Protecting Children from Smartphones

Smartphones are incredibly useful tools, but unfortunately, they can also have detrimental effects, especially on children and teenagers. Daisy Greenwell, an editor and writer at, recently shared her experience of unintentionally sparking a significant movement from her kitchen to address these concerns.

The “Smartphone Free Childhood” movement gained unexpected momentum, initiated by Daisy and her friend Clare, two concerned parents troubled by the dilemmas associated with giving smartphones to children. They were particularly worried about the exposure of their children to potential harms such as pornography, cyberbullying, and social media-induced anxiety, weighed against the risk of social alienation for those without a smartphone. With increasing research showing a correlation between early smartphone use and higher rates of mental illness among the first generation of smartphone users, the founders felt a pressing need to act, spurred by the slow pace of regulatory measures to keep up with technological advances.

The movement began with a WhatsApp group named “Parents United for a Smartphone Free Childhood,” intended as a support network for parents opting to delay smartphone access for their children. What started as a modest, private group between two friends quickly exploded into a large community following a single Instagram post. The group swiftly reached WhatsApp’s membership limit of 1,023 participants, necessitating the creation of additional groups as more parents from across Britain joined the dialogue.

The founders, Daisy Greenwell, Clare Fernyhough, and Greenwell’s husband Joe, found themselves at the heart of an expanding movement, with their home transforming into an impromptu headquarters. The initiative has since grown nationally, with the formation of regional and school-specific WhatsApp groups throughout the UK. These groups provide a platform for parents to exchange experiences, offer support, and discuss strategies for promoting a smartphone-free childhood within their communities.

The initiative underscores the importance of utilizing simpler devices that provide basic communication functions without exposing children to the risks associated with fully featured smartphones. The movement also offers toolkits, developed in collaboration with experts, to aid discussions among parents and educators on this contentious issue, with the aim of shifting prevailing norms surrounding children’s smartphone usage.

The founders draw comparisons with historical changes in attitudes towards alcohol and smoking, suggesting that society will eventually reconsider its current approach to children’s smartphone use. Their objective is to protect the essence of childhood.

If you are interested, please check out Daisy’s original article. It is not very long and is a great story with good information. Most of you, our readers, are in the US not the UK, so joining one of these groups might not make sense. However, using them as a template could be a great idea if you find yourself in a similar position.

“Secret Code” Found Hidden in 1800s Dress

In an antique mall in Maine, Sara Rivers Cofield, a collector of vintage costumes and an archaeologist, discovered a Victorian dress from the 1880s. Despite its age, the dress’s intricate details and condition were remarkably preserved. The dress featured a secret pocket under its bustle, hiding two sheets of paper filled with a list of words and locations that seemed nonsensical or perhaps coded.

Rivers Cofield, intrigued by this find, sought to understand the purpose of these hidden messages and their significance to the owner, Bennett, who’s name was found hand written on a tag inside the dress.

The code found within the Victorian dress’s hidden pocket consisted of a series of words and locations that, at first glance, appeared to be a random assortment. The cryptic list included terms such as “Bismark, omit, leafage, buck, bank” and another sequence mentioning “Calgary, Cuba, unguard, confute, duck, Fagan.” These sequences, coupled with marginal notes suggesting temporal elements, puzzled Sara Rivers Cofield and sparked widespread curiosity.

Cryptic note hidden inside 1880’s dress. Sara Rivers Cofield

In 2014, Rivers Cofield shared her discovery on a blog, hoping to attract someone capable of deciphering the cryptic notes. The mystery captivated online sleuths, though no conclusive answers were found. Speculation ranged from espionage to secret communications, but none fit the context of the dress’s era accurately.

The breakthrough came when Wayne Chan, a Canadian researcher, took an interest in the puzzle. Chan, experienced in solving codes, investigated extensively but initially found no solution. It wasn’t until years later, when he was exploring weather codes from the telegraph era that he identified the messages as weather reports. These reports were not encrypted for secrecy but rather condensed for economical telegraph transmission. Each word represented specific meteorological data, such as temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure, relevant to a particular location and time.

For instance, the line “Bismark, omit, leafage, buck, bank” held detailed meteorological information:

“Bismark” indicated the location of the weather station, in this case, Bismarck, North Dakota.

“Omit” translated to an air temperature of 56 degrees Fahrenheit and a barometric pressure of 0.08 inches of mercury.

“Leafage” denoted a dew point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit observed at 10 p.m.

“Buck” signified the absence of precipitation.

“Bank” represented a wind velocity of 12 miles per hour and a clear sunset.

Chan’s research revealed that the coded messages followed a 19th-century telegraphic weather code used by the Army Signal Corps, the national weather service of the United States at the time. This discovery highlighted the practical use of telegraphic codes for cost-saving purposes in transmitting detailed weather information.

The complexity of the code, despite its non-secretive nature, shows the ingenuity of communication strategies in the telegraph era before they had all of our fancy cell phones.

Paul McCartney Reclaims Stolen Hofner Bass 50 Years Later!

Paul McCartney got back his stolen bass guitar through a journalist-led initiative. The violin-like bass, linked to the German brand Höfner and made famous by McCartney, was taken from the Beatles’ touring van in Ladbroke Grove in 1972.

The Lost Bass Project began without evidence or leads. It clarified it had no intention to blame or press charges, leading some to reveal it was sold to a pub landlord in Ladbroke before reaching a family in Sussex. Eventually, it was found stashed in an attic, like any old heirloom.

