November 30, 2011 - Statue of Ramses II Discovered

– 1991

Some construction workers dug down into the earth in Akhmim, in Egypt, in order to prepare a foundation for a new post office. And...they uncovered an ancient statue of an ancient pharaoh, Ramses II.

That's how things go in Egypt!

I have read that, in Akhmim, some people go into their own courtyards and begin to dig, and a few of them have discovered major archeological finds! Apparently the temple once built in that area was huge—Arabic visitors from the ninth century said it took from sunrise to sunset to view the temple! However, most of the temple and the rest of the ancient city were torn down during the middle ages, and the materials were reused to create other buildings.
Check out some of the ancient statues in Akhmim here and here.

What's in a name?

I am not that surprised when I see that the Italian name for Rome is “Roma,” or the Spanish name for Mexico City is “la Ciudad de Mexico” (since ciudad means city). However, I am surprised when one place has very different names. This is the case with Akhmim. Apparently the ancient town was called Ipu, then Khent-Min, then Khemis by ancient Egyptians; Panapolis by ancient Greeks; and Chmin by Coptic Christians.

A famous pharaoh

Some of the statues discovered in Akhmim depict pharaoh Ramses II and his daughters and wives. Ramses II lived more than three thousand years ago. And...speaking of varied names, his name is sometimes spelled Ramesses, and he sometimes is sometimes called Ramses (or Ramesses) the Great. Don't be confused: these are all names for the same guy.

What made him so great? Well, for one thing, Ramses II lived a really looong time, even for modern times. He was around 90 years old when he died—and back then, most Egyptians who made it past babyhood only lived to be 30 or 40 years old.

This statue of Ramses was not found in Akhmim.
As a matter of fact, it is not in Egypt--it is
in Tennessee, in the United States!
Also, Ramses II is considered one of the most powerful pharaohs of the Egyptian Empire, as he led successful military expeditions into Canaan, Libya and Nubia and defeated sea pirates who had been attacking Egyptian trading vessels on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Ramses II made sure he was remembered; he ordered a lot of colossal (huge) statues carved of himself, and had temples and other monuments erected in his honor all over Egypt. Check out these photos of just a few...and then these.

Explore some more

BBC offers “Mummy Maker” and “Pyramid Builder,” and Mr. Donn presents a colossal amount of ancient Egyptian stuff! 

November 29, 2011 - Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott

Her most beloved book is Little Women, but today's birthday girl (born in 1832) also wrote Little Men, Jo's Boys, An Old Fashioned Girl, and other books.

Alcott's father moved the family to Boston, established an experimental school, and joined the Transcendental Club with famous writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The family also spent some time living in the Utopian Fruitlands community. Alcott had an amazing education—sort of what we might call “homeschooling” these days—with most of her lessons with her father, but others with famous writers and naturalists such as Emerson, Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller. All of these famous people were family friends.

As an adult, Alcott became an abolitionist—someone who wants to abolish slavery—and a feminist. (Later in life, Alcott worked for women's suffrage, and she was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.) She worked as a teacher, seamstress, governess, maid, and writer. She wrote her first book, Flower Fables, at age 17, and in her twenties she wrote for a magazine. When the Civil War broke out, Alcott worked as a nurse in the Union Hospital in Georgetown, D.C.

In 1868, Louisa May Alcott began to achieve literary success with the publication of the first part of Little Women. This story of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy was semi-autobiographical, which means that parts were based on her own life with her own three sisters. Louisa was most like the writer-sister, Jo, but unlike Jo, who gets married and has children, Alcott remained single all her life.

Explore Alcott's World

Here are some games and activities from the days of Louisa May Alcott. 

Learn more about Alcott's life here and here.

Little Women is available free, in digital form and for reading on theinternet.  

Fairy Song,” one of Alcott's poems, is read aloud here

Rent and watch one of the movie versions of Little Women.

November 28, 2011 - National Holidays All Over the Place!

Most nations celebrate one or more patriotic holidays such as “Independence Day,” “Flag Day,” “Constitution Day,” or “Republic Day.” Today is a patriotic holiday for five different nations. See if you can match up each country below with its location and celebration:

1) Albania
2) Burundi
3) Chad
4) Mauritania
5) Panama

a) the narrow, curvy bit of land that joins North America to South America
b) a landlocked nation in the center of Northern Africa
c) in southeastern Europe, near Greece
d) on the coast of Western Africa
e) a tiny landlocked nation in the southeastern portion of Africa

F) declaration of independence from Ottoman rule in 1912
G) independence from France 1960
H) Republic Day—independent from German and Belgian rule
I) independence from Spain in 1821
J) Republic Day—although this nation is considered a “failed state” because of its extreme corruption

a building in Albania

Lake Tanganyika touches Burundi



a lake in Chad
a mosque in Mauritania


a beach in Panama

1) c, F
2) e, H
3) b, J
4) d, G
5) a, I

November 27, 2011 - Friction Match is Invented

 – 1826

On this date in 1826, English chemist and apothecary John Walker invented the first friction match. Walker coated the tips of three-inch splints of wood with a mixture of antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, arabic gum, and starch. After the matches dried, one could strike them on any rough surface and start a fire.

