When Thomas Edison invented the electric lightbulb, he could hardly have imagined that one day his creation would be used not only to illuminate homes around the world, but also to transmit data that would enable people to download information from satellites in space to small hand-held devices. However, with the introduction of Li-Fi, household lighting could soon double as a form of data transmission that is up to 100 times faster than Wi-Fi.
Li-Fi, which was first invented by Harold Haas of the University of Edinburgh in 2011, uses visible light communication (VLC) to send data at extremely high speeds. Essentially, this works like an incredibly fast signal lamp, flashing on and off in order to relay messages in binary code (1s and 0s). In previous lab-based experiments, the technology was able to transmit up to 224 gigabits per second. To put this in perspective, Wi-Fi is capable of reaching speeds of around 600 megabits per second.
The technology has now been deployed in real-life situations for the first time, thanks to the work of Estonian start-up Velmenni, which has begun trialling Li-Fi in offices and other industrial settings in Tallinn. In these environments, they were able to achieve connection speeds of around one gigabit per second.
Aside from its superior speed, Li-Fi also boasts a number of other benefits over Wi-Fi. For instance, the fact that the signal is carried by optical light means that it cannot travel through walls, therefore enhancing the security of local networks. Obviously, this produces a number of limitations as well, since it suggests that connection will be lost if a user leaves the room, representing a major hurdle that must be overcome if the technology is to be successfully implemented.However, if this barrier can be surmounted, then the use of the visible spectrum could allow Li-Fi to send messages across a much wider range of frequencies than Wi-Fi, which operates between the frequencies of 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz.
As such, it has been suggested that Li-Fi could provide the answer to increasing frequency congestion as Internet usage continues to rise across the world. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, global monthly data usage is expected to exceed 24.3 exabytes by 2019 a volume which current wireless connections are not able to handle.
In a recent TEDtalk, Haas insisted that household LED light bulbs could easily be converted into Li-Fi transmitters, providing Internet users with more efficient connections. All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission, he said. It is also worth mentioning that the speed at which these LED’s flicker in order to relay data is too fast for the human eye to perceive, so users will not have to worry about annoying flashes in their ambient light.
While it remains to be seen if Li-Fi can feasibly be implemented across the world, VLC is already finding a number of useful applications. For instance, Disney is currently developing a number of products that use the technology, including a range of toys such as a magic wand that can activate light bulbs on a princess dress.
Silly Billy’s Toy Shop is twenty years old this year, this means we have had children in from birth up to twenty years old, some of whom, by now, have left their family home and are spreading their wings on their own, this post (not written by Robert A Williams) is dedicated to them and those young people who are about to leave home for the first time.
I’ve had no shortage of terrible roommate situations.
Some conned me out of rent, while others abused my pets and judged my sex habits.
Honestly, I’m so over it. Its high time for this independent lady to fly solo.
My roommate now is a sweetheart, but the situation is so good precisely because she’s rarely home. As a result, I have the apartment all to myself most of the time.
There’s nothing sweeter than parading around naked without fear of being caught.
Living by your own damn self might sound like it’ll be lonely. Trust me, though, you’ll grow like you wouldn’t believe.
You might even surprise yourself along the way.
1. You are totally capable of entertaining yourself.
No coming to your roommate or parents, asking to hang out.
If you got no plans tonight, it’s just you. That’s a good thing.
Netflix and chill with your own fly self for once.
2. Silence is OK.
Goodbye, four-hour-long wine binges with roommates.
No more using conversation to stay sane.
If you live alone, its time to get crafty.
3. You can party harder than you ever though possible. You can also regret it more.
With no one to judge you coming home at 4 am three nights in a row, you can go as hard as you want with no shady side eyes cast in your direction.
Dealing with the hangover is miserable, though.
4. Dealing with sadness solo is preferable to crying on someone else.
If you had an awful day, your roommate won’t be there with a shoulder to cry on.
Bust out the wine and bake some brownies, because this night about making you feeling less like rubbish.
There’s no one to notice if you eat the whole pan of sweet things, so it hardly even counts.
5. You are a one-woman (or man) cleaning wonder when you try.
Someone has to do those dishes. And take out the trash. And do the laundry.
