Friday, January 8, 2016
Keeping Track of Time
Nobody wants to waste time. Some save time. Others buy time. Some kill time.
Older people will tell you time flies. Others say, time is money. Teenagers find time hangs heavy on their hands. What is time? Do you ever wonder how people came to say such strange things about time?
Astronomers, physicists, and many others have been trying to solve the mystery of time for thousands of years. Astronomers study the stars. Physicists want to know how and when time began. Accurate timekeeping is important for everyone from athletes to heart surgeons.
Twenty-thousand years ago, when no one had ever heard of minutes, hours or seconds, people noticed that the sun came up every day and the moon every night. They scratched lines and made little holes on wood and even on bones to keep track of time. They were the first time detectives gathering evidence.
Five thousand years ago Sumerians were a people who lived in what is present day Iraq. They watched the sun, the moon and the stars. From their studies they made a calendar with thirty-day months. Instead of twenty-four hour days, they divided the daylight into twelve parts.
Later, in Egypt, other people noticed a special star. It appeared every year, when the Nile River began to overflow and flood their land. They invented a calendar with 365 days. The year they did that is called the first year of recorded history. Today we call that 4326 B.C.
Egyptians around 3500 B.C. built four-sided, tall, slender posts that tapered to a point at the top. We call these obelisks. The Egyptians watched the shadows their obelisks cast. The shadow moved from one side of the obelisk to the other as the day went on. Time detectives had discovered noon. At one time of year, the shadow was longer. At another time, the shadow was shorter. That longest shadow fell on the shortest day. The shortest shadow fell on the longest day..
By the year 2000 B.C. the Sumerians and their culture had disappeared. Babylonians then living in Iraq knew nothing of the Sumerian inventions. They didn’t know about the thirty-day months the Sumerians had developed. So, the Babylonians divided the year into twelve alternating months. One month had 29 days and the next one had 30 days. Their calendar had 354 days.
Even before the Babylonians made their calendar, the Mayan people, in Central America, were watching Venus, the morning star. They had two different systems for measuring a year. For some, the year had 260 days. For others, a year had 365 days. Mayans kept detailed records of their studies. They came to believe that time began in the year 3113 B.C. Eventually, their time studies became part of the Aztec System. The Aztecs became famous as time detectives. They recorded important events on large stones. Some of these stones still exist.
Having a calendar helped a lot. Farmers could predict the times of the year when certain crops should be planted. Celebrations could be scheduled, and plans could be made for special occasions during the year.
Soon people also wanted to plan their day as well as the year. So, they invented sundials. Egyptians probably made the first one. It was made of a bar of wood or stone with a slightly higher crossbar at one end. The higher crossbar cast a shadow on the lower, longer bar.
Time detectives marked the places where the sun’s shadow fell for each hour, and even the minutes. Some sundials were very elegantly carved in stone. Even today sundials are used in many places. They come in all shapes and sizes.
A sundial has two main parts. The face and the gnomon. The face is the flat part. The gnomon is the element that casts the shadow. To correctly tell the time, the gnomon has to point to the North Pole, or in the Southern Hemisphere to the South Pole.
Some sundials are huge and built in town squares. Others can be seen on the walls of buildings. A famous one in Milan has the form of a ship.
In Frankfort, Kentucky, a sundial honors the veterans from Kentucky who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. It is built so that, the shadow falls on the name and date of each war hero’s anniversary of death. Located in a plaza that overlooks the State Capitol, it also tells time and serves as a huge solar calendar.
Over the centuries, time detectives worked hard to calculate the correct time. Eventually, they invented clocks. They tried water clocks, and. mechanical clocks with pendulums. Today we have quartz, computer chip, and even atomic clocks.
. For centuries, time was measured according to the earth’s movements around the sun, but clocks always had to be corrected. The “detectives” found the clocks could be slightly ahead or behind the sun’s time. This is because the earth’s axis is slightly tilted and our planet follows an elliptical route around the sun. Today, international agreements determine what time it is all over the world
Atomic clocks give us a very precise time. They depend on the natural frequency of the Cesium atom. Time detectives at the U.S. Naval Observatory say atomic clocks are still off by one millionth of a second per year.
Physicists have discovered many things about time. The Big Bang Theory tells us that the world is about 14 billion years old. But is that when time began?
The earth continues to twirl through the heavens. Astronomers discover black holes, new particles, and many other wonderful aspects of our world. Physicists calculate their meaning; geologists examine the earth, and astronauts take photos. Yet, time still holds many mysteries! Do you think about time? What is it for? Do you like time to yourself? Do you spend time with others? How do you use time?
