April 19 – National Hanging Out Day

Posted on April 19, 2015

Did you know that the average American uses more energy running a clothes drier in a year than the average African uses in a year for ALL of his or her energy needs? 


In the U.S., 6 to 10% of residential energy use goes toward running clothes driers! So Project Laundry List asks us to take a day to consider using clotheslines and drying racks instead of relying on clothes driers for all our laundry needs.

This sight used to be normal in the U.S. -
and still is in other nations!
People who love hanging laundry point out that they save more than $100 a year in energy bills. They claim that hanging laundry is a weekly chance to enjoy the sun, fresh air, and birds chirping. They claim that their clothing feels and smells better – and it's certainly true that clothing hung out to dry lasts longer than clothing that is heated and tumbled every time it is worn. (The truth is in your lint trap – that lint is the evidence that your clothes are slowly disintegrating!)

Today, some people will be fighting against city laws against clotheslines, and some people will wear T-shirts or pass out fliers to convince the rest of us to “Hang your pants, Stop the nuke plants.”

Artist Kaarina Kaikkonen does
clothesline-inspired art installations!
Aren't they cool?
I ESPECIALLY love the one below!

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April 18 – National Animal Cracker Day

Posted on April 18, 2015
Celebrate animal crackers today!

Of course, you'll want to eat some—straight out of the Barnum Circus box, or maybe in the frosted cookie version, or maybe floating in your soup!

Another way to celebrate them is to listen to Shirley Temple's “Animal Crackers in My Soup.” 

Stauffer's crackers
are not as detailed as
Nabisco's (below).
Animal crackers were first brought to the U. S. in the late 1800s. Since and there was a huge demand for them, so American bakers began to make them, too.The first U.S.-produced animal crackers were made by Stauffer's Biscuit Company in Pennsylvania, in the year 1871. Soon several local bakeries came together to form National Biscuit Company, which soon became NaBisCo (Nabisco).

The popular Barnum's Animals circus-themed box was first introduced in 1902. Some brilliant Nabisco worker suggested putting a string on the boxes, which sold for five cents, so that they could be hung on a Christmas tree. These small boxes of crackers were a huge hit!

(Until that time, crackers were almost always sold in bulk out of a cracker barrel.)

I read that, over the years, there have been 54 different animals represented by Barnum's Animals!

Check out how many different animals are in one box. 

Does every box have the same kinds? 

I have no idea about the answer to these questions – I think it would be interesting to find out!

  • Today more than 40 million packages of Barnum's Animals Crackers are sold each year around the world. 
  • They are baked in a 300-foot-long oven at a rate of about 12,000 cookies per minute! 
  • The company attaches almost 8,000 miles of string every year to those 40 million boxes!

Also on this date:

Record Store Day

Birthday of lawyer Clarence Darrow (famous because of the “Monkey Trial” about teaching evolution)

Anniversary of Albert Einstein's death

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April 17 – National Haiku Poetry Day

Posted on April 17, 2015

Way back in 2011, I informed everyone that December 22 is National Haiku Poetry Day

However, in 2007 Sari Grandstaff registered April 17 as an “unofficial” National day, and in 2012 is was publicized as a part of a project for The Haiku Foundation.

And of course, why not celebrate both dates?

April is National Poetry Month in the United States,  so celebrating haiku poetry during the month seems like a great idea. This short poetry form originated in Japan and normally has 3 short lines with the syllable pattern 5-7-5.

Most haiku are inspired by some aspect of nature: a gorgeous glimpse of a dew-decked spider web, perhaps, or the bright colors of some fallen leaves.

Because they are so short and structured, and because they are usually about nature, haiku poems are easier for most people to write than a more general assignment like, “Write a poem.”

It's worth noting that many people writing haiku in English don't follow the strict 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Also, many of our examples of Haiku poems are translations that of course do not in all cases have the same numbers of syllables.

Here is an example from the first great poet of haiku, Basho Matsuo (1600s):

Autumn moonlight—
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.

And this is from Yosa Buson (1700s):

Light of the moon
Moves west, flowers' shadows
Creep eastward.

Finally, I really like this Kobayaski Issa haiku (early 1800s):

O snail,
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

  • KidZone suggests writing “What am I?” haiku such as this riddle:

    What Am I?
Green and speckled legs,
Hop on logs and lily pads
Splash in cool water.

