October 10 – Star Wars Reads Day

Posted on October 10, 2015

According to the Star Wars website, Star Wars Reads Day is fully armed and operational on October 10!

Some bookstores, libraries, and other stores will participate by hosting signings, parties, or other events. Since the world is gearing up for the December release of a new Star Wars movie, there should be some excitement about this yearly celebration, and Disney, Marvel, Abrams, Chronicle, Del Rey, DK, Scholastic, and others are all in on the planning.

(By the way, there is a list of events, a downloadable activity kit and more available on that website!)

Here is a list of “Superb Star Wars Books for Kids of All Ages.” 

There is a little bit, but not much, overlap on this list from Barnes and Noble. 

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October 9 – Independence Day in Guayaquil, Ecuador

Posted on October 9, 2015

In Ecuador's fight to break free of its Spanish rulers, one city broke away before the others—and declared itself an independent city-state.

The good news is that this ousting of the Spanish authorities was almost bloodless. The Spaniards were arrested, not killed. Quite civilized – especially for the time.

That was October 9, 1820. Since then Guayaquil (which is Ecuador's largest city and most important port, but NOT its capital city) has been celebrating its own independence in October as well as the independence of the entire nation in August 10. Here are two photos from a recent Guayaquil Independence parade:

To learn more about Guayaquil, check out this recent post

The Equator in Ecuador

You probably know that the name Ecuador refers to the Equator, the imaginary line that circles the middle of the Earth.

That means that you can stand in a certain place in Ecuador and have one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other foot in the Southern Hemisphere.

Did you also know that the Earth bulges outward a bit in the center? That means that the Equator is just a bit farther away from the center of the Earth than places north and south of the Equator. In other words, Earth is not a perfect sphere, but is instead an “oblate spheroid.”

This diagram shows what an oblate spheroid is.
Of course, Earth's middle bulge isn't NEARLY as
exaggerated as this one!

\Way back in the late 1600s, Isaac Newton suggested that Earth would be an oblate spheroid – a bit squashed at the poles and a bit swollen at the equator. He wasn't able to accurately measure and check his hypothesis, but it turns out that the difference is about 13 miles (21 km). Sounds like a lot, but of course this difference is swamped by the size of the Earth, which has a diameter of almost 8,000 miles (more than 12,000 km). That's why our planet looks pretty darned round from space.

Still, Ecuador's highest mountain, Chimborazo, is the farthest point on the Earth's surface from the Earth's center. It's height of 20,564 feet – and, don't get me wrong! That's high! That's higher than the highest peak in all of North America, Denali! – still doesn't even get it into the highest 100 elevations in the world. BUT, when you add those 13 miles of the equatorial bulge – bam! Chimborazo is the record holder!

Interestingly enough, although Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, and Ecuador is Spanish for “Equator,” people in Ecuador don't normally call the Equator by their country's name. Too confusing, I'm sure! Instead, they call it “Middle of the World,” or Mitad del Mundo.

At the Mitad del Mundo monument in Quito, people can climb to the top and get a great vista of both hemispheres...But, it turns out, the monument isn't actually built on the Equator! A mistake was made in 1982, when the monument was being constructed, and our current technology is able to tell us in no uncertain terms that the actual Equator is about 100 meters (300 feet) away from the monument!

Well...that's okay! Twice the photo ops, right? People get their photo taken straddling the false, 1982-era Equator...

...and the actual Equator.

And you know what's cool? You can walk along the real Equator and see a bunch of demos and experiments that show the effects of being exactly on the Equator.

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Leif Ericson Day

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October 8 – Independence Day in Croatia

Posted on October 8, 2015

It was October 8, 1991. The day before, a bomb had hit a government building that was then serving as the official residence of the President of Croatia (nobody was hurt from the bombing, although one Croatian died that day from other violence during the Yugoslav Air Force strike).

In fear of another attack, the meeting of the Croatian Sabor (Parliament), being held to discuss relations with Yugoslavia, wasn't held in the House of Parliament, but instead in a basement of a corporate office. There the lawmakers voted to cut all ties with Yugoslavia.

Independence for Croatia had begun with constitutional changes in 1990 and finally was complete when the world recognized Croatia as a fully independent nation in January of 1992.