To learn more about sundials: Look for the North American Sundial Society on the Internet.
You will find a list of sundials in most USA States and some other countries, too.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
GOOD KING WENCESLAUS
Good King Wencelaus was a kind and generous nobleman in Bohemia more than a thousand years ago. He went out of his way to help the poor people on his lands. He was so good that people felt happy just to see him. They came to believe that just being near him was a blessing.
On the day after Christmas, the feast of St. Stephen, Good King Wenceslaus looked out his window. He saw a poor servant walking home in a blizzard.
Good King Wenceslaus called a servant and asked him to gather food and firewood. The King wanted to go to the poor man’s house to help him. He wanted the poor man to have food and a warm house.
Good King Wenceslaus set out in the snow. The servant walked behind him. When the servant felt the cold and it was hard to walk in the blizzard. He said, “Good King, I cannot go on.” If the servant turned back alone, he would get lost in the blizzard.
Good King Wencelaus encouraged him saying, “I will make the path. Try stepping in my footsteps.”
As he walked in the footsteps of Good King Wenceslaus, the servant felt warm again. Together, the King and the servant trudged on through the blizzard. Later, the servant told everyone about how even in a blizzard, he felt warm near Good King Wencelaus.
That is why a famous Christmas Carol begins with the words, “Good King Wenceslaus, on the feast of Stephen, . . ”
Friday, August 21, 2015
Many eons ago, people sat around a fire on a cold winter nights. They listened to a story. On summer evenings they did the same. On lakeside, beach, mountain, desert or river bank, it didn’t matter. Stories were remembered, invented, created. Young and old enjoyed listening.
People have gathered to hear stories for thousands of years. The first storytellers had only their voices, their memories, and their imagination, but their stories were cherished, remembered and passed on. Stories were told before pencils, books, television, radio, computers, tablets or cell phones were even imagined.
. The Story Teller was a special person in the community. His or her task was not only to entertain, but to answer big questions. Humans have always had big questions to wonder about.
They wondered about the big fireball in the sky. Why did it appear every day and go away every night? They watched that other light, too. They wondered why that big silver light came in the night. Why did it come sometimes as a silver crescent, and other times as a complete round disk?
Whenever people wondered about mysterious events in their lives, they hoped the storyteller would help them understand it.
Story Tellers were special. They had to remember every detail of the story and be able to invent new stories. To be a story teller was a special calling.
As time went on, story tellers, discovered they could draw their stories on the walls of caves. Later, people who wanted to remember stories made paper from papyrus. Papyrus was a plant with fibers that could be woven together. Story tellers learned to use thorns, and tips of feathers to write on paper with vegetable dyes,
Other story tellers used clay tablets. Papyrus and clay tablets could be carried and shared with others. Stories were passed on for hundreds of years in this way.
Then, in 1440, a German man, named Johannes Gutenberg, invented a machine that printed letters on paper. The first dated book known had been printed in China, but Gutenberg’s Press launched modern printing. Stories were available for reading by many, many people. More and more people learned not only to tell stories, but to read then, too.
Later, radio and television brought stories to even more people.
Today, we have computers, tablets, cell phones and many varieties of these. Many more people have access to stories.
Now we know many facts about that fireball, the sun, and the night light, we call the moon. But there are still many big questions which scientists still wonder about. Story tellers still try to answer them. In fact, some of our modern inventions were first spoken of by story tellers and then invented by others who thought about the ideas of the story tellers.
Leonardo Da Vinci, a famous artist, in the 1480’s, watched how birds flew. He thought there was a way for people to fly. He put his thoughts and drawings in notebooks which are still read today.
Chester Greenwood, a 13-year old boy in Farmington, Maine, thought about how cold his ears got while he ice skated. He made little ear covers for his ears. At first, his friends laughed at him. Then, they noticed that, he played outside long after their cold ears sent them inside. Later, Chester obtained a patent and made his fortune on ear muffs
Many people tell stories today. Sports announcers tell us the stories of games and athletes. News reporters tell us stories of what is happening in our world.
Authors and writers create stories to entertain us. These stories are called fiction.
Stories can be about things that are going on right now or that have happened in the past. When the story is about one of these events or people, or things, they are called Nonfiction.
