September 30 – Independence Day in Botswana

Posted on September 30, 2014

Celebrate Botswana today. Did you know that, ever since its 1966 independence from the United Kingdom, it has had uninterrupted democratic elections?

Can I get a hooray??

Kalahari Desert
In some ways, Botswana doesn't look so very great on paper. It's landlocked, which means that it has no direct access to an ocean or sea. It's mostly desert – the Kalahari, to be exact. It's pretty flat. It's sparsely populated. One of its borders is poorly defined, even – usually a recipe for battles with neighbors. (In this case, Botswana's northern border with Zambia is only a few hundred meters - less than a mile – long!)

But in other ways, Botswana looks great on paper: 

It has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and THE highest Human Development Index rating in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Also, there are some areas in which there are diverse wildlife, including the world's largest concentration of African elephants.

Dense and sparse population

Some nations are very small, land-wise, and although their populations are also small, the population is dense. In other words, a lot of people are concentrated together in a small region. Two great examples of this are Singapore and Hong Kong.

Other countries have cities in which there is this sort of dense population – but there are also huge tracts of land with no people, often no roads, even. Those countries have what is called sparse populations – because if you could spread all the people out evenly, across the whole country, the people would be few and far between.

Some great examples of sparsely populated nations are Canada, with its frozen tundra and forested mountains, and Mongolia.

Here are some numbers you can compare. These statistics tell us how many people would be standing in each and every square mile of land, if you spread the people out evenly:

Singapore:          19,731
Hong Kong:         16,983
South Korea:         1,303
United Kingdom:      679
France:                    306
United States:            84
Canada:                       9
Mongolia:                     4

How many people, do you think, does Botswana have per square mile?

It turns out that Botswana's population density is about the same as Canada's, with about nine people per square mile.

Learn more...

  • Learn more about Botswana's food here.





  • Obviously, not all of Botswana is desert. Check out this gorgeous gallery of photos, largely featuring the Okavango Delta.








Also on this date:
Anniversary of the first tooth extraction with anesthesia















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September 29 – World Heart Day

Posted on September 29, 2014

We all have hearts—even earthworms have hearts of sorts. (An earthworm has "aortic arches" that act as hearts.) We all want to keep our hearts healthy (guess what we cannot live without?). And most of us even know how to do that.

...But we don't always do it!

Today is a great day to re-commit ourselves to doing right by our hearts. 

  • Eating healthy foods, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and limiting sugar, fat, and salt, is a HUGE step. 
  • Not smoking is one of the biggest health decisions we can make. 
  • Having an active lifestyle, with lots of exercise or physical work or outdoor sports, is very important. 
  • And yearly check ups, blood pressure and blood tests, help as well.




Learn more about World Heart Day here.

This website has a video about the human heart for younger kids, and this other website is better for older kids.


To see a picture of earthworm “hearts,” check out this website

To learn about other animal hearts, check out this website.



Also on this date:






Anniversary of the launch of Canada's first satellite









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September 28 – Anniversary of the Norman Invasion

Posted on September 28, 2014

There are times when I feel so irritated by the election process in the United States—the obvious importance of money in choosing our leaders, the promises and half-truths and lies, the constant ads—that I wonder why on earth we have such a ridiculous form of government.

But it is so nice that, for centuries, there has been a peaceful and lawful exchange of power, even between people who despise one another's ideas or principles.

Any time you feel discouraged by modern governments, just read some history and learn (or remind yourself) how unfair, violent, and messy the exchange of power used to be!

To set the stage for today's historical anniversary, you should know that a fellow known as William the Bastard became the Duke of Normandy (a place now in northern France) when his dad died, when he was just seven years old. Several rebellions occurred, during which men tries to oust the child (and, let's face it, probably kill the child) and take the title. Each of those rebellions ended with death on both sides and failure.

Eventually, William, Duke of Normandy grew up, and he was quite a good ruler. He visited England, which lay just 20 miles away, across the English channel. While there, he visited the English king, Edward the Confessor. Edward had no children and (William claimed) promised that he would be the heir to the English throne – but when Edward died, in January of 1066, a powerful noble named Harold Godwinson was declared King Harold II.


William immediately protested – but remember, news and messages didn't travel as immediately back then as they can now – so when I say that William “immediately” protested, I imagine that days or even weeks had passed. Still, William asserted that HE had the right to claim the throne.

King Harold II readied his army, expecting William to cross the Channel and attack. However, the new English king had other enemies as well. His own brother, Tostig, wanted the throne, and King Harald III of Norway also wanted to rule England. After fending off a bunch of raids planned by Tostig, King Harold led his men north to face the combined armies of Tostig and Harald. The September 25 battle was bloody – Wikipedia calls it “horrific” – and Tostig, Harald, and most of the Norwegians were killed.