Walker called his invention “Congreves,” and he sold some...but he didn't patent the matches, and he made little money on his idea.

Later a man named Samuel Jones marketed Walker's Congreves – but he changed the name to “Lucifers.” Even though these matches produced a bad burning odor, they became quite popular.

Later, people tried to improve on the invention. In 1830, a French chemist came up with an odorless match—which sounds great—but it turned out to be poisonous! The chemist had used white phosphorous as part of the mixture, and that made people sick with something called “phossy jaw.” In 1855, safety matches were patented by Johan Edvard Lundstrom of Sweden. Lundstrom used phosphorous, too—but he used red phosphorous, not white, and he put it on a strip of sandpaper on the outside of the match box. When the match was struck across the surface of the rough sandpaper, the chemicals on the match tip were able to ignite—but the red phosphorous itself didn't burn!
Years later, in 1910, the Diamond Match Company patented the first nonpoisonous match in the United States. The U.S. president, William H. Taft, asked Diamond Match to release their patent for the good of humankind, and the company did! Then all the match companies could manufacture non-poisonous matches!

November 26, 2011 - Holiday for Baha'i Faith and Islam and Church/State Separation Week!

Today is...
Day of the Covenant in the Baha'i Faith

Baha'i temples and
the Shrine of the Bab
On this day, Baha'i celebrate the appointment of Abdu'l-Baha as the second leader of the Baha'i Faith, after the death of founder Baha'u'llah. The Baha'i Faith was founded in the 1800s in Persia—the land that is now Iran. It teaches that there is only one god and that the founders of many different faiths—such as Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed—all speak about the same god and have truths to offer. The most recent special messengers from god, according to the Baha'i faith, are the Bab and Baha'u'llah.

Today is also...
Islamic New Year (Al Hijra)

A Muslim mosque
From sunset yesterday to sunset today, it is the first day of the first month – Muharram – on the Islamic calendar. On this day in 622 C.E. (Islamic Year 1), Mohammed moved from Mecca to Medina. This is a low-key holiday, but many Muslims make “New Year Resolutions.”

Also, it is...
In the United States, the First Amendment of the Constitution states, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” What that means is that there cannot be one religion picked out by the government as the “right” religion, and given special privileges. The government can't make us all join a particular religion, of course, nor can it make us attend church services or celebrate religious holidays. People of all religions and people of no religion have equal status under the law.

This is one of the really good ideas the American “founding fathers” came up with. It protects religious people and non-religious people, people in a majority religion as well as people in a minority religion, religion and government. Nations such as Australia and Brazil have instituted similar language in their constitutions.

November 25, 2011 - Evacuation Day

Celebrate the end of the Revolutionary War! The last troops of British “Redcoats” left America on this day in 1783, boarding a fleet of ships and sailing away. The last shot of the war, a cannonball shot from the departing ships at the jeering crowds, fell well short of the shore.

The British flag still flew in Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan, as it was nailed to the top of a greased flagpole. Several men tried to tear down the flag, called the Union Jack, but could not reach it; so people cut and nailed wooden cleats to the pole, and a veteran named John Van Arsdale used a ladder to get to the top of the pole, remove the flag, and replace it with the American Stars and Stripes. He managed to do this while the British fleet was still in sight!

With the American flag flying, the signal was given to George Washington that Manhattan was ready for the victory march, and Washington led the Continental Army down Broadway to the Battery.

For more than a century, this event was celebrated by a reenactment – with a competition to see who could get up the greased pole to tear down the Union Jack! However, once Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln, Evacuation Day subsided in importance.

Since it is the day after Thanksgiving, today is also...

You're Welcoming Day
             A day to say “you're welcome” to all the people who thanked you the day before...

Black Friday
             A day to spend money while trying to save money, buying gifts at the store...

November 24, 2011 - Thanksgiving Day and the National Day of Mourning

It's always nice to have a harvest festival—although most of us live in cities, far from farmlands, and eat produce from innumerable harvests all over the world!

It's also nice to have a day set aside to be thankful about the good things in our lives.

However, some people do not see Thanksgiving as a happy holiday that harkens back to a wonderful feast enjoyed by “Pilgrims” and “Indians,” cooking and eating together in peace. Some people see it as a day to regret the way things turned out for the native peoples who lived in the Plymouth area and elsewhere in the Americas. Instead of gathering together with family over a roasted turkey and televised football, they gather together to hear speeches about the truth behind the mythologized Pilgrim/Indian feast.