Sure, you’ll mess up once. Or even twice.
But, you eventually do learn. Those are life skills no one can take away from you.
6. Cobwebs? Cockroaches? Yeah, you got this.
Dad won’t come with a broom and a vacuum.
It’s on you to protect yourself from that spider, so put on your big girl / boy panties and squish that spidey or catch it in a glass and take it outside (more humane)
Oh, and cry about it in the shower afterwards.
7. Surprisingly, loneliness won’t kill you.
Spending the night by yourself is one of the most relaxing things in the world.
Before long, you’ll be ditching your friends for other plans. AKA napping.
8. Improvising in the kitchen is totally acceptable.
Does anyone actually buy kitchen scissors?
You can use a knife or a box cutter for that. Or, in my case, eyebrow scissors.
Just make sure you’re washing them afterwards.
(Editor should mention at this point that his teenage daughter uses the Kitchen Scissors for cutting up Pizzas, which is a very good use if you have no Pizza Cutter)
9. Finally, a chance to find your own design aesthetic.
When you’re the only one decorating your apartment, you develop taste real quick.
Hello, Banksy prints that no one else can ruin.
10. Loving yourself might be more important than loving anyone else.
Seriously, you have way more fun when your dates or room mates aren’t involved.
There’s finally time to get to know yourself.
11. Say hello to personal boundaries. Emphasis on personal.
You can be the kind of person who washes his/her sheets every week.
Or, more realistically, the person who waits at least a month before throwing all that bedding in the laundry.
12. “No”, is your new favourite word.
If your room-mate had plans, you probably tagged along.
Now, the only invitations that don’t get a “no” occur within two blocks of your place.
OK, one block.
Fine, in your living room.
13. Who needs guests?
You just want to do all the gross stuff people do when they’re home alone.
14.Sexual boundaries cease to exist.
There’s no such thing as “too loud,” “too weird” or “too illegal.”
Actually, you’re probably doing something wrong if you don’t have a closet dedicated to toys and chains.
Jim Galtons tenure as the president of Marvel Comics got off to an alarming start. He was just settling into his new desk when his predecessor who had never been informed of his own firing returned from vacation, walked into the office and demanded, Who are you? A stunned Galton immediately ushered him to lunch at the Players Club to break the news, whereupon the outgoing president clutched his chest and fell to the floor.
Such was the daunting work culture cultivated by Galtons abrasive boss, Sheldon Feinberg, CEO of Marvels parent company, Cadence Industries. From the start, Feinberg made it clear to Galton that Marvels future was uncertain, unless its performance could be turned around in two years.
Within months, the solution serendipitously appeared when Marvel editor Roy Thomas pitched an adaptation of an upcoming science-fiction movie that was in preproduction in Tunisia. Galton hesitantly approved, and it turned out that making a Star Wars comic book was a good decision, in fact, he would later say, it saved the struggling Marvel.
Galton, who died on June 12 at the age of 92, was in charge of Marvel from 1975 to 1990, a stretch in which the company attained corporate respectability, expanded from newsprint to graphic novels, and broke industry sales records. He relentlessly pursued merchandising deals, and steered Marvel’s first major forays into Hollywood.
When Galton arrived at Marvel, from the paperback publisher Popular Library, he hadn’t looked at a comic book since the Captain America adventures of the 1940’s, and still regarded them as kids stuff. After he learned that Marvels magazine arm was publishing titles like Stag and Male, he recoiled, and then quickly sold them off, deciding that the corporate proximity to Spidey Super Stories was inappropriate. Well into his tenure, he continued to consider comics a medium that was a few rungs down the ladder, an outlook that sharply contrasted with that of Stan Lee, who often invoked Shakespeare and Picasso. When a Los Angeles Times reporter asked Galton if comics were literature, he replied: I think you have to define literature. Is Judith Krantz literature? Then comics are literature.
Perhaps, as they say in politics, his thinking on the issue evolved. Galton was smart and flexible enough to eventually shepherd the company into an era of higher-quality printing, graphic novels, and placement in bookstore chains. He strove to establish independence from independent newsstand wholesalers, and embraced the so-called direct market, in which dedicated comic shops largely a domain of adult consumers would purchase product at a greater discount in return for waiving the option to return unsold inventory.