  • Or try “haiku paintings” or “musical haikus.” Scholastic has some great suggestions... 

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April 16 – Happy Birthday, Jose de Diego

Posted on April 16, 2015

I have often seen people honored as “Father of His Country,” “The Liberator,” or other similar titles – when the person being honored won his campaign for full independence of his country.

However, Jose de Diego is called “The Father of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement,” and is honored every year on his birthday, and is the namesake of roads and schools and such – 

But Puerto Rico still isn't independent!

Born in Puerto Rico on this date in 1867, de Diego got his early education in Puerto Rico but his university education in Spain (including a law degree). He worked for Puerto Rico's independence from Spain – and when Spain acknowledged Puerto Rico's autonomy (not quite the same thing as full independence), in 1897, he became the Sub-Secretary of Justice and Government.

A Puerto Rican boat painted like its flag.
Aaaannndd then Puerto Rico was invaded by the United State!

In 1900, U.S. President William McKinley named de Diego as a member of an Executive Cabinet under an American governor. But de Diego wouldn't compromise; he resigned from the position and continued to work for Puerto Rico's right to rule itself. He won an elected position and presided over the House of Delegates, and he helped pass resolution after resolution – for independence, against the imposition of U.S. citizenship on Puerto Ricans, etc. All of those resolutions were vetoed by the U.S. president.

In 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Jones Shafroth Act, which made the people of Puerto Rico citizens – but citizens who are not represented in Congress (not by voting representatives, that is) and who do not help elect the President.

For a nation that got its start railing against “taxation without representation,” this seems pretty problematic. Puerto Ricans are required to pay most U.S. federal taxes (although most do not have to pay the federal income tax).

Tourism is important to today's
Puerto Rico.
One thing I loved discovering about Jose de Diego that he was also known as a poet. He published several poetry books and is known as the “Father of the Modern Puerto Rican Poetry Movement.”

Jose de Diego, “Father” of this, “Father” of that! Hooray for de Diego today!

This middle school in Florida is named for
Jose de Diego.
It's interesting to note that at least three schools in the continental U.S. are named after de Diego.

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April 15 – World Art Day

and Happy Birthday, Leonardo da Vinci
Posted on April 15, 2015

The whole world is encouraged to make art, talk about art, enjoy art, and support art today.

When we say “the arts,” we are talking about many different fields from music and theatre to sculpture and glasswork, from large-scale landscape installations to miniature designs painted on the head of pin, from poetry and other forms of literature to dancing and painting and sculpture and handicrafts...

The organization that created World Art Day, the International Association of Art, concentrates on the visual arts. They chose the date because today is Leonardo da Vinci's birthday!

Leonardo was a visual artist – he painted and sculpted – but he wasn't JUST a visual artist. He was a polymath to put all other polymaths to shame, with architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, as well as painter and sculptor, strung out behind his name in encyclopedias and biographies.

This generalist still managed to really contribute to multiple fields – he wasn't just a dabbler! Perhaps you will are familiar with a few of his paintings?

Mona Lisa
The Last SupperAnd you may have seen this drawing, also by Leonardo:
Vitruvian Man

Leonardo is considered one of the greatest painters of all time, and some consider him the most diversely talented person in the world. He certainly was imaginative and creative!

Also, his logical viewpoint and empirical methods were “before his time.” In other words, he was interested in viewing the world as it really was, rather than as he wished it to be, and he was interested in gathering evidence to show how the world worked and, even, how animals worked.

Here are some facts about Leonardo's life:
  • He was born in Vinci, in the region of Florence, on this date in 1452. (His birthplace is located in present-day Italy.)
  • Even though Leonardo looks positively ancient in some of his portraits, he was only 67 years old when he died in 1519.
  • Leonardo's parents were a peasant woman and a notary. He was lucky to have been educated in the studio of a famous painter.
  • Leonardo lived, not just in Vinci and Florence, but also in Rome, Bologna, Venice, and France.

  • Leonardo's genius was acknowledged during his lifetime and all the centuries since. During his lifetime, the King of France gave him a house, supported him in his “old age,” and is even said to have held him in his arms as he died. Nowadays, people still wear Leonardo's most famous works on T-shirts, and take university courses that focus on his notebooks, and even name teenage mutant ninja turtles after him!

Find out more about Leonardo in this earlier post

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