September 22 - Anniversary of the Peace of Basel in Switzerland

 Posted on September 22, 2021

This is an update of my post published on September 22, 2010:

In keeping with yesterday's Peace Day, today we honor a peace treaty. 

WAY back in 1499, after months of fighting between the House of Habsburg and the Old Swiss Confederacy, the Swiss emerged triumphant, and Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, had to sign a treaty that made Switzerland quite independent of the Roman Empire.

(It remained nominally a part of the empire until the mid-1600s, but after the Peace of Basel, Swiss were exempt from jurisdiction and taxes. In other words, for all practical purposes, Switzerland was independent.)

Switzerland is a small landlocked country in Europe. It is known for its natural beauties, especially the beautiful mountains - the Alps! It's also known for banking and fine watches, an amazing tennis player named Roger Federer, chocolate and cheese, and peace and neutrality.

Swiss speak

Nestled between Germany, Italy, and France, Switzerland has people with German as their native language, people whose mother tongue is Italian, and people whose first language is French. But it's not enough for Switzerland to have three official languages—it has four, since there are 30 or 40 thousand people who speak Romansh as their mother tongue!

Swiss money

The only time I've been to Switzerland, in 1999, I had a mix of monies from the various countries I had visited on that trip: German Deutsche marks, Italian lira, and Austrian schillings. I still had a few U. S. dollars in my wallet, too, but of course no Swiss francs. I sighed as I realized that I would have to go to a bank to convert all these sorts of money to Swiss francs—it's a bit of trouble to do so, but more importantly, you lose money in transaction fees every time you convert it.

Naturally, it was a Sunday, so the banks were closed.

I wanted an ice cream cone, and I wasn't sure I could pay for it. We had paid for our hotel room with a credit card, but back then, people didn't accept credit cards for small amounts.

At least, most people in the world didn't, but I soon found that the Swiss were different. Shop owners and even street vendors took EVERYTHING – money from other countries, credit cards (even for one-dollar purchases), debit cards, traveler's checks – everything! I was so happy as I traded my now-useless lira and schillings for a double scoop of ice cream.

Of course, nowadays most European nations use the same currency, the euro. But not the Swiss - they still use the Swiss franc. However, I am positive that almost everyone accepts euros as well!

Swiss neutrality

In keeping with its unprecedented independence within the Holy Roman Empire, Switzerland has maintained a neutral stance in world affairs since 1815. This country has diplomatic relations with almost all countries, and it was able to stay above the fray even during the two World Wars. (Hitler drew up plans to attack Switzerland but never did.)

Partly because of the strong stance of neutrality, many international organizations are located in Switzerland. These include the international Olympics headquarters, the World Health Organization, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and many others.

Celebrate Switzerland!

  • Listen to the legend of Wilhelm (William) Tell. (Remember that a legend isn't necessarily true, although it might be based on truth.)

  • Read the fiction book Heidi, by Johanna Spyri (available free online). Or watch one of the movie versions of the story.

  • Eat some Nestle's chocolate. (Henri Nestle was Swiss, and his company made the first milk-chocolate.) 
  • Here is a puzzle of the Swiss flag (which has been adopted as the sign of the Red Cross) against the background of a blue sky. 

Also on this date:

September 21 - Peace One Day

Posted on September 21, 2021

This is an update of my post published on September 21, 2010:

Launched by British filmmaker Jeremy Gilley in 1999, Peace One Day was adopted in 2001 by the United Nations as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence. It is called, variously, the UN International Day of Peace and Peace Day.

Jeremy Gilley

It is a day to talk about non-violence in our homes, communities, and schools, and to create programs to increase peace at all levels of human interaction.

Is there a peace rally or program in your area? If not, consider creating one. You can do something small or virtual today, and plan a larger action for next year. The people behind Peace One Day are partially trying to get the word out about the day—because if the world can create one day of peace, perhaps it can move toward a real and lasting peace.

One Day One Goal is a program to see football (in the U.S., it's called soccer) matches played on Peace Day in every country in the world.

For more ideas...

Find out if there are any local former Peace Corps volunteers to honor (contact the Peace Corps here)... create dove ornaments or fold paper cranes... write letters to your government... decorate fences and walls and yards and and and... There are lots of ideas here.

This cool yard sign can be purchased from Piccustom


September 20 - Happy Birthday to Patent Leather!

 Posted on September 20, 2021

This is an update of my post published on September 20, 2010:

On this day in 1818, Seth Boyden (of Newark, New Jersey) began commercial production on patent leather for shoes, boots, and other accessories.

Boyden wanted to create a dressier leather and did some experiments to see what would look and feel good. He found that, by giving fine-grained leather a series of linseed-oil-based treatments, he could create a shiny black leather. His glossy new form of leather quickly became popular for formal dress.

Although today Boyden's linseed-oil treatment has been replaced by synthetic resins (in other words, a variety of plastic finishes), today patent leather is still popular. Note that there are shoes and accessories created from non-leather materials, such as plastic and faux leather, that are shiny and that look and feel somewhat like patent leather. Some vegetarians may prefer these synthetic materials, but some people feel that they are a cheap substitute for real patent leather.

Patent leather is not just black, and it's not just shoes!
Above, a gold patent leather vest for a dance costume.
Below, red patent leather shoes for a dressy event.

It's a matter of material...

Here are some of the materials that are commonly made into clothing and accessories:

furs and skins (leather)
cotton (from the cotton plant)
flax (linen)
wool (from sheep)
silk (made by silk worms)
down (feathers)
human-made (synthetic) fibers such as nylon, polyester, and spandex

Suede (a kind of leather)

Knit wool

A variety of cotton fabrics


Here are some less-common clothing materials:

recycled plastic
animal horns and shells for buttons or decorations

Soy fabric

Lakota dress decorated with shells

Fabric made from recycled bottles

Horn button

Loose-weave cloth proudly announcing
that it is made from hemp

And of course shoes and bags and other accessories may be made out of many more materials, including wood, bone, rigid plastic, rope, and on and on...

Recycle your clothing!

Hand clothes down, make a quilt, or do some of these craft projects.