While fiction may not mention the name or tell the details of an event as it happened, fiction often tells us very important truths. For example, if you want to read a story about how life actually was when Charles Dickens, a great writer, was alive, read A Christmas Carol, or David Copperfield. Mr. Dickens lived then. Terrible things happened to poor people. He might have gotten into trouble, been put in jail or even put to death if he gave the names and addresses of people who were responsible for the awful things that happened. Instead he created fiction stories. Everybody understood what he was writing, even though he did not mention actual names and addresses.
In the United States of America we are very fortunate because we have freedom of the press. Mr. Gutenberg made the first “press.” Since then there have been many new kinds of printing presses. However, when we refer to the freedom to write, we call it freedom of the press. That is any type of written material that anyone distributes.
If the story, news report or whatever is spoken, then the person is exercising freedom of speech, too.
These rights are very important. What is said to be nonfiction must be factually true. We cannot use our freedom of speech to lie about anyone, or misrepresent what has happened.
Fiction writers can create a story about actual events, but they may not name actual people or cite events, actions, or situations. They have to change names, addresses, and sometimes even the event. Nevertheless, they can tell the story, just as Mr. Dickens and many other authors have by creating names, places, events.
My book SECRET MELODY is an example of fiction based on actual events. I could create the story because it is well known that people are fleeing from terrorists, that child immigrants are being brought across borders, I told the story of a boy and girl who were separated from their parents by terrorists, how it happened and what happened to them. I did not name the terrorists. The children had fictional names. Their adventures were described without giving names of actual people.
I like being a storyteller. Storytelling continues today as it began eons ago. Let’s create stories that will entertain and inspire others on cold winter nights and on warm summer days. Stories can delight us, cheer us up when we are sad, and help us think about this wonderful world. Write a story today!
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
RAINY DAY STORIES
Elizabeth V Roach
Discover why Benny wonders why the tree is crying.
Thomas hears a "little sound." What is it?
Benabab meets three basket makers. What happens?
What is the new custom from another land that
Peter and Marisa try?
New book available online in paperback and e-book.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Abiria’s eyes opened wide. His mouth was wide open too. “How will he teach us Physical Education without a leg,” he asked.
Kamau shrugged. “I don’t know, but we are scheduled for his first class.” The bell rang as the two boys stepped into the school yard. They hurried to get in line where the new teacher stood.
“Straighten your line,” the new teacher barked in a loud voice. “March,” he bellowed.
Kamau marched tall and confident. He was the best marcher in the school. Abiria trembled, but tried to keep in step with Kamau. When they got to the field for exercise, the new teacher, said,
“I am your new teacher. You will call me Mr.Johnson. Yes, I have a prosthesis for my right leg. I have learned to use it for many things. So, don’t try anything.”
“I am your new teacher. You will call me Mr.Johnson. Yes, I have a prosthesis for my right leg. I have learned to use it for many things. So, don’t try anything.”
After class, Abiria said, “Wow, Kamau! How did he get us to do all those stunts with one leg!”
Kamau made a face. ‘He scowls at us. Why can’t he be jolly and laugh once in a while.”
“I don’t know,” Abiria said. “Maybe the leg hurts.”
Next day, Kamau asked the teacher a question about the exercises? “Sir,” he asked. “Why are we doing this exercise first? The other teacher did this one after we practiced running.”
“I am not the other teacher. We will do it this way,” Mr. Johnson said. Kamau saw the teacher was string t him and waiting for something. Kamau stood still. The whole class was quiet. Mr Johnson stared at Kamau.
Then, Mr. Johnson barked, “Yes, Sir!”
Kamau mumbled, “Yes, Sir.”
“Speak up,” Mr. Johnson barked at Kamau.
Kamau shouted, “Yes, Sir.” Mr. Johnson continued the class.
On the way home from school, Kamau complained to his friend. “Abiria, I don’t like that teacher.”
When he reached home, Kamau announced, “Papa, I am not going to Physical Education class.”
“Yes, you are, Kamau,” his father said.
“But I don’t want to go while that new teacher is here. He only has one leg and he’s mean.” Kamau pouted.
His father said, “Kamau, that is not an intelligent decision. You need to learn the skills of Physical Education. You don’t hurt the teacher by skipping class. You hurt yourself.”
Kamau said, “I don’t like him!”
“Kamau, everyone likes to be liked. Like him and you will see he will like you. Do you know how he lost his leg?”
‘No, and I don’t care,” Kamau said. But next day, Kamau decided to see if what his father said was true.
During recess Kamau walked over to Mr. Johnson who stood alone near the school door. Kamau swallowed and tried to keep his voice steady as he asked, “Sir, How did you lose your leg?”
