June 30, 2010



Tightrope Over Niagara Falls – 1859

On this date in 1859, a French man named Jean Francois Gravelet crossed the swift-flowing, rock-pounding Niagara Falls on a tightrope! (Don't try this at home, kids, not only is this almost certainly suicidal, it's also illegal! If you try something like this nowadays, without permission, you will probably be stopped and arrested!)





UPDATE:  These amazing photos are of Nik Wallenda, who did ask permission to do the same crazy stunt. (A more dangerous version, actually, because of exactly where he was crossing.) In June of 2012 he crossed the falls on a tightrope in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

Oh, and a few TV cameras and some 13 million people worldwide!

He used a safety harness because ABC TV insisted that he do so!

Can you imagine walking 1,800 feet on a two-inch wire 180 feet in the air--with swirling winds and mist making the wire slippery!?! Wallenda could barely see through the mist!









June 29, 2010



Happy Birthday, William Mayo

Along with his father and brother, Dr. Mayo started and ran the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. All three doctors were surgeons, and they invented new operations, pushed forward medical science, and attracted many other specialists to their clinic. 





I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Alexis Carrel

This French scientist was born on this day in 1873. He moved to the U.S. in 1905, and in 1912 he won a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for developing a way to suture blood vessels. (Suture means to reconnect, join, sew back together.)

Carrel worked for a decade on experimental animals and managed to develop every technique used in vascular (blood vessel) surgery today.

He also worked on keeping tissue alive after it is removed from a living organism—this technology really helps with transplants—and even succeeded in keeping alive tissue from the heart of a chicken embryo for 35 years!



I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip.

June 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Helen Keller

Born in Alabama on this day in 1880, Helen Keller became blind and deaf due to an illness while she was just a baby. Since she was unable to see or hear, she didn't learn to talk. Thanks to her remarkable teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller learned to communicate by touch in sign language. She learned to read and write in Braille, and later she learned to speak. Eventually she learned five languages!




I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 26, 2010

Inventions and Patents Day

On this date in 1498, the toothbrush invented in China.



On this date in 1819, the first U.S. patent for a velocipede – an early version of the bicycle—was awarded to William K. Clarkson, Jr., of New York.



On this date in 1894, the first U.S. patent for a gas-driven auto was awarded to Karl Benz of Germany.



A patent is a country's promise that an inventor has exclusive rights to his invention for a limited period of time. This means that somebody can't buy a product, study it, and exactly copy it to sell and make money. However, people can reinvent things, making improvements and changes, and be rewarded with their own patent as well as the right to make and sell their unique version of the product.


I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 25, 2010

New Species Captured – 1994

It is very rare that a new mammal of a medium to large size is discovered. The Okapi was discovered by Europeans for the first time in 1910, but since then there had been no additional discoveries of large-scale mammals until skulls with unusual horns turned up in Vietnam in 1992.

The previously unknown creature was named the Vu Quang ox or saola. The Hmong people call it saht-supahp, the polite animal. It is a sort of antelope.

The search for live specimens of saola took two years. On this date in 1994, the London Times announced that a live specimen had finally been captured. It can be assumed that the creature is very endangered; we only know of 11 individuals alive today.



I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 24, 2010

First “Flying Saucer” Reports – 1947

On this day in 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold saw nine lights that seemed to pace his airplane and then zoom past Mount Rainier in Washington. He described the moving lights as boomerang shaped but also said that they moved like saucers skipping over water. 

Somehow Arnold was misunderstood and misquoted, and many people thought he said that the strange objects he saw looked like saucers flying through the sky. Soon reporters dubbed the sighting as “flying saucers.” Suddenly many people, worried or thrilled, started studying the night sky and seeing saucer-shaped unidentified flying objects

And so began the modern UFO craze. Since people expected to see saucer-shaped items, they did see saucer-shaped items. This was very frustrating for Arnold, who has been photographed with a picture of what he did see.

Of course, many people over the years have assumed that flying saucers and other UFOs are and were extra-terrestrials (aliens) in spaceships. However, most reliable accounts and photos can be explained in other, more earthly, ways: birds, the planet Venus, fireballs, meteors, human-built aircraft, mirages, hoaxes--the list goes on and on.


What is the explanation for Arnold's sighting? Given the shapes and motions he saw, some likely explanations are pelicans, mirages of mountain peaks, or meteors. We will never know for sure, but those explanations are far more likely than aliens.


I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 23, 2010







Antarctica Set Aside for Science – 1961




On this date in 1961, an international treaty was signed that established Antarctica as a region for peaceful scientific use and outlawed any military use of the continent.


