July 3 – Festival of Ceridwen

Posted on July 3, 2015

Ceridwen was an enchantress in Welsh legends that were told and retold during the Middle Ages.

You probably know that Wales is one of three countries found on the island of Great Britain. (The other two countries are England and Scotland. United Kingdom is the name of the nation that comprises Great Britain plus Northern Ireland. It's pretty confusing when you first come across all these country and nation names!)

Ceridwen was said to have a “hideous” son and a beautiful daughter and to live with them and her husband near Llyn Tegid. She had the cauldron of poetic inspiration, and a tale is told of Ceridwent swallowing one of her servants (while the servant had shape-shifted into a kernel of corn!), and that that servant was reborn through her as the poet Taliesin.

Ceridwen is also considered a Celtic goddess by some modern Pagan people. She is supposed to be the goddess of rebirth, transformation, and inspiration.

For some reason, a “white sow” (white pig) is supposed to be Ceridwen's special symbol. Some Pagan followers have a special feast today; they eat pork and also foods that pigs love to eat, such as corn, nuts, and truffles. Decorations for the feast table could include a cauldron or images of white pigs.

The Welsh legend and the white pig makes me think of Lloyd Alexander's delightful Prydain series, which are based partly on Welsh legends. Check out The Book of Three first; if you love it you can move on to read the other four books of the series!

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July 2 – Second Half of the Year Day

Posted on July 2, 2015

Today is the 183nd day of the year – so it is the halfway mark, with 182 days of 2015 before today, and 182 days of 2015 after today.

(Of course, on Leap Years, the end of July 1 is the halfway mark of the 366-day year.)

Second Half of the Year Day is a perfect time to look back at 2015, so far, and figure out how things are going. Maybe make some adjustments. Remind yourself of your goals, or decide to cross out or rededicate yourself to your New Year's resolutions.

More halves...
  • Do you know what an element's half-life is? It is the amount of time it takes for half of its unstable atoms to undergo radioactive decay.

    Most elements are stable, not radioactive. But some elements (and some isotopes) are radioactive and spontaneously emit energy or particles.

    For example, atoms of the radioactive element radium can “decay” by emitting either alpha particles or carbon-14 nuclei – and thus become another element (either radon or lead). We can never predict exactly which particular radium atom will decay, exactly when, but the the decay rate for a bunch of radium atoms
    is predictable; radium's half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the atoms in a sample of radium to decay.

    Radium-226 has a half-life of about 1,600 years.

    Learn more about radioactivity by watching
    this video. The Second Half of the video talks about half-life. 

  • Do some half-themed puzzles: Here's one in which the Second square is cut in Half. And here is one called Half a Barrel.

  • Read Give Me Half!, by Stuart J. Murphy, and then try the trick of how to share food fairly: one person cuts the food in half, and the other person chooses his or her half. 

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Anniversary of the beginning of the Golden Age of Airships”

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July 1 – Postal – Postage Day!

Posted on July 1, 2015

I couldn't find the “why” postal workers and postage stamps are being honored today, July 1, rather than some other day, but several sources claim that July 1 is both National Postal Worker Day AND U.S. Postage Stamp Day.

It would be a perfect time to recognize your postal carrier with a small gift in your mailbox. It would also be a great time to discover the fun of stamp collecting and the beauty of commemorative stamps.

I found some commemorative stamps honoring poet Maya Angelou and architect Robert Robinson Taylor, remembering the Civil War, and celebrating gifts of friendship between Japan and the U.S. – plus more.

Here are some facts about postal workers and postage stamps:

  • Many postal carriers walk from four to eight miles a day – while carrying heavy bags of letters and packages – in all sorts of weather!

  • Of course, some postal carriers deliver mail while driving mail trucks. Or deliver mail in some other way, like mule train at the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, or by boat in several places.
  • The postal service moves mail using planes, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, helicopters, subways, float planes, hovercraft, mules, bicycles, and of course feet!
  • The longest rural delivery route is in Oklahoma; the carrier travels more than 187 miles a day!
  • These days a letter traveling across the country, from NYC to San Francisco, takes less than seven hours, but in 1900 it took four and a half days, and in 1850 it took four weeks up to several month.
Of course, in the 1800s, carrying mail across
the country was dangerous as well as time-consuming.
(Notice the man next to the driver - he's using a rifle,
perhaps against a large animal, or attacking I
The Pony Express carried letters (not packages)
across the country in less than two weeks.

This service operated at a loss and only lasted
for 18 months.
  • The U.S. Postal Service processes millions of letters per day! Like, more than 500 million! (That's almost 6,000 pieces of mail processed per second!)
  • Did you know that the U.S. Postal Service receives ZERO tax dollars for its operations?
  • Before 1863, postage paid only for the delivery of mail from one Post Office to another Post Office. People mailing letters and packages would take their mail to the nearest Post Office (as people often do today), and people also had to go to the Post Office to get their mail. Some people and businesses hired private delivery firms to get their mail for them.

    In 1863 the Postmaster General suggested free city delivery, which was being used in England, and Congress agreed. By the next year, free city delivery had been established in 65 cities across the country. By 1900, this service had been extended to 796 cities nationwide.
  • Originally the postal carriers hand-delivered the mail to their customers – if the person named on the envelope wasn't home, the letter remained in the carrier's bag, to be delivered later. But in the early 1900s, people created letter slots and mail boxes. This helped make mail delivery much, much more efficient, since hand-delivery meant that letter carriers had to wait an average of 30 minutes to an hour each and every day just standing at doors waiting to see if anybody was home!
  • In the first half of the twentieth century (1900s), mail was delivered to homes twice a day in most towns and cities, and it was delivered to businesses up to four times a day! But in 1950 the second delivery to homes was ended in most places; the additional deliveries to businesses were also phased out over the next few decades.
  • In the past, carriers used to walk 22 miles a day, carrying up to 50 pounds of mail at a time, working 9 to 11 hours a day six days a week (and sometimes part of Sunday as well). Now U.S. postal carriers have a 40-hour workweek and may only carry up to 35 pounds at a time.

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June 30 – Anniversary of a Very Sweet Art Show

Posted on June 30, 2015

There is an Australian artist who doesn't paint with oils or watercolors. She doesn't paint with acrylics or pastels. She doesn't paint with paint!

Instead, she “paints” with candy and candy-colored sugar!

Tanya Schultz, under the name Pip and Pop, sometimes alone and sometimes with other artists, creates pictures or 3-D “sculptures” using candies. Her art is colorful and fantastical and fun. It's like wish-fulfillment meets magic meets sweet-tooth paradise!

Today is the anniversary of the 2014 start of her art installation in a museum in Amsterdam. A week later, the artwork was complete; this is called the “sugar finissage.” It was followed by a “ruination ritual.”

How fun would THAT be??!!?

Apparently, during Schultz's ruination rituals, the audience ritually takes the landscape she built apart and “cleanses” the museum of the sugar; some people make their own sugary mini-artworks in jars, drink sweet drinks, and eat cotton-candy.

I would just LOVE to see one of her pieces!

This piece was made with artist Nicole Andrejivic.

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