attended King Edward VI Grammar School in Totnes, South Devon, but his health forced him back to private tutors for a time Babbage then joined Holmwood academy, in Baker Street, Enfield,Middlesex, The academy’s library kindled Babbage’s love of mathematics. He studied with two more private tutors after leaving the academy. He was brought home, to study at the Totnes school: Babbage was accepted by Cambridge University and arrived at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1810, where he formed the Analytical society in 1812 with John Herschel and George Peacock ; Babbage was also a member of The Ghost Club, which investigated supernatural phenomena, and the Extractors Club, dedicated to liberating its members from the madhouse, should any be committed to one .In 1812 Babbage transferred to Peterhouse, Cambridge. He was the top mathematician there, but did not graduate with honours, receiving a degree without examination instead in 1814 after having defended a thesis that was considered blasphemous in the preliminary public disputation;

In 1815 Babbage lectured at the Royal Institution on astronomy and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1816. After graduation, Babbage and Herschel visited the Society of Arcueil in Paris, meeting leading French mathematicians and physicists and also worked on a basic explanation of the Electrodynamics of Arago’s rotation with Herschel, and Michael Farraday. These are now part of the theory of eddy currents. He also worked on the unification of electromagnetics. Babbage was also interested in the Coarative View of the Various institutions for the Assurance of Lives and calculated Acturial tables for an insurance Company using Equitable Society Mortality Data from 1762. Babbage helped found the Astronomical Society in 1820, whose aims were to reduce astronomical calculations to a more standard form, and publish the data. In 1824 Babbage won the Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, “for his invention of an engine for calculating mathematical and astronomical tables” to overcome errors made in tables by mechanisation and to improve the Nautical Almanac after decrepencies were found in traditional calculations. Babbage also helped establish a modern postal system, with his friend Thomas Frederick Colby, And introduced the Uniform Fourpenny Post supplanted by the Uniform Penny Post. In 1816 Babbage, Herschel and Peacock published a translation from French of the lectures of Sylvestre Lacroix concerning Calculus, the Formal Power Series which affected functional equations (including the difference equations fundamental to the difference engine) and operator (D-module) methods for differential equations. He also originated the concept of a programmable computer” and invented the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more complex designs.

The analogy of difference and differential equations was notationally changing Δ to D, as a “finite” difference becomes “infinitesimal”. These symbolic directions became popular, as operational calculus, and pushed to the point of diminishing returns. Woodhouse had already founded this second “British Lagrangian School” Babbage worked intensively on functional equations in general, influenced by Arbogast’s ideas. From 1828 to 1839 Babbage was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. Not a conventional resident don, and inattentive to teaching, he wrote three topical books during this period of his life. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of theAmerican Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1832. Babbage planned to lecture in 1831 on political economy. Babbage’s reforming direction Aiming to make university education more inclusive, with universities doing more for research, a broader syllabus and more interest in applications, but the idea was rejected. Another controversy Babbage had with Richard Jones lasted for six years and he never gave another lecture. Babbage also tried to enter politics, his views included disestablishment of the Church of England, a broader political franchise, and inclusion of manufacturers as stakeholders. He twice stood for Parliament as a candidate for the borough of Finsbury. In 1832 he came in third among five candidates, missing out by some 500 votes in the two-member constituency when two other reformist candidates, Thomas Wakley and Christopher Temple, split the vote. Babbage wrote another book Reflections on the Decline of Science and some of its Causes (1830) attacking the establishment and aiming to improve British science, by ousting Davies Gilbert as President of the Royal Society. Babbage also wished to become the junior secretary of the Royal Society, as Herschel was the senior, but failed after antagonizing Humphry Davy. subsequently the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) was formed in 1831.