Of course, being distracted by this battle in the north, King Harold II left the English Channel unprotected. And on this date in 1066, William landed in England with his forces and launched his attack on King Harold's reign.

The battles that ensued were also bloody! The result was that King Harold II died in the Battle of Hastings, and William the Bastard – also known as William, Duke of Normandy – became William the Conquerer, also known as William I of England!

Like I said, compared to all this violence and death and mayhem and atrocity, our mud-slinging and swift-boating ads, our stump speeches full of empty promises and debates full of meaningless platitudes all look pretty darned good!


Did you know...?

When the French-speaking Normans conquered and ruled England, they forever changed Britain's culture and language. Check it out!




Also on this date:


Confucius's birthday 





Day of Czech Statehood 







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September 27 – Happy Birthday, Samuel Adams

Posted on September 27, 2014

  • He was a Founding Father and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
  • According to Thomas Jefferson, he was “the Man of the Revolution.”
  • He was the second cousin of John Adams, the second president of the United States. But before there was such a thing as the United States, Sam was far better known than John. As a matter of fact, John Adams had to explain to strangers in Europe, “Oh, I'm not the famous Adams.”
  • He may well be the only Founding Father that has a beer named after him!

Today many people think of Sam Adams as a firebrand, someone who swept other colonists away with his anti-British rhetoric, someone who masterminded almost every aspect of Boston's rebellious actions. But there were lots of other colonists who wanted to break ties with Britain, too, during Adams's era. It wasn't all Sam, all the time!


Samuel Adams had two different wives named Elizabeth (sadly, his first wife died). He was given a slave as a wedding gift – but Adams were strongly against slavery. He immediately set the woman free, and then hired her back to work in his household as a free woman.

Find out more about Samuel Adams at Mr. Nussbaum's website

Also, check out this Sam Adams speech.  The high point of the speech for me is that he used the word ignominious. Isn't that a great word? 

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September 26 – Save the Koala Day

Posted on September 26, 2014

Riddle: What's cute and fuzzy-furry-cuddly, eats mostly eucalyptus leaves, has super-sharp claws and (often) stinks big time because of the glands on its chest?

Answer: the koala!

You probably know that koalas are native to Australia, and that they are marsupials, which means that their babies are born while still embryos and finish developing in their moms' pouches.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, September is Save the Koala Month, and today is the one-day version of the effort to raise awareness of and concern for these unusual and adorable animals!























Find out more about koalas in this earlier post.

Also on this date:


Anniversary of the premiere of Gilligan's Island 















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September 25 – Math Storytelling Day

Posted on September 25, 2014

A woman named Maria Droujkova, founder of Natural Math, was inspired by social media visionary Seth Godin to think about what she would like people to do on her birthday. After some thought, she asked that September 25 (her birthday) be known as math storytelling day.

Here are two of the stories she shared:

  • Although George Washington's flag sketch for Betsy Ross had 6-pointed stars, Betsy Ross knew how to make 5-pointed stars more easily. She folded the cloth a certain way and then made one snip with her scissors. Ross recommended the 5-pointed star to the committee and demonstrated the ease of creating the symmetrical star, and so that's the kind of stars we ended up with. Check out the fold-and-snip trick here

Customer:
 “I’m looking for an outfit for a one year old girl.”

Me: “Sure, all of the twelve month clothing is in this section.”
Customer: “No, she’s one.”
Me: “Right, so that would be over here.”
Customer: “You just said that was twelve months!”
Me: “Yes.”
Customer: *slowly* “I’m looking for ONE YEAR.”
Me: “Would you like to go up one size to 18 months?”
Customer: “Is there someone else who can help me?”
(I go and get my manager.)
Manager: “How can I help you?”
Customer: “Your employee doesn’t understand English. I’m looking for clothing for my one year old granddaughter.”
Manager: “The twelve month clothes are over here.”
Customer: “What is WRONG with you people?”

If you like fictional math stories, check out Mr. R's World of Math and Science

If you prefer your math stories to be true, check out Six Small Math Errors that Caused Huge Disasters

How about math stories that are silly? Here are some math jokes (warning: in my opinion, only SOME of them are funny!). I chuckled over this one: 

A visitor at the Royal Tyrell Museum asks a museum employee: “Can you tell me how old the skeleton of that T-Rex is?”
It is precisely 60 million and three years, two months, and eighteen days old.”
How can you know that with such precision?!”
Well, when I started working here, one of the scientists told me that the skeleton was 60 million years old – and that was precisely three years, two months, and eighteen days ago…”


Also on this date:






Anniversary of an early warning that smoking is harmful (1878!)


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