“It is a long story, young man. I wanted to be a runner. I did not have a teacher and I ran on a highway. I got hit by a car. Thank you for asking. You are brave to ask,” the teacher said. He smiled at Kamau.
Kamau got all flustered. He said, “Yes, Sir.” And ran back to where Abiria waited for him.
“What happened?” Abiria asked.
“He was nice. He didn’t yell,” Kamau said.
“But what did he SAY?” Abiria asked.
“He got it running. He was running like I do, on the highway,” Kamau said.
Next day, the teacher asked, “Who wants to be a runner?”
Kamau and four other boys raised their hands. Mr. Johnson said, “Meet me after school.”
After school, Mr. Johnson gave the boys tips on what would help them to run faster. He taught them how to breathe effectively, when to stop, and how much water to drink/.
Each day after school, Kamau and his friends ran. They practiced hard. Mr. Johnson selected Kamau and Abiria to run in the District Competition.
They practiced everyday. They could not wait for the day to arrive. “Tomorrow we run,” Abiria said to Kamau on the eve of the District Competition.”
Kamau said, “Yes, and my father is going to take us there.” Kamau could hardly sleep that night with excitement. In the morning, he jumped up, ready to go to the competition., but his father was very sick. He seemed to have some acute pain in his right side.
Kamau, s mother said, ‘I am sorry, but you must stay here to care for your little brothers. I must take your father to the hospital. “
When Abiria arrived to travel to the District Competition, Kamau told him to go to the school. He could travel to the competition with Mr. Johnson and the other boys. Abiria was very sad. He did not want to go without Kamau.
Kamau insisted and Abiria went off to school.
Kamau held back his tears until his parents had gone to the hospital. He sent his little brothers out to play. Then, he sat in the doorway watching them. Tears flowed down his cheeks. He did not weep about not going to the competition. His fear was much deeper. How could he go on without his father?
When his mother returned, she said his father would stay in the hospital for a while, but he was going to recover. “Kamau,” his mother said. “Your father has pain, but he seems even sadder that you had to miss the competition because of him.”
Kamau swallowed hard. He said, “Mama,”, “There will be other competitions. Papa is more important that a race.”
Kamau’s mother patted him on the head. “Your father will be happy to hear that you said that.”
Next day, Kamau went to class. Mr. Johnson announced to the whole school that Abiria had done very well in the competition. “We must practice now for the National Competition,” he said.
Abiria whispered to Kamau, “I would not have won, if you had been there. Practice, you can win the National. Kamau slapped Abiria on the back. You are a good runner, Abiria, and YOU won, but thank you for being such a good friend, too.
The boys continued to run after school. Mr. Johnson coached them. They won many competitions, and their friendship endured. When they finished school, Kamau went on to join and win many races. Abiria became a doctor, specializing in Sports Medicine. When Kamau competed in a race, Abiria was always there to cheer for him. Abiria married first. He named his first child Kamau. When Kamau married he named his first child Abiria. Mr Johnson was godfather for both children.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Year of Faith
God loves us! God loves us! God loves us!
Jane Shares her Religion Lesson with Her Little Brother
When Jane came home from school, Billy pleaded, “Jane, push me on the swing Dad made for me.”
Jane said, “Okay, and I will tell you a story, too.”
She took Billy by the hand and walked him to the back yard. Jane lifted Billy into the swing. She pushed it gently.
Billy said, “Tell me the story!”
Jane said, “Jesus was going around his country telling people about God, his Father.
Crowds gathered wherever he went. And people wanted to get up close to see and hear him.
“Billy, Jesus cured people of all kinds of things. He could make blind people see, and he fixed the ears of people who couldn’t hear, so that they could hear everything. He even brought people back to life.
And one day, people were crowding around him. The Apostles, his closest friends, were trying to keep people from pushing and shoving. Some women wanted Jesus to bless their children. I guess they were really pushing their children up front.
So, some of the apostles, stopped them. They told them to get away, because they were crowding Jesus. And do you know what happened?”
Billy, wide–eyed turned in the swing to look at Jane behind him. “What happened?” he asked.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me.’ Jesus really likes children. He talked to them and he blessed them.
“And Mr James, my catechist, says Jesus loves us, too. And we can tell Jesus anything at all and he will listen. Right now, we can talk to Jesus because he promised to be with us always.”
Billy’s eyes opened even wider. “You mean Jesus is here right now?”
“Yes,” Jane said, “And he likes to be with us. Want to tell Jesus anything?”
Billy said, “Oh, Jesus, THANK YOU for this swing Dad made for me.”Jane said, “That’s a nice prayer, Billy?”
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