Babbage used symbols to express the actions of his Difference and Analytical Engines in his influential book Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, which dealt with the organisation of industrial production. And An essay on the general principles which regulate the application of machinery to manufactures and the mechanical arts, was featured in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana. In his book Babbage developed the schematic classification of machines, whether for Domestic or industrial use andThe book also contained ideas on rational design in factories, and profit sharing and described The Babbage Principal. This discussed the commercial advantages available with more careful division of labour This principal had already been mentioned in the work of Melchiorre Gioia in 1815.The term was introduced in 1974 by Harry Braverman. Related formulations are the “principle of multiples” of Philip Sargant Florence, and the “balance of processes”. Babbage noticed that skilled workers typically spend parts of their time performing tasks that are below their skill level. If the labour process can be divided among several workers, labour costs may be cut by assigning only high-skill tasks to high-cost workers, restricting other tasks to lower-paid workers And that apprenticeship can be taken as fixed cost but returns to scale are available favoring the factory system. He also published a detailed breakdown of the cost structure of book publishing exposing the trade’s profitability,much to the chagrin of many publishers and namedthe organisers of the trade’s restrictive practices.

Babbage’s theories also influenced the 1851 Great Exhibition his views having a strong effect on many. Karl Marx argued that the source of the productivity of the factory system was the combination of the division of labour with machinery but mentioned that the motivation for division of labour was often for the sake of profitability, rather than productivity. Babbage also influenced the economic thinking of John Stuart Mill, George Holyoake, the economist Claude Lucien Bergery, William Jevons and Charles Fourier among others

In 1837, Babbage published On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God. A work of natural theology in which Babbage favored uniformitarianism preferring the conception of creation in which natural law dominated, removing the need for “contrivance. It incorporated extracts from related correspondence of Herschel withCharles Lyell. Babbage put forward the thesis that God had the omnipotence and foresight to create as a divine legislator. He could make laws which then produced species at the appropriate times, rather than continually interfering with ad hoc miracles each time a new species was required. The British Association as inspired by the Deutsche Naturforscher-Versammlung, founded in 1822. It rejected romantic science as well as metaphysics, and started to entrench the divisions of science from literature, and professionals from amateurs. Babbage also identified closely with industrialists And Suggested that industrial society was the culmination of human development. In 1838 a clash with Roderick Murchison led to his withdrawal from further involvement and he also resigned as Lucasian professor,

His interests became more focussed, on computation and metrology, and on international contacts And announced A project to tabulate all physical constants (referred to as “constants of nature”, a phrase in itself a neologism), and then to compile an encyclopedic work of numerical information. He was a pioneer in the field of “absolute measurement”.] His ideas followed on from those of Johann Christian Poggendorff, and were mentioned to Brewster in 1832. There were to be 19 categories of constants, and Ian Hacking sees these as reflecting in part Babbage’s “eccentric enthusiasms” Babbage’s paper On Tables of the Constants of Nature and Art was reprinted by the Smithsonian Institution in 1856, with an added note that the physical tables of Arnold Henry Guyot “will form a part of the important work proposed in this article”.Exact measurement was also key to the development of machine tools. Here again Babbage is considered a pioneer, with Henry Maudslay, William Sellers, and Joseph Whitworth

Babbage also met the the Engineers Marc Brunel and Joseph Clement at the Royal Society And introduced them to Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1830, for a contact with the proposed Bristol & Birmingham Railway. He also carried out studies, around 1838, showing the superiority of the broad gauge for railways, used by Brunel’s Great Western Railway ln 1838, And invented the pilot (also called a cow-catcher), the metal frame attached to the front of locomotives that clears the tracks of obstacles; he also constructed a dynamometer car. His eldest son, Benjamin Herschel Babbage, also worked as an engineer for Brunel on the railways before emigrating to Australia in the 1850s. Babbage also invented an ophthalmoscope, however the optician Thomas Wharton Jones, ignored it and It Was only widely used after being independently invented by Hermann von Helmholtz.

