Leap Second

Every four years we have a leap day, February 29th, because there are about 365.25 days in each year.

And sometimes we need to have a leap second. There should be 24 hours in each day, which is the time it takes for the earth to spin one time. But the Earth is natural, and sometimes it spins just a little faster or slower. So today we will have a leap second and there will be one more second in the day, and New Year’s Day will start one second late.

This causes many problems for clocks and computers. Next year is the 150th anniversary of one of the most famous clocks in the world, the Great Clock Tower in London (with the famous Big Ben bell).

Parliament and the Great Clock Tower
Parliament and the Great Clock Tower

The original pendulum is still used to keep the time, and the clockmaster uses old pennies on the pendulum in order to slow it down or speed it up. He will have a tough time tonight.

A birthday wash
A birthday wash

Vietnamese rice-fields

Vietnam is known as the rice-basket of South Asia. Rice is mostly grown on the huge, flat plains, and in some places the climate for rice-growing is perfect and rice can be grown and harvested three times in a year.

But Vietnam also has many mountains and rice is also grown here. The rice terraces here definitely resemble those in Bali. Here is a great photo of some Vietnamese villages and their rice-fields.

Looks so peaceful
Looks so peaceful

Bali

The beautiful island of Bali in Indonesia is often remembered for its beaches, but for me this photo shows the real Bali.

Balinese lady walking across a rice-field
Balinese lady walking across a rice-field

Lake Louise

Named after Princess Louise
Named after Princess Louise

This must be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It is situated in the province of Alberta in Canada.

Because I like it so much here is another photo with the glacier that feeds the lake.

Princess Louise was the daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Princess Louise was the daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Snowman

I'm melting
I'm melting

A snowman is man-like figure made from balls of snow. The image of a snowman is connected with Christmas in Western culture. Building a snowman is a popular winter activity for children. There are many styles of snowmen across different cultures.

A snowman can be made by rolling a large ball of snow for its body. A second (and often a third), smaller ball is placed on top, as its head. Eyes and a mouth, are added using coal, small stones, or buttons. A nose may be added, using a piece of fruit or a vegetable, such as a carrot (but no bananas please!); sticks are sometimes added as arms. And snowmen often are given a pipe and a hat.

In the United Kingdom and Japan snowmen are usually built with two balls of snow, whereas in the United States the ‘three-ball method,’ is much more popular.

But there is no snow round here. I wonder if people build snowmen on Mt Fuji?

Santa Claus

Most of us know that Santa Claus lives near the North Pole, probably somewhere in Finland, and every Christmas Eve he gets dressed in a bright red suit, jumps into a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and delivers gifts to all the children of the world, entering their house by the chimney.

So:

1. Who was the original Santa?

2. Why does Santa wear red clothes?

I’m pretty sure I know the answer to No1, and I think I know the answer to No2.

Santa Claus was originally Saint Nicholas, who lived in Myra in southern Turkey in the 4th century. His name in German is Sankt Niklaus and his name in Dutch is Sinterklaas, so it’s easy to see how this changed to Santa Claus.

Not much is known about Saint Nicholas, except that he was a very kind and popular man who helped many people, especially the poor, and it is thought he also gave them gifts.

But no-one knows if he wore red clothes or had a white beard. I thought his red clothes started with Coca Cola commercials in the 1930s. For many years Coca Cola used Santa Claus as a character to help sell their drink. Since Santa was dressed in red, white and black it matched very well with the colours of the Coca Cola label.

It doesn’t seem a good idea to me. Can you imagine a company using Mother Theresa to advertise orange juice? I guess if Coca Cola used Santa to sell orange juice then his name would be changed to ‘Fanta Claus’!

But Santa was very successful at selling Coke, and many other companies used Santa to sell their products until the 1960s.

So the Coca Cola Corporation put Santa in red? No, I was wrong. There are many Santa pictures from well before this time which show Santa in a red and white suit, with a black belt.

nast-works.jpg

The picture above is by Thomas Nast in 1869 (before Coca Cola was invented), and it is thought that he was the first person to dress Santa in red.

smith1.jpg

This picture was drawn in 1908 by E Boyd Smith and shows Santa in the same suit as we see him now, and with a very long white beard.

But all this happened in the USA. The rest of the world got to see Santa in a bright red suit when they saw all the Coca Cola commercials. So, even though the artist Thomas Nast gave Santa his first red suit, we can be pretty certain that the Coca Cola commercials made sure that Santa will always be in red.

santa-coke1.jpg

Success is ….

In class today the students wrote a poem together. This is what they wrote:

Success is…

To share joy with others,

To grant all wishes,

To listen to the words of others,

To love those who need us,

To find an ideal soulmate,

To feel satisfied with our fate.

Looking down on a rainbow
Looking down on a rainbow