In the mid-1970’s, Marvel licensed several characters for live-action television; Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Captain America made it to the air. After Warner Bros. Superman movie became a blockbuster hit in 1978, Marvel began a campaign of full-page ads in Variety, attempting to entice potential licensees (The Man Called Nova is but one of over 100 exciting Marvel characters ready right now) or to farm out its creative powers (Would you like us to create a character for your next motion picture or TV production?)
Eventually, Galton and Stan Leewhod been a vocal, almost solitary booster of the idea that the Marvel Universe was perfect for Hollywood convinced its parent company, Cadence Industries, to invest money in launching a Los Angeles animation studio. Galtons instinct, again, was in putting comics where the children wereand in the early 1980’s, that meant Saturday morning television. Decades before there was a Lego movie franchise, Marvel was using comic-book storytelling skills to build fictional universes for toy lines like G.I. Joe and the Transformers. But the movies would have to wait. Outside of the 1986 disaster that was Howard the Duck, and low-budget, direct-to-video Captain America and Punisher movies, nothing escaped development hell.
Galton was one of a half-dozen Marvel co-owners from 1983, when Cadence privatized to avoid a takeover from the investor Mario Gabelli, and 1986, when it was sold to New World Pictures. He stayed on as President throughout New Worlds tenure, before retiring in 1990, shortly before Ron Perelmans Andrews Group took the company public.
A few months earlier, Jim Galton claimed one parting victory: the first issue of a new Spider-Man series sold more than two million copies. It was the best-selling comic book in history.
She doesn’t like to compare herself to Santa Claus, but for hundreds of children, she’s been just that.
This is one happy little boy. GIFs from “One Toy at a Time.”
Rina and her small team have visited 22 countries in the past 18 years to deliver small gifts throughout the world.
She’s reached hundreds of children. But why focus on toys? Why not just donate money instead?
For starters, toys help to create a child’s sense of imagination and ownership. “These kids have nothing,” Rina told me. “Often I have to spend time with the children convincing them that the toy is theirs. They can protect it, feed it, bathe it, negotiate with it, or do whatever. Something as simple as that is something they rarely experience. It’s powerful and special.”
Toys help kids learn. According to Peter Grey, a research professor at Boston College*: “Toys help children to explore possibilities of different characters and worlds. Doing so requires a great deal of intellectual effort and helps to exercise social abilities.”
She’s skeptical of donating. “The reason I don’t just donate money is because I don’t know where it goes,” Rina told me. “Will the people who need the money actually get it? At least when I visit these places, I know they’ll get something because I’m the one handing it to them.”
Rina and Jared are not wealthy. Far from it, actually. Jared works for the U.S. Department of Defense as a contract administrator and is also in the Navy Reserve. Rina is an actress who works in commercials, a career that doesn’t always provide a steady income. Currently they live in a modest trailer in Van Nuys, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles.
Would they love to donate thousands of iPads instead of secondhand dolls and clothes? Would they love to combat poverty at a systemic level? Maybe. But they’re doing what they can with the means afforded to them. During a good year, they’re lucky to bring home a combined $70,000 in salary. That’s pretty good in today’s world, but once you factor in that this project now has a yearly price tag of $35,000 to execute, it changes things.
“We don’t have a big house, cable television, fancy restaurant dinners, or the newest computers,” Rina says. “But I have the greatest husband in the world, a wonderful son, and a great mission. When I look at those children smiling, I know that we are truly making a difference.”
In a world of armchair activists where everyone has an opinion on how someone chooses to improve the world, I hope people will look at Rina and be thankful that she’s doing something. In this instance, the “something” she’s doing is extremely valuable.
The painful reality that she can’t do it alone.
No matter how hard she tries, and no matter how many toys she brings, there’s no way that every child will receive one. That absolutely crushes her.
After keeping the project in relative stealth mode for almost two decades, she knew it was time for a change, so she and Jared began reaching out to the public.
Rina and Jared admit to not having the time or expertise to manage a full-blown nonprofit, so they’ve partnered with an organization that receives 5% of the contributions to cover administrative and management costs, letting the couple focus on delivering toys and smiles.
A documentary called, “One Toy at a Time” will be released in 2016, as well.