Celebrate Croatia!!!

On this date in 2011, Google celebrated Croatia's independence.

Plitvice is a gorgeous national park with 16 lakes and 92 waterfalls!

The Game of Thrones is partially filmed in the Fortress of Diocletian, in Split, and in the Fort of Klis.

There are lots and lots of islands off the coast of Croatia. (More than 1,000!) Check out the unique shape of the island of Hvar!

Someone created a cool experimental musical instrument – a sea organ – in Zadar, Croatia. The waves end up playing music because of the tubes located under the large marble steps! To hear what it sounds like, check out this video!  

Did you notice the solar-powered light display next to the sea organ? If not, check out this other video.

Speaking of videos, I like this “Dubrovnik, Croatia, in a Minute” video. 

Even better: This exciting movie “Zagreb– Pulse of the City.” 

How many different ways can you get the thrill of almost dying (while staying completely safe) in Glavani Park?

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International Cephalopod Awareness Week Begins
Octopus Day!

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October 7 – You Matter to Me Day

Posted on October 7, 2015

Apparently this special day came about because a sudden, shocking accident killed a father and son, and one of their friends realized that he had never gotten around to telling them that they mattered to him.

Such a beginning just sounds depressing, but what this friend decided to do about his regrets is to find the time to tell the people who are still alive that they matter to him. And he decided to urge all of us to do so, too.

So look around at your friends and family, today. Tell them that they matter to you. You might want to go farther – tell them how you feel about them, share important memories you cherish of them, tell them how you depend on them.

Maybe some of your acquaintances and Real-Life strangers who are friends on social media matter to you, too. Tell them so. Maybe even some complete strangers you have never ever talked to matter to you – the kid you see sweeping the sidewalk every morning, the woman who wrote that one book you love, the coach your best friend has told you so much about. It takes a bit of courage to reach out to strangers, but it might be wonderful for them to hear that they matter to someone!

The fellow who started You Matter to Me Day says that there is power in “mattering.” When someone matters, he makes an impact on others, he counts for something. People care about someone who matters; people love her and/or depend on her.

The motto of You Matter to Me Day is “Because everyone matters to someone, and someone matters to you.” I think that says it all!

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October 6 – German-American Day

Posted on October 6, 2015

On this date in 1683, thirteen German families landed in the American colonies, specifically in Philadelphia. Because most of the American colonists were British citizens, the town those German settlers formed less than 10 miles from Philadelphia was dubbed Germantown.

The first time this historic anniversary was celebrated was in 1883, two centuries after the setters landed. The holiday was called “German Day,” and it was celebrated in Philadelphia as well as Germantown. Celebrating the day spread a bit – but of course was stopped in its tracks when Germany and America found themselves on opposite sides of two World Wars! Public feelings about all things “German” were pretty low!

In 1983, the 300th anniversary of the first German settlers in America, the celebration was revived. People decided to call it German-American Day.

Did you know...?

There are about 50 million German Americans in the U.S. today – and that is the largest self-reported ancestry group! There are more German Americans than, for example, Irish Americans, African Americans, English Americans, Mexican American, or Italian Americans.

German settlers came to America for all the familiar reasons: seeking land and opportunities, seeking religious freedom, running from political oppression.

Most German Americans are fully Americanized – only 5% speak German. Some of the things German settlers brought with them were kindergartens, Christmas trees, hamburgers, and hot dogs (wieners) – and those things all seem pretty American, don't they?


  • One of my favorite German (actually, Bavarian) foods is kaese spaetzle. It's a kind of mac and cheese made with special egg noodles, Swiss cheese, and topped with thinly-sliced grilled onions. Yummers!

    I ate a fair bit of kaese spaetzle in Germany, but I have discovered it in the U.S., too, in grocery stories and in restaurants.

  • One of my favorite German bands is Rammstein. Check out their song “Amerika” – part of it is sung in English! Can you “get” their message?

  • The Tomie de Paola book An Early American Christmas shows how one German-American family in a New England town changed the way everyone in that town celebrated Christmas.
  • There are so many yummy German foods, as I have hinted above. Here are a few “quick and easy” German recipes, and here are a few German recipes especially for kids. 

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