Since 1970, these gatherings have been called the National Day of Mourning.

This is not how it was at the first Thanksgiving!
Massasoit was the leader of the
Wampanoag tribe.
Even though most sources I have consulted indicate that the first Thanksgiving was indeed a harvest festival, as I described in this 2010 post, some sources claim that the 3-day event was actually a meeting between English “Pilgrims” and Wampanoag “Indians” to discuss land rights. 

According to Turquoise Butterfly, the Wampanoag brought most of the food eaten during the meeting, because that was what their culture dictated as the polite thing to do.

To learn more...
...about the history of Thanksgiving, check out this earlier post.

November 23, 2011 - Fibonacci Day

Fibonacci numbers are defined as starting with zero and one; each following number in the sequence is formed by adding the previous two numbers.

So... 0 + 1 = 1

Therefore... the next Fibonacci number is 1. (Again!)

1 + 1 = 2

Therefore, the next Fibonacci number is 2.

1 + 2 = 3

Therefore, the next Fibonacci number is 3.

2 + 3 = 5

So the next Fibonacci number is 5.

Can you figure out the next seven Fibonacci numbers? After you do, check your answers here.  Since numbers go on to infinity, so do Fibonacci numbers! They start slow (1, 1, 2, 3, 5), but they get really, really big really quickly (the 40th Fibonacci number is 102,334,155!).

Fibonacci numbers are associated with the Golden Ratio and spirals, and we see them in biological settings such as tree branching and flowers, arrangement of fruit spouts on pineapples and seed scales on pine cones...

Why is today Fibonacci Day? The first numbers in the sequence (other than zero) are 1, 1, 2, 3, so we celebrate the sequence on 11/23.

Find out more about Fibonacci and his sequence here and here

For fun...

Try writing a Word Fib Poem

November 22, 2011 - John F. Kennedy Day

When I was a kid in elementary school, I remember very well the day that something really bad happened. All of our teachers stopped teaching our classes and stood together in the hallways of our school, whispering to each other. Some cried. We kids were frightened.

Then we were told the awful news: somebody had shot and killed our U.S. President, John F. Kennedy.

All of this happened on this day in 1963, and it made a huge impact on the U.S. and even the world. When I traveled in Mexico a few years after his death, I was surprised to see photographs of JFK hanging everywhere—even in the living rooms of many family homes.

Since JFK's untimely death, he has been mythologized (his life story told and expanded on and retold until it sounded even grander than it really was, and he sounded even cooler than he really was), and he has been criticized a lot (yeah, he was human and had faults). JFK's assassination (murder) has also been endlessly discussed and debated, with conspiracy theories about whodunnit, and why, thick on the ground.

Check out...

Garden of Praise has a page on JFK, complete with puzzles (scroll to the bottom). 

Apples 4 the Teacher has digital coloring pictures of JFK.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum tells the story of Kennedy's life. 

JFK's brothers Bobby and Edward also went into politics
and government.

November 21, 2011 - Alascattalo Day

 – Alaska

The mascot of the day is an Alascattalo—which is a cross between a walrus and moose! (In case you aren't sure, this is a VERY fictional character!)

Steven C. Levi, a commercial writer who works in Anchorage, Alaska, originated the Alascattalo and the Alascattalo Day Parade 29 years ago. He calls it “the longest running shortest parade in American history” because the parade participants travel just one block! Levi also mandated that there would be an award for the smallest and ugliest float. (Floats must be both small and ugly in order to win!)

A posting letting people know about the parade says, “As usual, no one is invited, so anyone coming to the parade should come disguised.” The posting grudgingly tells people where to meet for the parade, if they don't have anything better to do...It also promises that this year's parade will be “as forgettable as all the others.”

Gosh, I wish my state had a day on which we could celebrate “California humor,” like Alaska has for Alaska humor today. (I'm not really sure what California humor is...heck, I don't know what Alaska humor is, either!)

Make a mascot!

Hmm...try to picture what an Alascattalo would look like...Moose antlers on a walrus head, with a moose body and flippers where a tail should be? Aack – hard to imagine! Looking at pictures of moose and walruses, try to draw a crazy-combo of the two.

Or create a crazy creature of your own by combining any two animals. Make a drawing of your crazy cross-breeding project and challenge others to guess which two animals were combined.

To learn more about Alaska, check out this and that, that other, and even this other earlier post.

November 20, 2011 - Teacher's Day

– Vietnam

Today is a day for honoring teachers in
Teach yourself about Vietnam today!