 Quick Quiz

1. Antarctica has an area of approximately 5,500,000 square miles. This is ____.
a. 5 times the size of the U.S.
b. half the size of the U.S.
c. one and a half times the size of the U.S.

2. Antarctica is _____.
a. connected to South America
b. surrounded by water

3. Ice and snow cover _____.
a. 20% of Antarctica
b. 99% of Antarctica
c. 75% of Antarctica


ANSWERS: 1.c – 2.b – 3.b


I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 22, 2010

Voting Age Lowered – 1970

On this day in 1970, President Richard Nixon signed a bill that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. This bill was passed because, as the nation struggled through the unpopular Vietnamese War, people said that, if 18, 19, and 20 year olds were old enough to die for their country, they were also old enough to participate in the elections that would help set policy, including foreign policy.

Earlier in the year, I discussed some people's ideas about lowering the voting age even lower. If you haven't already read it, you might like to take a peek and see if you agree.

I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 21, 2010

First Day of Summer—Northern Hemisphere

In the north, this is the longest day of the year. It used to be called Midsummer Day, and ancient European celebrations centered around fire: bonfires lit in rings and parades with torches.

White Nights Festival – Russia

Centered on the city of St. Petersburg (AKA Petrograd, Leningrad, and Piter), this is a several-month-long arts festival that features classical opera, ballet, and music performances and other events.

The Festival is called “White Nights” because it is held in midsummer, when the sun barely sets and the skies hardly darken. The most popular event is called Scarlet Sails. This fireworks production celebrates the end of the school year in June. Enjoy!

I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 20, 2010

Father's Day 
AND Happy Birthday, Great Seal of the United States

On this day in 1782, the US Congress adopted the Great Seal, with an eagle (the U.S. emblem), a 13-star crown to represent the country as a new constellation in the galaxy of nations, and a 13-tiered pyramid to stand for permanence.

Even the colors are symbols: red stands for hardiness and courage, white stands for purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.


  • Design a seal or shield to represent you or your family. What symbols show your special values or traits?

I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 19, 2010

Juneteenth—United States

Juneteenth is sometimes called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. This holiday honors African American heritage, and it commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865. It is celebrated by more than just Texas—36 states call it a state holiday.

By the way, the term Juneteenth is an example of a portmanteau, which is a combination of two words, in this case June and nineteenth, to create a new word.

The words brunch and smog are two more examples of portmanteaus. Do you know what words they combine?

ANSWER: Brunch is a combination of the words breakfast and lunch. Smog is a mash-up of smoke and fog.


ALSO ON THIS DATE:

Happy Birthday, Lou Gehrig

Born on this day in 1903, in New York City, Gehrig was an awkward athlete as a youth. However, he worked hard and constantly practiced baseball—and he became a star! From 1925 to 1939, Gehrig played in every single Yankee game, which was a record 2,130 games in a row.

Unfortunately, Gehrig came down with a rare disease that forced him to retire and that took his life just two years later. That disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called ALS—and sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease. The best known living ALS patient is the famous physicist Stephen Hawking.

I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney

Born on this day in 1942, this British lad grew up to be one of the most famous musicians of all times, an essential part of perhaps THE most famous rock band of all times, the Beatles.






The Guinness Book of World Records states that McCartney is the most successful songwriter in the history of popular music. Wikipedia includes in his accomplishments, along with being a singer/songwriter for the Beatles, Wings, and solo efforts, “composer, multi-instrumentalist, entrepreneur, record and film producer, poet, painter, and animal rights activist.” He is one of Britain's wealthiest citizens, and he has been knighted, so that's Sir Paul McCartney to you and me, thank you very much.



I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 17, 2010

First recorded sighting of a muskox – 1869

On this date in 1869, the English explorer Henry Kelsey spotted a muskox. He described it as an “ill-shapen beast.”

Muskoxen live in the Arctic, in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. They are valued for their meat, milk, and fine wool—so much so, that they have been reintroduced in Scandinavian countries and Siberia.

June 16, 2010

 Bloomsday – Ireland

This holiday celebrates the life of Irish writer James Joyce. Fans relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place in Dublin on the same day: June 16, 1904. Some fans even read the entire novel aloud—which lasts up to 36 hours! In 2004, before the 100th anniversary of the fictional events of the book, 10,000 people in Dublin were served a free full Irish breakfast: sausages, rashers, toast, beans, and black and white puddings.






Pictured below is the Bloomsday Race.
I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip.

June 15, 2010

I am busy making every day special by taking a trip through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The daily posts will be minimal during my trip. Happy summer to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!






Happy Birthday, Malvina Hoffman

Born on this day in 1887, Hoffman was a sculptor. She created a group of 101 bronze statues for the Chicago Natural History Museum. The statues represent the world's racial groups.



