Happy Birthday USA & Canada!

From coast to coast across North America there will be parades, picnic, concerts and fireworks celebrating Canada Day on July 1 and Independence Day on July 4.

FlagsUSCanadaIt’s birthday time for the neighbors!

Canada Day is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, 1867, which united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. Originally called Dominion Day, the holiday was renamed in 1982, the year the Canada Act was passed. Canada Day observances of this 150th birthday will take place throughout Canada as well as among Canadians internationally.

Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

In both countries a large percentage of the population gets the nation’s birthday off and many retailers, government offices, libraries, schools and services shut down.

Celebrations such as fireworks or parades will generally be held on this day. In major cities across the continent celebrations begin early in the day and continue into the evening, with concerts, games and other festivities.

Our Brains Take Shortcuts

Our brains are good at some things but not others. We are terrible at crunching numbers, for example. The brain takes shortcuts and makes snap judgements instead of carefully deliberating the facts, according to Jeff Stibel, a vice chairman of Dun & Bradstreet and a brain scientist.

Business owners should consider experimenting with prices. Thanks to brain science, we now know that even a one-cent change can make a big difference.

CrunchingNumbersThe human brain is likely to round down to make a product appear to be a better value. Being aware of this can make you a more careful buyer. Numbers are an easy place for the brain to take a shortcut. We tend to be great at making estimates but horrible at rounding. When our brains see a price tag with lots of numbers, they automatically estimate, so $4.99 ends up closer to $4 than to $5; $66,999 becomes $66,000 or sometimes even $60,000. Psychologists have known this for decades, and economists now begrudgingly admit it too.

Researchers found that there is a big sales difference between $2.99 and $3, but dropping a product’s price from $2.24 to $2.23 does not yield a measurable sales increase. Relative pricing plays a significant role: A product’s price compared to the products physically surrounding it can impact its sales.

This is why gas stations not only charge per gallon to the nine-tenths of a cent but also price match to the nearby competitor. The human brain is especially good at making either/or comparisons and especially bad at decimals.

Rounding bias becomes more important for a larger purchase. A $399,000 house is pretty much $400,000, but not in your mind: your brain shortcut system will try to suggest it’s closer to $300,000.

To combat this, physically write down the price on a piece of paper, strike through it, and rewrite the appropriate number by rounding up. The best defense is always a strong offense.

Billionaires Ready for the Apocalypse

A rising number of American billionaires are snapping up large tracts of land. Some are doing it in preparation for an apocalyptic event – be it viral epidemic, nuclear war or cataclysmic pole shift.

Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a notable investor, told The New Yorker earlier this year he estimates more than 50% of Silicon Valley billionaires have bought some level of “apocalypse insurance,” like an underground bunker.

doomsdayAn article in Forbes suggests the super-rich are making serious land grabs in America’s heartland, where the climate is mild and the locations are conducive to survivalism, farming and living on the land. States like Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming are home to a number of fortified shelters and vacation homes where wealthy billionaires could happily live out their post-doomsday or retirement days.

According to Forbes contributor Jim Dobson, lots of billionaires have private planes “ready to depart at a moment’s notice.” They also own motorcycles, weaponry and generators. None of the billionaires named by Forbes have said publicly that their vast amounts of land will be used for apocalypse preparations – though they certainly would make good hide-outs.

John Malone, who made his fortune in cable and communications, is the nation’s biggest individual landowner. Malone owns 2.2 million acres across six states including huge swaths of Maine and New Hampshire. The cable king told Forbes in 2011 that he made the land grabs as an investment. He said he loves to fish and occasionally bird-hunt on his properties.

Media mogul Ted Turner, the second biggest individual landowner in the US, owns 2 million acres across Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

Philip Anschulze, a railroad and oil magnate, locked down 434,000 acres in Wyoming. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has 400,000 acres in Texas. And Stan Kroenke, owner of a massive sports and entertainment holding company, bought 225,000 acres in Montana.

Real estate tycoon David Hall, a Mormon engineer, has been snapping up farmland in Vermont. He wants to build sustainable, high-density communities based on the writings of religious figure Joseph Smith.

Nearly 1 in 3 People Overweight

Nearly a third of the world’s population is obese or overweight and an increasing number of people are dying of related health problems in a “disturbing global public health crisis,” acording to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Some 4 million people died of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other ailments linked to excess weight in 2015, bringing death rates related to being overweight up 28 percent since 1990, according to the research.

“People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk,” said Christopher Murray, one of the authors of the study. In 2015, excess weight affected 2.2 billion people equal to 30 percent of the world’s population, according to the study.

Almost 108 million children and more than 600 million adults weighed in as obese, having a body mass index (BMI) above 30, said the research that covered 195 countries. More than 60 percent of fatalities occurred among this group, the study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington found.

BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared, and is an indication of whether a person is a healthy weight. A BMI score over 25 is overweight, over 30 is obese and over 40 is morbidly obese.

The World Health Organization says obesity has more than doubled since 1980, reaching epidemic proportions. Obesity rates among children were increasing faster than among adults in many countries, including Algeria, Turkey and Jordan, the study said. Meanwhile, almost 800 million people, including 300 million children, go to bed hungry each night, according to the United Nations.

Poor diets and sedentary lifestyles were mainly to blame for increasing numbers of overweight people, experts said. Urbanization and economic development have led to increasing obesity rates also in poor countries where part of the population doesn’t have enough to eat, as people ditch traditional, vegetable-rich diets for processed foods.