“I didn’t want the attention before, but now I know we need help,” Rina told me. “I feel like I’ve done a lot, but there is only so much I can do.”
You can’t put a price on the happiness of a child.
Rina and her team are going to make their final trip of 2015 to Nicaragua before Christmas. Even though many view her as Santa Claus, she shrugs off any comparisons. She just wants to see more kids grow up to be happy.
“Happiness is measured in smiles. If these toys can help more kids smile and learn, they will hopefully become happy adults.”
Speaking of smiles, this little girl below has a beautiful one. Her mother worked long hours selling coconuts near Santiago, the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic. The doll Rina provided moved the mother to tears and gave this little lady one of the happiest moments of her life.
As if LEGO’s weren’t enough of an awesome childhood toy, one teacher has found another awesome educational/developmental use for this super-toy – as a math education aid! Alycia Zimmerman, a 3rd-grade teacher in New York, uses them to explain fractions, squares and other mathematical concepts.
“In the classroom, the tiny bricks are now my favorite possibility-packed math manipulative,” she writes in an article for Scholastic that goes more into depth about these bricks’ potential uses.
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From backpacking around the world to writing a bestseller, more and more women are choosing to spend their maternity leave in a variety of unusual ways. BBC News speaks to the new mums who swapped sleepless nights for long-haul flights.
For every mother who travels in the months following the birth of their child, there are many more who will rub their sleep-deprived eyes in disbelief that anyone could even contemplate navigating a new country alongside nappy changes.
But there is a growing number of women enjoying the so-called “baby gap year” and who see no reason to stay at home when children arrive on the scene.
The travel blogger
Nurse Karen Edwards saw maternity leave as a golden opportunity to see the world and had no qualms about doing so with her husband and 10-week-old daughter in tow.
The family first headed for the other side of the world to live in father Shaun’s native country, New Zealand, before backpacking through six countries.
By the time Esm was 10 months old, she had taken in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and inspired her mum to set up her blog, Travel Mad Mum.
Mrs Edwards happily admits most of her friends with kids thought she was a “bit nuts” to attempt her travels. She said before flying to New Zealand she had “lots of doubts”.
“I was psychologically nesting and didn’t want to leave home,” she said. “There were some tears but once I got on the plane I was fine.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing once they were on the road, however.
She wrote: “Despite all the great photos and everything, we are not trying to pull the wool over your eyes and trick you. Babies will be babies.”
But her tales of long-haul tantrums and boiling up sweet potatoes in a kettle to keep a fussy eater happy have turned her into an authority on backpacking with a baby.
Her work has gone on to feature in Cosmopolitan, the New York Post, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times.
The 31-year-old added: “I guess you could say Esm has not had a typical first year of life. She’s been around the world twice and visited 12 counties.”
Justine Roberts swapped careers in investment banking and journalism to set up advice forum Mumsnet after a “disastrous” family holiday when her twins were a year old.
She came up with the idea for the website after the children caught a tummy bug and struggled with jetlag at a holiday resort which was “completely unsuitable”.
Mumsnet now boasts 96 employees, a third of whom have the option of working flexible hours.
The 48-year-old said the success of the site, which has 9.4 million unique visitors per month, took her by surprise.
“I remember telling people for years that our offices were being refurbished,” she joked, recalling the website’s humble beginnings at her home in London.
“Once I was trying to do an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, holding the door shut with my three-year-old twins saying “Mummy! Mummy!” outside the door.”
Ms Roberts credits the “natural break” motherhood gave her as the inspiration to take a new path in life.
“I think it’s a period where you are thinking about your life a bit,” she said.
However, she said any would-be “mumtrepreneurs” needed to have childcare in place before embarking on their business plans.
She said she found the world of internet start-ups to be “very young and very male”, and not always an easy place for a woman to navigate.
Louise Ross gave up a career in law before having her first child and began writing her first murder-mystery bestseller when her son was six months old.
She said having a child helped her become a writer as it “put things in perspective”.
The 31-year-old said: “I was already a creative person before, but having a child honed it.
“I might have procrastinated longer, or taken more time before finishing the book, had I not been aware that I had limited time and more responsibility outside of myself.”
