POWER NAPS

The corporate world is finally beginning to recognize the advantages of energy recharging periods for its workers. Until recently, management thought the benefits of catnaps applied solely to cats. Groggy staff members were expected to fight sleep and carry on until the 5 o’clock whistle.

Over the centuries prominent world leaders and scientists thought otherwise and included nap times in their daily agendas. Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all hit the snooze button sometime between lunch and dinner and must have looked with favor on discreet napping by staff members. The rest of us risked the same rude awakenings that Dagwood Bumstead receives from Mr. Dithers.

Edison, the prolific inventor, is said to have dozed inside a cupboard in his lab to avoid being disturbed. Another account had him sleeping in a comfortable chair, holding ball bearings in each hand. When he reached the required stage of relaxation, the ball bearings spilled out noisily onto the floor and awakened him. He didn’t patent the idea so you can use it. Marbles should also work but ping pong balls would be useless.

The “Power Nap” may some day be as prevalent in America as the time-honored siesta in southern climes. Sleepy times may no longer be prescribed only for children, the elderly and the ill. Numerous experiments have proven that a short daytime doze will increase alertness, motor skills and memory and will improve morale.

Google now has sleep pods installed in staff offices since its research confirmed the benefits of a 20-minute afternoon nap. NASA has voiced agreement with the nap idea and Nike now has sleep and meditation rooms in its complexes.

The trend, which should put the whole country in a better mood, would have caught on much sooner if we had only paid more attention to our fellow mammals who are polyphasic sleepers with two or more slumber periods each day. My late and sorely missed dog Molly would be snoring beside me now, enjoying her second nap since sharing lunch with me. Soon, Molly would awaken, refreshed and in tip-top shape to take on the mail carrier. What a smart dog she was!

WHAT HAS EDISON WROUGHT?

When Thomas Edison accidentally invented a method to record sound in 1877 he was working on a completely different project and was surprised to hear faint voices coming from the whirling disc of the telegraphic device he was perfecting. He was lucky to hear the captured sound of his and his staff’s muffled conversation since he was quite hard of hearing.

This was the golden age of invention. Edison went on to invent the light bulb and movies while others created the telephone, dynamite, color photography, internal combustion engines, toilet paper, matchbooks and the radio. But apparently no one even imagined that sound could be captured and repeated. When Edison applied for his phonograph patent there were no other applications from competing inventors.

Nature had already provided a couple of ways for humans to capture their speech, but they were impractical and unreliable. There was the echo which required a trip to the mountains and a recording session which usually amounted to one or two shoutings of “Hellooooooo”. One could also train a parrot to repeat his words, I doubt however that anyone ever dictated a letter to a parrot trusting it would be repeated accurately later to a typist without interjected profanity and requests for crackers.

If Edison’s deafness had been a little more profound, the world might be a lot different today. We would still be watching silent movies which would rule out blockbuster productions like “The Sound of Music”. There wouldn’t be a recording industry and TV shows would all be live since reruns would require subtitles for the dialogue.

There would be no robocalls or long radio and TV interruptions for recorded commercials. Store owners who insist on irritating shoppers with recordings of annoying raucous music would have to hire annoying raucous singers and musicians. Sometimes I wish Thomas Alva had turned a deaf ear.

WEIGHT LOSS: NOT REMOTELY POSSIBLE

Some medical experts predict that by 2020, three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese. They suggest we immediately moderate our diets and begin exercising daily. Fat chance!

Instead, one bold legislative stroke would help reverse the trend by requiring licensing of TV remote control devices and making it as difficult to get that license as it is to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Any person capable of waddling unaided to his or her refrigerator would be ineligible.

If licensing isn’t politically possible, calorie expenditure and muscle-toning could be improved if the remote devices were only available in heavier designs, perhaps in the size and weight of bowling balls and dumbbells. Another advantage of king-sizing would be the remotes would not easily slip between the couch pillows or end up in a jacket pocket and ultimately, the washing machine.

Way back in pre-remote days, as a channel surfer, I would cover a quarter mile in my average size living room on any evening trudging back and forth to change channels or to silence annoying commercials or politicians.

With the New York Mets and Yankees games airing on separate channels, I’d expend as many calories as one of their infielders in my lunges from couch to TV to keep up with both games. The same applied to Sunday’s New York Giants and Jets football games. I was exhausted after hours of broken field running around the coffee table to the channel knob.

There was a primitive voice-activated remote control system back then. I would call out, “Carolyn, please change the TV to Channel 2 for Daddy.” But that wasn’t always reliable. Carolyn was in kindergarten then and wasn’t sure what 2 looked like. If she happened to come across a cartoon show, all was lost.

MISSING SOLE MATES

I don’t wear short pants much anymore, not even on hot summer days because I don’t always have available matching socks. It’s embarrassing to walk around in public wearing unmatched socks and it might be weeks before a matching sock turns up after hiding inside a shirt that it crept into during the rinse cycle.

Or maybe it will never turn up. That’s a great unsolved mystery that the government, and even the public, fails to take seriously. If they would only do the numbers they would realize the enormity of the problem.

Each year my socks drawer loses about 10 escapees. That doesn’t sound like much, but if every American has the same AWOL sock count, and assuming a couple of ounces per runaway sock, that would come to over 200,000 tons (yes, tons) of footwear wandering around out there someplace. Wake up America!

If all those missing socks are marching through our waste water systems to our rivers and oceans, they’re creating rising underwater mountains of hosiery that will eventually become hazards to navigation. Also, the addition of over three billion sweaty socks into our seas is bound to have a harmful effect on marine life and the delicate taste of broiled tilapia.

There is also an unsubstantiated report of sighting Emperor Penguins in Antarctica wearing unmatched argyle socks. Although we knew they must have cold feet, we’ve resisted interfering with their life style which could be harmful.