“The guitar has been authenticated by Höfner, and Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved,” stated the Lost Bass Project.

A journalist mentioned on the BBC that people wanted to help McCartney without disclosing involvement in the theft.

“We didn’t expect it to go very far, but it caught the imagination of thousands,” wrote the Lost Bass Project. “Within a week, it was in newspapers worldwide. We did numerous interviews and appeared on several TV news broadcasts.” “As a result of the publicity, someone in a terraced house in Hastings contacted Paul McCartney’s company and returned the bass. The search was over—Paul had his stolen bass back!”

The bass, still in its case, needs repairs before being playable. With the strap tight to McCartney’s chest, he used the Höfner for songs like Love Me Do and She Loves You.

“To have found it quickly is amazing, and we’ve heard how thrilled Paul McCartney is to have it back,” said Mr. Scott Jones of the Lost Bass Project. “That’s just the icing on the cake to know that the guy we all love is smiling tonight because his old guitar is back.”

Gemstones on the Rise

Valentine’s Day is a peak season for jewelry purchases, with U.S. consumers projected to spend an unprecedented $6.4 billion on jewelry around this time, as reported by Ankur Daga, CEO of Angara. This expenditure accounts for a significant 10% of the annual total devoted to jewelry, indicating the holiday’s strong influence on the market.

This year, however, the conventional diamond engagement ring may take a smaller portion compared to more vibrant options. “We’re seeing a shift in much larger center stone engagement rings, primarily as a result of lab-grown diamonds, and sapphires and rubies tend to be very hot,” Daga noted. The trend towards colorful gemstones in engagement rings has risen from 5% a decade ago to over 15% today, with a recent small survey revealing that over 20% of individuals would opt for a colored gemstone ring over their diamond ring if given the chance.

Signet Jewelers, a major industry player, echoes this sentiment, witnessing increased interest in gemstones like sapphire and morganite across both wedding and fashion categories. The allure of amethyst and ruby, in particular, spikes during the Valentine’s period, aligning with February’s birthstone and the symbolic color of love, respectively.

Beth Gerstein, CEO of Brilliant Earth, suggests that the trend towards colored gemstones reflects a desire for uniqueness, especially among Gen Z consumers who value personalization and distinctive style. This shift is occurring amidst growing supply constraints for natural gemstones, pushing prices upwards and making some stones harder to source. “There’s only really one mine in Madagascar that produces the bulk of the world’s rubies,” Daga mentioned, highlighting similar challenges for sapphires and emeralds.

The price of sapphires, emeralds, and rubies has been climbing, with some gemstones like tourmalines experiencing price increases of up to 36% annually. This trend contrasts with the broader market movement towards lab-grown diamonds, which now account for half of the diamond engagement ring purchases.

Despite the chemical, physical, and optical similarities between lab-grown and natural gemstones, a significant majority of customers still show a preference for natural stones, largely due to their unique inclusions that add character.

Diamonds are certainly still a very popular choice and that is not likely to change. It is, however, very interesting to see this increased interest in colored gemstone jewelry.

Beautiful Hotel that Melts Every Year

The Icehotel in Sweden that features rooms and art installations is a unique and stunning hotel, first established in 1989 by Yngve Bergqvist. It features rooms and art installations made of ice and snow, drawing artists from around the world to contribute to its construction each year. The hotel offers both temporary ice rooms that melt in the spring and year-round ice rooms that are kept cool using solar-power cooling technology.

With 18 year-round ice rooms and 36 temporary ice rooms in the winter, the Icehotel also provides 44 warm rooms and 28 warm chalets for guests who prefer more traditional accommodations. The hotel’s unique appeal lies in its impermanence and one-of-a-kind ice rooms, offering a truly unforgettable experience for visitors.

If you are in one of the ice rooms, the temperature is generally between 19.4 to 23 degrees Fahrenheit. The Icehotel offers expedition-style sleeping bags for guests staying in the ice rooms. Visitors can check into their rooms at 6 p.m. and have 24-hour access to a heated facility, where they can store their belongings, shower, and use the bathroom. This ensures that guests have a comfortable and convenient stay, despite the unique nature of the ice accommodations.

The hotel also recommends staying for multiple nights, with the first or last being in one of the ice-rooms.

The Icehotel’s success has transformed the once-desolate winter months in Jukkasjärvi into a thriving tourist season. The ice blocks used in the construction are harvested from the nearby Torne River at the end of the winter. They are then stored all summer until the next winter when they are crafted into the seasonal portion of the hotel.

The Icehotel is located in Jukkasjärvi, just outside the town of Kiruna in Swedish Lapland. This is a beautiful region in northern Sweden, where you can expect to discover a land of forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains. In winter, the region is cloaked in a blanket of sparkling snow. The hotel is only a 15-minute drive away from the Kiruna airport, making it easily accessible for travelers.

Each year, the Icehotel receives applications from artists around the world to design the suites. When the temperature drops to levels required for snow gun operations, usually in mid-November, the building process begins. The Winter portion of the hotel is open from December to April, offering guests the opportunities to go dog sledding, see the northern lights, and even try ice sculpting themselves.

The Icehotel is a unique and unforgettable experience, combining the beauty of the natural surroundings with the creativity of artists and the comfort of a well-managed hotel. Whether you’re looking to explore the untouched wilderness of Swedish Lapland or to enjoy a stay in a one-of-a-kind ice suite, the Icehotel is the perfect destination for an unforgettable winter adventure.