Ms Ross had already decided to retrain and had spent her pregnancy doing a fast-track psychology course, but put everything on hold following the birth of her son.
She said: “For the first few months, it was hard to find the time to do anything except care for him and become accustomed to the sleep deprivation.
“But I would say by the time he was five or six months old, I was taking things in my stride a lot better and he was in a very nice daytime routine which meant that I could pick up my laptop again [and write] for an hour here and there.”
Once Ethan started childcare, the author completed her debut novel, Holy Island, within four months.
I opted to spend my maternity leave abroad in the US after my husband was offered a job in Massachusetts.
When my second child was two months old, we packed our belongings into four very large suitcases and hopped across the Atlantic for a year of adventures.
I discovered my kids loved skyscrapers, travelling on the Boston T, visiting Dunkin’ Donuts, and even started talking with the trademark Boston accent.
It was a year of contrasts, from guilt about leaving my toddler’s favourite toys and loving grandparents behind, to excitement about visiting Boston’s world-class museums and taking trips to LA and New York.
Homesickness hit hard at times, particularly in January and February when illness struck, temperatures plummeted to -20C (-4F) and 7ft (2.1m) of snow fell in one month.
Compared to my first maternity leave – an endless merry-go-round of library rhyme-times and baby swimming groups – it was a stimulating, but occasionally a lonely and exhausting time.
Life after maternity leave
The adventures need not stop once maternity leave ends according to mother-of-three Marietta d’Erlanger.
She swapped life in Devon and took her children aged seven, five and 18 months to Kenya, where her partner was researching a book about running.
The family lived like the residents of their adopted hometown of Iten, shopping for food at the market and befriending neighbourhood children.
They also visited Nairobi and the coast and experienced camping out in the bush, listening to the roars of nearby lions as they slept in their tent.
But being blonde and English, Mrs d’Erlanger said they often found themselves “mobbed” wherever they went.
Two of her children tried attending a local school, but refused to go back after finding themselves the centre of attention.
A further trip to Japan saw the children take in a different culture but a recently proposed move to Colombia was vetoed by the youngsters.
“It’s got harder now they are older,” the 42-year-old mum said. “They didn’t want to go. They don’t like being the centre of attention.”
‘OK to be ordinary’
Some may find tales of “power maternity” inspiring. But blogger Katie Kirby, who runs Hurrah for Gin, said it is not the typical experience for a mum with a newborn.
“Each to their own but I wouldn’t say that power maternity leave was the norm,” she said.
“Looking after small babies and children can be physically and emotionally exhausting. When I was on maternity leave I chalked the day down as a success if I managed to put some clothes on and pop to Tesco for some milk.”
Fellow writer Emma Conway, who runs Brummy Mummy of 2, agreed.
“I think women who manage to use their maternity leave to achieve something like a career change or a fantastic adventure are amazing. But sometimes it’s OK to be ordinary.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as mothers and I think that the last thing we need to do is worry about how we are going to spend our ‘year off’.”
Psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley said women should treat maternity leave however they see fit – whether that be by staying at home or going on the road.
“Maternity leave is whatever you want it to be,” she said. “For somebody who wants to be a natural mother, to be all-embracing and very spiritual about it, that’s fantastic.
“If they don’t feel that way, and they are inspired to travel or set up an online business, that’s good too.
There are now multiple places on the Internet to review Silly Billy’s Toy Shop, and if you didn’t know then it really helps all businesses small and large to get online reviews. Silly Billy’s depends on the loyalty of its local customers, as well as those from further away.
Notably this year we have had customers from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Japan, plus many more places besides.
We are so grateful for the customers who regularly visit us from near and far that we put an Advert in the Local papers each year to thank them. Last year’s (Christmas 2017) is below
Our EBay shop regularly sells to overseas customers and as such we have a very very broad reach. It really really helps our online visibility if you could take the time to review us and now there are more places than ever to review Silly Billy’s Toy Shop.
So if you have ever shopped with Silly Billy’s either online or in our new Retail Shop in Hebden Bridge, HX7 6EN then please leave us a review. It will only take a few moments and would mean so much to us and help us with our online visibility. As you can imagine we do not have the resources for online marketing and sales like those held by Argos, Smyths Toys and the other big competitors in our market-place who can simply buy their way into the online visibility. For us it takes time and energy and a great deal of help from customers and followers like yourselves.