Babbage also decoded Vigenère’s autokey cipher during the Crimean War His discovery being kept a military secret And later wrote a letter anonymously to the Journal of the Society for Arts concerning “Cypher Writing” . Babbage lived and worked for over 40 years at 1 Dorset Street, Marylebone, where he died, at the age of 79, on 18 October 1871; he was buried in London’s Kensal Green Cemetery. According to Horsley, Babbage died “of renal inadequacy, secondary to cystitis.” He had declined both a knighthood and baronetcy. He also argued against hereditary peerages, favoring life peerages instead .In 1983 the autopsy report for Charles Babbage was discovered and later published by his great-great-grandson A copy of the original is also available. Half of Babbage’s brain is preserved at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London The other half of Babbage’s brain is on display in the Science Museum, London.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and also celebrated in the Western African Diaspora in other nations of the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first specifically African-American holiday Karenga said his goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest”. The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s, although most East African nations were not involved in the Atlantic slave trade that brought African people to America Kwanzaa was a celebration that has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzu Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage” which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy”.

During the early years of Kwanzaa, Karenga said that it was meant to be an alternative to Christmas. However, as Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Karenga altered his position so that practicing Christians would not be alienated, then stating in the 1997 Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, “Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday.”Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas. Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise of:

*Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason.
*Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
*Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves
*Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
*Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
*Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
*Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
*lmani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed, corn (Muhindi) and other crops, a candle holder kinara with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba), a communal cup for pouring libation (Kikimbe cha Umoja), gifts (Zawadi), a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principle

Boxing Day/ St Stephen’s Day

St. Stephen’s Day, or the Feast of St. Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day to commemorate Saint Stephen. It is celebrated annually on 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church. Many Eastern Orthodox churches adhere to the Julian calendar and mark St. Stephen’s Day on 27 December according to that calendar, which places it on 9 January of the Gregorian calendar used in secular contexts. It commemorates St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr. It is an official public holiday in Alsace, Austria, Balearic Islands, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Catalonia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moselle, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Sweden. The date is also a public holiday in those countries that celebrate Boxing Day on the day instead/as well, such as Canada and England

BOXING DAY

Contrary to popular belief Boxing Day is not a day when you get drunk and have a Punch-up with your relatives, rather it is a secular holiday that is traditionally celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas Day, which is also St. Stephen’s Day, a religious holiday. When 26 December falls on a Sunday, Boxing Day in many Commonwealth countries and former British dominions is moved to 27 December. In the UK, Boxing Day is a bank holiday. If Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, the following Monday is given as a substitute bank holiday. On the occasion when Christmas Day is on a Saturday – with Boxing Day on the Sunday – the following Monday (27) and Tuesday (28) of December both become bank holidays.In Scotland, Boxing Day has been specified as an additional bank holiday since 1974, by Royal Proclamation under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971. In Ireland – when the island as a whole was part of the United Kingdom – the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of St. Stephen as a non-movable public holiday on 26 December.

Since the creation of the Republic of Ireland following partition in 1920, only Northern Ireland officially continues to use the British name ‘Boxing Day’.In Australia, Boxing Day is a federal public holiday. In the Australian state of South Australia, 28 December is a public holiday known as Proclamation Day and Boxing Day is not normally a public holiday. The holiday for Proclamation Day is observed on the first weekday after Christmas Day or the Christmas Day holiday. Nowadays Boxing Day is popular in Australia as the first day of a Test cricket match held at the MCG. A Test match is also often held in South Africa starting on Boxing Day.In New Zealand Boxing Day is a statutory holiday; penalty rates and lieu time are provided to employees who work on the day.In some Canadian provinces, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday that is always celebrated on 26 December. In Canadian provinces where Boxing Day was a statutory holiday, and it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, compensation days are given in the following week

Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and some other Commonwealth nations. In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. In Ireland, the day is known as St. Stephen’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Stiofáin) or the Day of the Wren (Irish: Lá an Dreoilín). In many European countries, including notably Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands, 26 December is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day

The exact etymology of the term “boxing day” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which are definitive.The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship in order to collect donations to the poor. In ancient, pre-Christian Rome, Saturnalia was a Roman celebration during which slave owners would switch roles with their slaves. Gift giving was a part of Saturnalia and benevolence to slaves was a practice which may have influenced the later December tradition of boxing and presenting of gifts to people of lesser status

.Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/ early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day. In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.