This problem is not going to go away. We’re not going to run out of socks. Datang, a small Chinese town, has been nicknamed “Sock City”. Its plants turn out 8 billion pairs a year. In 2011 Datang made enough socks to provide two pair for every person on the planet. It has enough capacity to clothe the feet of the United States and British armies with sideline designs for rugged hikers and pampered pets.

Instead of casually tossing our socks into our washing machines without keeping proper inventory records, we could have them dry cleaned. It would be more expensive and time-consuming, but there would be a paper trail with receipts and accountability. Completely biodegradable socks would be good for the environment but would not reduce the runaway count.

There is one possible solution that was invented over 5,000 years ago during the Bronze Age – tribal tattoo socks. We could wear fleece-lined boots during the winters.

AHA! MOMENTS

Serendipity is the unexpected discovery of something valuable or useful. Perhaps these events are God’s crib notes for us, His way of helping slow learners figure out some of the puzzling parts of His complex universe.

When a Stone Age man accidentally dropped a flint stone onto a rock containing pyrite and realized the resulting spark was good news, he might have thought, “Oh great! Now I won’t have to wait for the next scary lightning bolt to start a jungle fire. Goodbye to raw meat dinners!”

The apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head was a serendipity clue that got him started working on the law of gravity. I hope Congress doesn’t try to amend it.

There are other less monumental serendipity events, like when you put on an old hoodie and find a $50 bill in the pouch. If it’s a $50 electric bill, that wouldn’t be serendipity, but at least you’d have finally found out why the power was turned off last winter.

Important serendipity discoveries were made when the persons involved weren’t searching for anything. Biologist Alexander Fleming left a messy lab table when he went on vacation. Returning, he found dead bacteria that had been exterminated by a strange mold, and penicillin was eventually born.

The Kellogg brothers, health food experts, accidentally invented corn flakes when they let a cooked batch of meal go stale. They toasted it, rolled it out, and it emerged in tiny crisp pieces. Percy Spencer, who had a sweet tooth, was doing radar research when he noticed the candy bar in his pocket had suddenly melted. He substituted corn and it popped. He got the general idea and went on to invent the microwave oven. Silly Putty was invented when James Wright gave up trying to come up with a new synthetic rubber formula.

“Eureka!” is the usual shout when a geek suddenly sees the solution to the problem he’s been wrestling with for so long. It’s different with serendipity where there was no known problem to begin with. Sometimes the discovery isn’t all that obvious to the eye witness who might say, “Hey, why did it do that? Oh, shucks, I’m putting in lead and it’s coming out gold. The boss is going to be really angry. The contract calls for lead doorstops. What’s he going to do with gold doorstops?”

TIME AND MOTION

Time and motion studies have improved manufacturing efficiency, lowered production costs and even selling prices, but have aggravated workers to distraction.

In a plant where I once worked, master machinists who’d been turning out perfect widgets with tolerances of a few thousandths of an inch for over 30 years did not appreciate getting instructions from a fuzzy-cheeked time and motion study guy on how to do it faster. For one thing, it takes time to insure accuracy. For another, why do it faster when you’re getting paid by the hour?

It sometimes helped if the recently graduated ergonomics expert with the stop watch and clipboard was taller and huskier than the machinist.

When a husband retires and starts spending more time at home, he usually feels he should be helpful and if possible, make life easier for his wife. So he becomes an unofficial time and motion study expert and gives her advice on more efficient ways to cook meals, scrub floors and do the laundry.

In rare cases this has led to increased housekeeping efficiency and more leisure time for the wife, but more typically the result is marriage counseling and minor injuries until the husband finds another job or joins the Peace Corps or the Foreign Legion.

One afternoon at the plant I noticed a hopeful sign of unity when I went out into the shop. The machinists and time study guys stood side by side chatting in front of the silent drilling and milling machines while peering toward the entrance.

Then I caught sight of Miss Zowie strolling in to fetch the day’s production report, on time as usual, bless her. Workers and experts agreed, Miss Zowie was quite pleasant to look at. Forget time. For a few moments they would just study motion.

MY GORILLA HABITAT

I had just mowed my lawn and was standing on our back porch looking down at the finished work. It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. It certainly didn’t resemble the outfield at Yankee Stadium or a fairway at Pebble Beach. It was someplace else that was much less attractive. And then it hit me.

I’d taken pictures at the San Francisco Zoo years ago. They pop up on my computer screen once in a while. I suddenly realized my backyard looks a lot like the gorilla habitat pit at that zoo. Visitors, standing behind railings, look down at the great apes lounging in the vegetation outside their shelter. My yard’s terrain and flora are quite similar to that zoo’s, a very natural, untamed setting with various types of unsightly anonymous greenery, chewed, not by noshing gorillas, but by my old noisy mower which is actually far more dangerous than any gorilla.

As for fauna, there are no gorillas of course and I don’t intend to adopt any to complete the picture. Dian Fossey, the “Gorillas in the Mist” author said the huge silver-backed males are extraordinarily gentle. Maybe so, but I’m sure my neighbors and their pets would be uneasy with my new tenants.

We do have an annual meandering black bear visit, but Smokey seems to prefer our lake shore area a block or so west of here. So mostly there are our resident squirrels who live off the million acorns falling from our big oaks and whatever they can steal from my bird feeders. Once in a while a wandering deer, a cottontail rabbit or a raccoon will pass through, denuding the gardens and tipping the garbage cans looking for leftovers. Skunks will stop over now and then. I rarely see them, but they have a way of letting you know they’ve been around, just something in the air.

Then, of course, there are the pesky lions who arrive every spring. You’ve seen them, the brightly-dressed ones, the dandy lions.