All change with the one pound coins soon enough, the exact date is Sunday 15th October 2017 and on that day the old one pound coins will no longer be legal tender so please don’t expect us at Silly Billy’s Toy Shop to be taking the £1 coins on that day.
Why was the old £1 coin changed ?
Over the past 30 years, the old round coin has grown increasingly vulnerable to counterfeiters – in fact, the Royal Mint states one in 30 £1 coins is fake, quite a large amount really.
For twenty of those thirty years Silly Billy’s Toy Shop has been handling the old pound coins.
So it was time for a change. The new £1 is thinner, lighter and larger and includes a hologram-like image which alternates between ‘£’ and ‘1’ when seen from different angles, you will no doubt have already seen this on the new £1 coins that have been available since March this year (2017). There is also a secret high-security feature built into the coin itself – which will, so they say, protect the coin from counterfeiting. That’s the idea anyway.
So just like with the old £5 note we are giving our customers plenty of notice, for the next two weeks we will happily take your old £1 coins, though not the counterfeit ones, we know how to tell these apart.
How Much is an Original Pound Coin Worth today ?
SINCE the original £1 coin was first minted in 1983, inflation has wiped away two-thirds of its value in real terms, according to recent analysis by M&G Investments. Pretty crazy really. M&G Investments said when the eroding impact of inflation is taken into account, a £1 coin left sitting in a piggy bank since 1983 would be worth around 32p.
M&G Investments also worked out that if £1 had been put in a cash savings account in 1983, it could now be worth around £1.33 in real terms.
If the same £1 had been invested in stocks and shares, its real value could now be around £11.66 (who says gambling doesn’t pay?)
All of this aside, put the date in your diary and make sure you have no old round £1 coins kicking around in any children’s piggy banks or other places and that they have all been spent by Saturday 14th October 2017. Ideally, come and spend your old and new pound coins with us here at Silly Billy’s in Hebden Bridge
In 1998, the government passed an amendment pushing for more gender-neutral practices in schools. Lotta Rajalin a preschool administrator took the idea and ran with it. In 2011, she and a group of colleagues opened up Egalia.
Walking in the door, you might notice some simple changes. Toys are de-segregated, for instance; dinosaurs, dolls, and motorcycles all end up in the same bin. The books lining the walls are more modern tales rather than old-fashioned stories of knights and princesses.
The biggest change is probably in the teachers themselves.
Egalia has made a point to hire more male teachers. They’re careful not to tell boys to “suck it up” after a fall or tell girls it’s not appropriate to be rambunctious expectations they themselves admit to harboring in the past.
Even the language they use is different. In the Swedish language, there are two typically used pronouns: “han” for “him” and “hon” for “her.” But when it comes to jobs and roles, Egalia has also embraced the somewhat more obscure gender-neutral “hen.”
They also make sure this linguistic care extends to group activities as well.
“We dont say, ‘Come on, boys, lets go and play football,’ because there might be girls who want to play football,” school coordinator Frida Wikstrm told The Guardian. “We say ‘friends’ instead because it puts yourself on an equal level.”
The school isn’t trying to get rid of gender. It’s gender-neutral, not gender-blind.
A pair of “emotion dolls” at Egalia. Photo by Fredrik Sandberg/AP/Scanpix Sweden.
Critics have labelled the project as “gender-madness,” accusing the school of trying to brainwash the kids into a genderless homogeneity. Egalia’s not trying to do that. Gender is an important part of people’s identities, and the kids are free to embrace those differences.
But it’s also true genders can come with a lot of baggage. Science shows that pretty much as soon as kids understand that different genders exist, expectations and stereotypes start to creep in. When teachers and other adults talk, kids listen.
Gender is a complex subject. We still have a long way to go socially and even more to study. But when it comes to just letting kids play the way they want, without stereotypes bearing down on them, that seems pretty sane.
Each year there’s an autumn weekend which is anticipated with particular glee: the one in which the clocks go back. The prospect of an extra hour in bed is certainly enticing, and the Sunday has duly been labelled National Sleep In Day. But the fact that sleeping in is designated to this one particular day betrays something else that idleness is seen as wasteful, self-indulgent. A lie-in is only encouraged when time itself moves to accommodate it.
For some perspective on how the idea of laziness has changed over time, we could do a lot worse than consider the natural worlds undisputed champion of indolence the sloth. Because the one thing everyone knows about sloths is that they are slothful. The clue is in the name.
But its a name with a long and curious history. Sloth entered the English language in the early 12th century as a term for mental and physical sluggishness. It wasnt until the early 17th century that the word was applied by European explorers to tree-dwelling mammals in central and south America. Sloth, in other words, was the name of a human quality long before it was the name of a distinct species of animal.
And sloth is not any old human quality; it is along with envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride and wrath one of the seven deadly sins, a catalogue of depravity that has been circulating in one version or another since early Christian times.
Abraham Bloemaert, Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, 1624. The devil sows weeds in the field while lazy peasants sleep.
Definitions of the sin of laziness have changed notably over the centuries. What we now call sloth was originally understood as an occupational hazard for the early Christians known as the Desert Fathers, the hermits and monks whose punishing regimes of piety, prayer and self-denial exposed them to the temptations of de-motivation and listlessness and a sorrowfully distracted state of torpor known as acedia.
In the medieval period, as sloth superseded acedia in the religious vocabulary of the time, the concept broadened to encompass all forms of sinful inactivity and work-shy idleness, from neglecting everyday chores to falling asleep in church. The particular danger of sloth, in the medieval imagination, was as a gateway sin. Anyone who is prone to idleness is, by definition, going to lack the energy to resist the temptations not just of sloth but of all the other sins. For this reason, popular tales of people who were victims of their own laziness too lazy to move as mice nibble away at their ears, too lazy to cut the noose from which they are about to be hanged had significant currency in the medieval imagination.
Its fair to say that the seven deadly sins don’t have quite the grip on the imagination that they once did. Images of sloth in the modern world have precious little to do with its origins in early Christian theology. For example, in recent years major UK furniture retailer Sofaworks has run a high-profile advertising campaign starring Neal the Sloth, who is every bit at home lounging on this firms various chairs and sofas as his fellow sloths are in their natural rainforest habitat.
A spin-off website, which sells Neal merchandise, excitedly announces that owing to the success of the sloth campaign the world has gone sloth mad. The arrival this summer of London Zoos latest baby sloth, Edward, would support this: he was greeted with widespread press coverage and thousands of YouTube viewings of the tiny nocturnal mammal clinging to a sloth-teddy from the Zoos gift shop.
What, we may ask, would a time-travelling visitor from the medieval period make of our fondness for sloths? They would probably be slightly perturbed to find a deadly sin as the stuff of soft furnishings and cuddly toys.
We could reassure our sceptical visitor that its possible to learn a thing or two from sloths. They live a low energy lifestyle; they are generally peaceable; and they understand the virtues of taking your time. Any animal that takes two weeks to digest a meal could certainly teach us a valuable lesson in the virtues of mindfulness and contemplative patience. The sloth is the perfect mascot for a culture that is looking to cure itself of addiction to a hyperactive 24/7 work ethic. Now that we have rehabilitated sloths as the slacktivists of the animal kingdom, perhaps the time has come to formulate a laziness ethic as an alternative to the work ethic that has dominated our society for so long.
But a closer look at sloth merchandise reveals that work and laziness arent always quite so easy to separate. Take Rob Dirckss humorous self-help book, Unleash The Sloth!. The book promises to provide 75 ways to reach your maximum potential by doing less. Who wouldnt want to unleash their sloth? But do we really have to do so in 75 different ways? Unleashing the sloth is beginning to sound like hard work. Which is to say that even a tongue-in-cheek book, which is all about cutting corners and streamlining your life, is still part and parcel of the busybody culture of personal growth, self-improvement and enhanced productivity.
Even the most unapologetic attempt to champion inactivity call it sloth, laziness, idleness, rest does so in the name of activity and productivity. Laziness has a job to do whether its selling sofas, cuddly toys or books. And so sloth, despite our affection for the creature of that name, retains its place as one of the deadly sins of the 21st century.