This country is located on the Indochina peninsula, south of China; this area was colonized by France, and during World War II it was occupied by Japan. In 1941, a man named Ho Chi Minh led an effort to free Vietnam from the Japanese and the French. But many people considered Ho Chi Minh a communist and therefore bad—and the nation was divided in two: communist North Vietnam and non-communist (but unfortunately also non-democratic) South Vietnam. For years, the two sides fought against each other, egged on by first France and then the United States.

The war finally ended in 1975, and since then Vietnam has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world!

  • Watch this YouTube video about Vietnam. It is a tourism video, so it is only positive about the country—nothing negative exists there, apparently, or has ever happened there (for example, there is not even one tiny acknowledgement of the Vietnam War). But the video was beautifully shot and shows a ton of natural beauty I hadn't known about...
  • Rainbow Kids has coloring pages and other resources about Vietnam.

November 19, 2011 - World Toilet Day

Billions of people in the world don't have adequate sanitation services, and thousands of these don't have any sort of modern plumbing. Improving sanitation conditions for people globally helps the environment, health, dignity, gender equality, and more! World Toilet - dot - Org increases people's awareness of this problem through events, and this organization also takes donations that are used to purchase and install toilets and other aspects of good sanitation.

To learn more about wastewater—what we flush down our toilets—check out the City of San Diego's website “Sewage in your Face.”  (Whoa! A virtual sewage treatment?) Or check out the website of the L.A. Sanitation Department of Public Works. There is a slide show and a clickable link in the category of “Wastewater Program.” 

Have you ever wondered what bathrooms and toilets looked like long, long ago? What did the ancient civilizations do with human waste?

Ancient Roman toilets, all in a row...
Find out about Ancient Rome's solutions on Kidipede

To learn about “The Long, Unglamorous History of the Toilet,” read Gizmodo's article. 

November 18, 2011 - Mickey Mouse Day

Born on this day in 1928, Mickey Mouse first appeared in the cartoon “Steamboat Willie.” The animated rodent had the voice of Walt Disney.

Disney had wanted to use his popular character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but he had created that character while working for Universal Pictures and didn't have the copyright. Oswald looks a lot like Mickey, but with rabbit ears instead of round mouse ears!

After creating the new mouse character, Walt Disney wanted to call him Mortimer. His wife nixed the name and suggested the shorter, cuter name Mickey instead. And guess what? Mickey became EVER so much more popular than Oswald the Lucky Rabbit! What with the Mickey Mouse wristwatch (sold from 1933 to present), the 55-foot-tall Mickey Mouse leading the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1935, the ubiquitous images of Mickey on TV, in merchandise, and in lots and lots of theme parks—well! Mickey is known worldwide, and has been famous for more than 80 years now...

Did you know...?

  • Mickey Mouse was the first cartoon character to talk. (1929)
  • You may think of Mickey in just his little red shorts, but he has appeared in 175 different costumes. One of the most famous is the red robes and pointed blue hat of fantasia.
  • The words “Mickey Mouse” were used as a secret password between Allied intelligence officers during World War II.


Get some free Mickey coloring pages here

Make a Mickey cake with the idea in this earlier post.

Or go all-out with a Mickey Birthday Bash.

November 17, 2011 - National Unfriend Day

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel has announced today as the Second Annual Unfriend Day, in which he encourages all of us Facebook users to go through our “friends” list on Facebook and unfriend anybody who shouldn't be on it.

I suppose he has a good point, but as all comedians do (and should do, right?), he takes it to silly extremes on his show

(Trust me, you can be friends with your mom!)

This post takes a more serious look at the need for unfriending IF you have hundreds or thousands of Facebook “friends.” 

More importantly than UNfriending is NOT smoking!
Today is also...
Great American Smokeout

One of the biggest things you can do to improve your chances for a long and healthy life is to NOT smoke tobacco. Even people who have smoked for years benefit greatly by quitting. The American Cancer Society reminds us that today is the 36th annual Great American Smokeout. If you don't know the huge benefits of choosing not to smoke, be sure to check out the website

November 16, 2011 - Geographic Information Systems Day

(Third Wednesday of November)

Today, the National Geographic Society and other organizations are trying to spread the word on how GIS technology can make a difference in our world. The official website posts information about GIS Day events all over the world... and also offers some lessons, book suggestions, and links to web-based activities for kids. Check it out!

  • Many kids, families, and classrooms are using GPS technology to do cool things such as geocaching. Here are five fun ways to use GPS.

  • Many of us are used to using computers and smart phones for driving directions and maps, but have you ever used iMap Builder to create flash maps on your computer? 

  • Also, Hexographer is map-making software that allows users to create hex-style maps, town maps, battlemaps, and other maps for role-playing games, board games, or wargames. There is a free version!

To learn more about geography, explore the games at KidsGeo-dot-com and the links at Enchanted Learning.