June 14, 2010

Flag Day – United States

On this date in 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution establishing the new country's flag as 13 red-and-white stripes and 13 white stars on a blue field. Each star and stripe represented one state.

This resolution didn't design a flag out of thin air, but rather confirmed as official one particular flag that was already in use.

I would say “Cue Betsy Ross,” referring to a popular legend that Betsy Ross designed and sewed the first U.S. flag, but apparently there isn't a lot of evidence that the legend is true. However, as an upholsterer, she definitely did sew many American flags (as did other seamstresses).

There is good evidence that Betsy Ross was the one who suggested a 5-pointed star rather than an earlier 6-pointed version.

Did you know...?

  • The stars of the U.S. flag haven't always been arranged in horizontal stripes. They have been arranged in a circle and in a 5-pointed-star formation.

  • In 1795, there were 15 states in the new country, so there were 15 stars and 15 stripes on the flag. However, in 1818, when 5 more states and therefore 5 more stars were added, the stripes were reduced again to 13. (Thank goodness! What would the U.S. flag look like with 50 stripes?)
The flag pictured left is the one that 
inspired the U.S. national anthem, 
"The Star-Spangled Banner." 
It has 15 stripes.

  • The largest U.S. flag (called “Superflag”) is 505 feet long and 225 feet wide. It weighs 3,000 pounds, and it takes 500 people to unfurl! Each star is 17 feet high. Pictured above, the flag is owned by Thomas "Ski" Demski.

  • Even though a recent article claims that the Guinness Book of World Records lists Superflag as the world's largest flag, someone named Michael Treglazoff writes in: "The world's largest flag is 900 feet long x 300 feet high. It flies in North Korea in the village called Gesungdong or "propaganda" village; the flag is currently hoisted onto the world's tallest flagpole at 557 feet tall."

Learn about flags of the world

  • Here is a website with flags from all over the world.
  • Enchanted Learning has a variety of world flag activities. Click around—there are lots of links to various categories of flags, plus color symbolism, flag shapes, and so forth. I clicked “Animals” and found out that animals as varied as  eagles, bears, lions, dragons, snakes, and bison. Peru's flag features a llama, and Uganda's flag features a Grey Crowned Crane.
  • A very complete website on vexillology (the study of flags) is called “Flags of the World.”

June 13, 2010


Happy Birthday, Christo and Jeanne-Claude

These artists were a husband-and-wife team until Jeanne-Claude's sudden death last November.


Born on the exact same day, June 13, 1935, the two met in Paris in 1958. They are famous for their “environmental art” works, which are large-scale and temporary works that make a big visual impact and help us see familiar landscapes in new ways.

Some spectacular examples include wrapping the Reichstag (the
parliament building) in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, wrapping islands, and installing a fabric-wrapped fence over 24 miles long in California.

All these art pieces are temporary. They are installed, remain up for varying amounts of time (from one to three weeks) and then are taken down. Christo said about the temporary nature of his work: "I am an artist, and I have to have courage... Do you know that I don't have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they're finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain."


Many time we think of art as paintings and sculptures, but when we see a beautifully wrapped building or an array of umbrellas dotting the landscape, we realize that art isn't so easy to define or limit.



By the way, Christo was born in Bulgaria, and Jeanne-Claude in France, but according to the
ir website, they both became Americans.

Um...wrapping a bridge? Why did the people of Paris go along with that one?

Sometimes Christo and Jeanne-Claude come up with a great idea for a piece but have to wait a long time to be
able to carry out their idea. For example, they got the idea to wrap that bridge in Paris in 1975, but it took ten years for them to get the permits!

For the 14 days that the Pont-Neuf bridge was wrapped, people flocked to see it. (There is never a charge to see Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's works. They are always installed in public spaces and are always, therefore, free to view.)

During the time that the piece was being prepared, installed, and displayed, many people in Paris continued to do their jobs—but in a new w
ay, in relation to the art piece, which had no “practical” purpose. For example, policemen continued to direct traffic, but now had to direct it around the crowds. Lawyers wrote contracts and applied for permits, factory workers sewed the cloth that wrapped the bridge, the mayor and city workers figured the logistics of allowing the art piece to be installed and viewed. Even the artists who paint the bridge every day for sales to tourists went about their usual jobs—but for those 14 days, they painted the bridge wrapped.

That is part of the point of the art. Christo explains that his art “teases” society ”and society responds, in a way, as it responds in a very normal situation like building bridges, or roads, or highways. What we know is different is that all this energy is put to a fantastic irrational purpose, and that is the essence of the work.”


Learn more about Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Come up with some ideas for environmental art pieces. Sketch your ideas.