Archive for the 'Culture' Category

What Exactly is Boxing Day?

It’s something you’ve probably seen on every paper calendar turned to the month of December. Most of us are familiar with Christmas Day on December 25, but we see December 26 marked as Boxing Day and always wonder what exactly that means. I remember asking that exact question to my family when I was younger and this was the explanation my grandmother gave me: “It’s the day when you put all the toys you got for Christmas back in their boxes after you’ve played with them.” Well upon further examination it seems that my late grandmother was more interested in giving me an explanation that kept her house clean than saying she had no idea what it was. In truth we don’t really know how the holiday originated.

Here’s what we do know: There are two possible explanations concerning how the holiday came about. During Advent in the weeks preceding Christmas, the Church of England would set up boxes that the congregation would put money into. The day after Christmas those boxes would be emptied and donated to the poor. The other possible explanation is that the aristocrats of Victorian England would give Christmas presents to their servants on the day after Christmas in boxes and the servants would then have the rest of the day off. In truth though we don’t know for sure if either of those explanations is correct or not.

Another thing we know is that it is a national holiday in the UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia and many other former British colonies. In Britain the holiday has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year, compatible to Black Friday here in America. They also have annual fox hunts and football matches (the kind of football where players actually use their feet) much like we have sporting events on Christmas and Thanksgiving. It is an interesting holiday and no one really knows why it exists. But if this is a holiday you celebrate and you have the day off, well happy Boxing Day!

Also Boxing Day has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Sorry Mr. Ali.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

Why Do We Say Merry Christmas?

I always thought it was quite strange that when wishing someone well on the holiday of Christmas we would say “Merry Christmas.” It is curious because the term “merry” is seldom used in any other context in modern English anymore and it is only used for Christmas. When wishing someone well on just about any other holiday we always say “Happy (insert holiday here)”. In fact during this time of the year phrases like “Happy Holidays”, “Happy New Year”, and “Happy Hanukkah” are all commonly heard. What is it that makes Christmas so special in that respect?

Well, here’s a pretty good explanation why. The first known Christmas greeting in the English language we know about came from an informal letter written in 1699 wishing someone a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” so we know that such a distinction existed since at least then. It is also thought that the phrase “Merry Christmas” got a very strong cultural endorsement by Charles Dickens in his famous novel “A Christmas Carol” where all of the characters would use that phrase in the same way that we would use it today and that became extremely popular thing to say in Victorian England which eventually made its way over to America.

But if you were to go to the UK or Ireland today you will find that many of the people there will be wishing you a “Happy Christmas.” Having lived in England during one holiday season I speak from personal experience. Why is it that they say “Happy Christmas” like any other holiday? One of the explanations as to why that’s the case is that the word “merry” has an alternate meaning in England. As well as “joyous and happy”, it also means “drunk” in English English. This was further reinforced by Queen Elizabeth II in her annual Christmas addresses to her country. Well aware of this alternate meaning she has never once wished her country a “Merry Christmas” during her 61 year reign.

As for me, I agree with the British on this one. The phrase “Happy Christmas” makes far more sense to me rather than using a word that is hardly used anymore outside of December. So with that being said, on behalf of all of us here at Churchill, we wish all of you a very Happy Christmas.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

New York City in the 1990s

New York City or really any major city in the world is in a constant state of change. Old buildings are being torn down while new ones rise up to take their place. Even more buildings are finding themselves remodeled to meet the needs of their current occupants. New business are starting up while others are shutting down. New bike sharing programs are being added to the streets while old rail lines are becoming public parks. I received a reminder about this fact of life when I saw this wonderful collection of photographs of New York City in the 1990s. I always find it somewhat remarkable seeing pictures of old businesses that no longer exist even going back to the not-too-distant past of the 1990s. Pictures like these are a good way to tell what has changed and what has stayed the same over time.


That was back when MTV actually broadcasted music.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

The Lottery Explained By Math

The Mega Millions jackpot is approaching record levels. At the time of this posting the jackpot is currently $636 million. I am currently involved in two lottery pools here at Churchill and would absolutely love to be instantly wealthy from sheer dumb luck. But even though I currently have a stake in about 100 sets of numbers, I’m well aware of the odds. Gizmodo has a good list of things that are more likely to happen than winning the grand prize tonight. Among the highlights are:

Houston Astros Winning the 2014 World Series: 200-to-1
Bowling a Perfect 300: 11,500-to-1
Dating a Supermodel: 88,000-to-1
Getting Struck by Lightning: 576,000-to-1
Being Canonized: 20,000,000-to-1

Business Insider also has a great article concerning the math behind the lottery. I won’t bore you with the various regression analyses but I’ll share some of their conclusions.

1. The takes are incredibly high if you take the lump-sum jackpot. All of it is taxed as earned income so just in federal income tax you’ll be paying 39.5 percent of your winnings straight to the federal government. Taking the money as a 30 year annuity will significantly reduce your tax burden if you win, as will moving to a state without an income tax.

2. According to their math it only makes sense to buy in when the jackpot exceeds $380 million.

3. Try to play in smaller state lotteries that don’t get much press. The odds of winning those are much higher (though still ridiculously low.)

Don’t spend too much money on lottery tickets though. For the most part you’re only buying a daydream and you can do that for free. Just remember putting $20 into a retirement vehicle like a 401(k) or IRA will yield you far more money in the future than hoping for the best with the Mega Millions.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

Baltimore’s Unique Crosswalks

Crosswalks are one of those things that don’t get much attention. Other than Abbey Road in London what other famous crosswalks can you even think of? I totally walked across Abbey Road barefoot, in a suit, and holding a cigarette but I can’t think of any other notable time I ever crossed a street before. Well the city of Baltimore is trying to change that. Their Office of Promotion and the Arts is trying to increase the amount of public art in the city and one of the things they’ll be doing is making cool crosswalks like this one:

That zipper crosswalk doesn’t hold a candle to this hopscotch one though:

Yes soon enough in the city of Baltimore you will be seeing people playing hopscotch while doing the simple act of crossing the street. That’s certainly one thing you can do to set your city apart from everyone else.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available throughout Washington D.C. and Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 for more information.

A Map of the Rudest and Most Polite States

Some places just have nicer people than others and now we have some hard data to back that up. The data firm Marchex analyzed thousands of recorded phone calls to call centers with customers from all 50 states and recorded the frequency of callers using curse words as well as “please” and “thank you”. The results were interesting too. The states with the filthiest mouths were Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey , Louisiana, and Illinois while Washington, Massachusetts, Arizona, Texas, and Virginia had the people least likely to use profanity. As far as our pleases and thank yous go South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana, and Georgia ranked as our most polite states while Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Indiana, Tennessee, and Ohio rank as the least polite.

A few interesting notes about the profanity usage were that men were far more likely to curse than women and that a call was far more likely to contain curse words the longer the call lasted. Also New Jersey, Maryland, and Louisiana were ranked very highly in both cursing frequency and usage of the words “please” and “thank you”. As a New Jersey native, that fits me perfectly. Ohio on the other hand was ranked both as one of the least polite and most profane states in the country. However, I don’t think that is something that the great state of Ohio should be ashamed of. We have a broad language with hundreds of thousands of words all of which are appropriate for certain situations and they should be proud of using the words that they do. Besides, who among us hasn’t been tempted to curse while frustrated on a call with a call center?

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com for more information.

Hundreds of Shipwrecks are Off the Coast of of South Florida

Time for a quick history lesson. After Christopher Columbus found the New World, Spain proceeded to go forth and conquer much of it in the decades that followed. By 1533, the mighty and wealthy Aztec and Inca empires were under Spanish control and the Spanish began importing unprecedented amounts of gold and silver from their new colonies. Most of the ships bringing back these precious metals would meet around Havana in the summer and sail back across the Atlantic together. However, not all of those ships made it back to Spain. Some were attacked by pirates and some were sunk by hurricanes and other bad weather. Those two reasons are why there are hundreds of shipwrecks off the coast of Southern Florida and many are long forgotten and have yet to be rediscovered.

Until 1988, undersea explorers finding a shipwrecked galleon filled with gold could keep everything they found and make a fortune selling off all the gold. Now though, shipwrecks in America’s territorial waters are considered to be legal property of the state and it’s now illegal to scavenge from a shipwreck you might find. Although many fantasize about the riches they might find in a sunken galleon filled with gold and silver, most of the shipwrecks that have been found were old Native American canoes and slave ships. Still it is really cool to realize that when you look out at the ocean from South Florida there are hundreds of relics from a bygone age sitting there underneath the waves.


Considering the state of Spain’s budget, they could use some of that gold.

Churchill has short-term rental apartments throughout South Florida. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or email Florida@furnishedhousing.com for more information.

Renderings of the High Line’s Final Section are Released

One of the coolest new things to recently come into existence in Manhattan was the High Line. What used to be an elevated rail line in the Lower West Side hasn’t seen a train roll over it since 1980 and sat abandoned and deteriorating for almost twenty years. The line was almost completely demolished in the late 1990s until some concerned citizens convinced the City Hall that they had a better plan for it. Since 1999 there has been a lot of work done to transform the rail line into a beautiful public park for all to enjoy. The first third of the new park was opened to the public in 2009 and the second third was opened up in 2011. Construction for the final third of the High Line began last year and is scheduled to open in 2014. However, there is one big piece of recent news regarding that final section under construction. For the first time, detailed plans and renderings of the completed northern section of the High Line were released to the public and those pictures look incredible. Especially impressive was the plan for the northeastern terminus which will look like a big bowl surrounded on all sides by trees and overlooking the Hudson River and 10th Avenue. The High Line is an incredible example of our ability to transform an obsolete eyesore into a beautiful attraction and I for one can’t wait to see the finished result next year.


New York likes their trains underground now.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available in New York and Nationwide. For more information please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com.

Ellis Island is Finally Reopening

Starting next week, Ellis Island will finally be open to the public again. A short distance away from the Statue of Liberty, from 1892 to 1954 the island was the place where around 10.5 million immigrants first stepped foot in America. It was there that new immigrants from the Old World would land and go through the necessary legal process of getting American citizenship which back then only took a few hours. The immigration station closed in 1954, was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1966, and is now a museum dedicated to the important role immigration played in America’s history.

Ellis Island was closed off to the general public last year after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in New York Harbor. Of all of the historical places in the area Ellis Island probably got the worst of Sandy’s wrath. For comparison, Liberty Island was able to reopen in time for the Fourth of July this year. Thankfully many of the museum’s artifacts were removed and safely stored prior to the hurricane hitting but even a year later the damage has not been fully repaired yet. Why then is the island reopening? I think it has to do with timing and money. Next week will be both the one-year anniversary of Sandy hitting and the 127th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty being dedicated which would make it a good time to coordinate the reopening. The financial reason is that both the park and the ferries have had a brutal year financially. The number of people visiting Liberty and Ellis Islands are less than half of the number of people that visited in 2012. For all of those reasons Ellis Island is now back up and running and ready to accept more people to its shores again.


Notice how they’re both on the New Jersey side of the river though.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available in New York and Nationwide. For more information please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com.

What New York City Sounded Like in the 1920s

Ambient noise is almost always all around us. Right now where I’m sitting I can hear the constant hum of a very loud refrigerator and the footsteps of people walking on the floor above me. That also exists when you go outside as well. If you walk outdoors onto any street in New York City your ears will not be greeted with silence. You will hear the background noise of cars, trucks, and buses operating. You will hear the chatter of people walking on the sidewalks even though you will almost instantly forget the words that were spoken. This is all background noise, the sound that emanates from a city merely existing.

What we don’t often realize is that the ambient noise we hear when we step outside has changed dramatically over time. Hundreds of years ago New York City existed in a world without a combustion engine where the quickest and most reliable forms of land transportation were all horse-powered. What New York sounded like then we don’t exactly know because Thomas Edison hadn’t invented the phonograph yet. However, thanks to the work of historian Emily Thompson we do know what the ambient sound of New York City existing was in the 1920s. Her project has collected as many sound recordings from that era as she could from the twenties and thirties and reconstruct what the ambient soundscape likely would have been. It’s a really cool project from a time when New York City was finally starting to resemble what it is today.


Now we know what that sounds like.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available in New York and Nationwide. For more information please contact us at 866-255-0593 or National@FurnishedHousing.com.