“People are consuming more and more processed foods that are high in sugar and fat and exercising less,” said Boitshepo Bibi Giyose, senior nutrition officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Research in Mexico, Brazil, China, South Korea and Britain by London-based Overseas Development Institute has shown that the cost of processed foods like ice cream, hamburgers, chips and chocolate has fallen since 1990, while the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables has gone up.

History of Irish Surnames

The earliest known Irish surname is O’Clery (O Cleirigh). It was written that the lord of Aidhne, Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh, who died in County Galway back in the year 916 A.D. In fact, that Irish name may actually be the earliest surname recorded in all of Europe, according to the website Ancestry.com.

Until about the 10th century in Ireland, surnames were not passed down from generation to generation. Instead, surnames were patronymic, or based on someone’s father’s name. A person was identified by his given name plus “mac,” meaning “son of,” followed by his father’s name.

For instance, Brian mac Colum was Brian, son of Colum. Brian’s son might be Finnian mac Brian (Finnian, son of Brian). The female form of “mac” is “nic,” shortened from the Irish iníon mhic. Alternatively, the prefix “o” was sometimes used in place of “mac” and meant “grandson of” or “descended from.” If Colum was well known, his grandson might have gone by the name Finnian O Colum.

There were no fixed surnames, so a surname changed every generation or two. That can make tracing your family tree a bit complicated for thr 14% of Canadians and 10.5% of Americans descended from the Irish.

Even without hereditary surnames, those names still hold clues. For example, that person named O’Clery or O Cleirigh (or Ua Cleirigh) was the grandson or descendant of someone named Cleirigh. (“Ua” was an earlier form of “O.”)

It was around the 1100s, as the population was increasing, that people in the upper social classes started taking hereditary surnames (those that remain fixed over the generations); others didn’t need surnames, or even get around to them, until the 1500s.

Another strong influence on Irish names came with the Norman invasion of 1169, when a lot of Anglo-French names came marching into Ireland (this, too, is when the Latin-derived prefix “Fitz,” meaning “son of,” first came into Irish names). It’s from this influence that some of the names we now consider Irish — Costello, Power, Burke, and others — first entered the scene.

In the 1500s, the influence of the English was beginning to make itself felt in Ireland. Ireland was experiencing religious persecution and invasions, and many changes came to the island — including the changing of Irish names, steadily but surely over the ensuing years, into ones that sounded more English.
An example of this was the common Irish surname Mac Gabhann, which meant “son of a smith.” Some Mac Gabhanns, living in County Cavan, had their name translated to Smith and it remained that way. Others outside that area resisted, but the spelling became anglicized and they became Mac/McGowans. This was very common. In many cases the prefixes Mac and O were discarded.

Many surnames originated as occupational or descriptive names. That earliest known name, O Cleirigh (O’Clery), was someone descended from a clerk; Mac an Bhaird (Ward) was son of a bard; and Mac Labhrain (MacCloran) was son of a spokesman. Descriptive names were names that described the first person to take them. The first person with the name Dubh (Duff) (“black” or “dark”) was probably dark featured. Other descriptive surnames include Bane (“white”), Crone (“brown”) and Lawder (“strong”).
Irish toponymic surnames, deriving from a place where the original name bearer once lived, are rare. They include Ardagh, Athy, Bray, Kelly, Sutton, and a few others.

The most common Irish surnames in Ireland haven’t changed much for a century. Here are 10 of them:

1. Murphy — The Anglicized version of the Irish surname Ó Murchadha and Mac Murchadha, meaning “sea warrior.”

2. Kelly — The origin of this Irish name is uncertain. An Anglicized version of the Irish name Ó Ceallaigh, it can describe a warrior or mean “white-headed,” “frequenting churches” or “descendant of Ceallach.”

3. O’Sullivan — (Ó Súileabháin or Ó Súilleabháin in Irish). In 1890, 90 percent of the O’Sullivans were estimated to be in Munster. Many people agree that the basic surname means “eye,” but they do not agree whether the rest of the name means “one-eyed,” “hawk-eyed,” “black-eyed” or something else.

4. Walsh — This name came to Ireland via British soldiers during the Norman invasion of Ireland and means “from Wales.” It’s derived from Breathnach or Brannagh.

5. Smith — This surname does not necessarily suggest English ancestry, as some think; often the surname was derived from Gabhann (which means “smith”).

6. O’Brien — This name came down from Brian Boru (941-1014) who was king of Munster; his descendants took the name Ó Briain.

7. Byrne (also Byrnes; O’Byrne) — from the Irish name Ó Broin (“raven”; also, descendant of Bran); this dates to the ancient Celtic chieftain Bran mac Máelmórda, a King of Leinster in the 11th century.

8. Ryan — This name has various possible origins: from the Gaelic Ó Riagháin (grandson or descendant of Rían) or Ó Maoilriain (grandson/descendant of Maoilriaghain) or Ó Ruaidhín (grandson/descendant of the little red one). Or it may be a simplification of the name Mulryan. It means “little king.”

9. O’Connor — From Ó Conchobhair (grandson or descendant of Conchobhar; “lover of hounds”).

10. O’Neill — Anglicized from the Gaelic Ua Néill (grandson or descendant of Niall). The name is connected with meanings including “vehement” and “champion.” The main O’Niall family is descended from the historic “Niall of the Nine Hostages.”