Monthly Archives: January 2017

Up-Helly-Aa

This ancient fire festival is observed by people of Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. In pre-Christian times, their Norse ancestors welcomed the return of the sun god with Yule, a 24-day period of feasting, storytelling, and bonfires. The last night of the festival was called Up-Helly-Aa, or “End of the Holy Days.” Today, a group known as the Guizers builds a 31-foot model of a Viking longship in honor of the Viking invaders who remained in Scotland. On the night of Up-Helly-Aa, the Guizers dress in Norse costumes and carry the boat to an open field. There, they throw lit torches into the ship and burn it. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson (1919)

Robinson, a vocal member of the Civil Rights movement, was the first African-American baseball player in the modern major leagues and the first African American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1949, he led the National League in both stolen bases and batting average and was named its most valuable player. In recognition of his accomplishments both on and off the field, Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s number in 1997. How many times did he “steal home” during his career? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Tessellations

Tessellations are patterns of carefully juxtaposed, non-overlapping shapes—like the multicolored tiles of a mosaic—that fill a given surface. They have been used throughout history, from ancient architecture to modern art, and are frequently found in the works of M.C. Escher. Regular tessellations, which are highly symmetrical and made up of congruent, regular polygons, can only be formed using equilateral triangles, squares, or hexagons. Where can tessellations be observed in the natural world? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

First Anglo-Japanese Alliance Signed in London, England (1902)

The First Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed to protect the respective interests of Britain and Japan in China and Korea. Directed against Russian expansionism, the alliance helped Japan by discouraging France from entering the Russo-Japanese War on the Russian side. The alliance later prompted Japan to join the Allies in World War I. Britain allowed the alliance to lapse after the war, when it no longer feared Russian encroachment in China. What were the cultural effects of the alliance? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Duarte Day

The Monday closest to the birthday of national hero Juan Pablo Duarte (1813-76) is an official day of remembrance in the Dominican Republic. Duarte organized La Trinitaria in 1838, a secret resistance group whose efforts against the Haitian occupiers culminated in the Dominican Republic’s declaration of independence in 1844. Dominicans honor Duarte Day with public fiestas in major towns throughout the country. The stateliest ceremony takes place in Independence Park in Santo Domingo, which features Altar de la Patria (the nation’s altar), a mausoleum to the nation’s heroes. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Shirley Hazzard (1931)

Hazzard is an Australian novelist and short-story writer who has lived in the US since 1951. She and her husband, writer Francis Steegmuller, were both frequent contributors to The New Yorker magazine. Noted for her lyrical style, she achieved early success with her first story collection, Cliffs of Fall. Her 1980 novel, The Transit of Venus, brought her literary acclaim and a greatly expanded readership. Hazzard did not publish her next novel until 2003. What was it? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Vintage

A term used to classify wine, vintage describes the yield of wine or grapes from a vineyard or region during one season and usually identifies a high quality product. In contrast, wine made from the produce of multiple years is deemed non-vintage. Wines of superior vintages often command higher prices than those from average vintages, especially if they are likely to improve with age. Were experts who took part in a recent blind tasting able to distinguish between wines of good and bad vintages? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary