2013-2014 Worthy Clicks Archive

2013-2014 Worthy Clicks Archive

   Dec. 23:
   The name Major Henry Livingston Jr. isn’t well known, but someday, that may change.

   Scholars believe that Livingston may have written “A Visit from St. Nicholas” or “’Twas the Night before Christmas.” 
   A website by one of Livingston’s descendents, Mary S. Van Deusen, features the major’s poetry.  It also has photographs of the recent mock trial in which attorneys attempted to settle the matter. (The verdict: Livingston wrote the poem.)

    Dec. 15:
    It isn’t enough to imagine how difficult, not to mention uncomfortable, it must have been to cross an icy river in December.
    At Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania, the experience is relived.
    On Dec. 25, re-enactors in Colonial garb will board boats just like the ones used by the Continental Army and cross the Delaware – come rain, shine or snow.  What started as George Washington’s famous surprise attack on Trenton has become an annual event.  To read about the park’s history, see Washington Crossing Historic Park.    

Nov. 27:
     Want a fun way to learn about early American history? Check out some of the podcasts at the website, Ben Franklin’s World.

     Host Liz Covart, who has a doctorate in history from the University of California, Davis, interviews  guests on topics such as colonial medicine, pirates, John Adams’ role as minister to Great Britain and even the sex lives of the Founding Fathers.  

    Why Ben Franklin? Covart explains: “I chose the title ‘Ben Franklin’s World’ because nearly everyone knows who Ben Franklin was and when he lived. I also chose Franklin because his worldly life and legacy allow me to discuss early American history in its broadest sense.”

     Nov. 15:
     Did you know that colonists drank beer for breakfast?
     It’s true, according to History is Served, a part of the Historic Williamsburg website that offers “18th century recipes for the 21st century kitchen.” 
     Beer was considered safe, the website points out: “Brewers boil the water, inadvertently killing many bacteria ..."
     The website serves up food history along with fascinating recipes such as barley soup, raspberry dumplings and  “chicken pudding, a favorite Virginia dish.”  

     Nov. 3:  
     Jeremy Renner portrays Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb in the movie, Kill the Messenger. This old-fashioned thriller is based on the experiences of Webb, who took his life in 2004.
     A San Jose Mercury News reporter, Webb wrote stories suggesting that the U.S. government had protected drug dealers from prosecution and “either knowingly permitted them to peddle massive quantities of cocaine to the black residents of South Central Los Angeles or turned a blind eye to such activity,” according to a U.S. Justice Department review of the reports, available online. 
     “The Mercury News later proclaimed that the article did not make these allegations,” the review noted. “However, notwithstanding the Mercury News' proclamations, involvement by the CIA and the United States government in the crack crisis was implied through oblique references and the juxtaposition of certain images….”
     The stories remain hotly contested to this day.

     Oct. 24:
     For an informative Halloween read, turn to the Federal Highway Administration’s website. As unlikely as it sounds, the administration has a page on ghosts of Antietam Battlefield in Maryland and Bloody Lane – a sunken road where many men died.
     The story reports that battlefield visitors have smelled gunpowder and even spotted Confederate soldiers marching. (These were assumed to be re-enactors – until they vanished!)
     The article proves history can be haunting, especially when it involves a battlefield where 23,100 men were wounded, killed or missing in action.

    Oct. 17:
    Right about now, everyone wants information on the same topic: Ebola.
    The current outbreak, primarily in West African countries, is the largest in history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers answers to tough questions: What is the risk for exposure? How is the disease transmitted? How is it best prevented? 
     While information about Ebola is everywhere, it is best to get the facts from a reliable source. 

    Sept. 29:
    Even if you are no longer a student, you could seriously fall in love with the website, The American Revolution.org. 
    It offers a timeline of the revolution, along with profiles of the commanders, political leaders and thinkers behind American independence.  There are even videos about various battles.  In all, it is a great resource for those writing term papers -- and for history lovers of all ages.

    Sept. 22:  
    This year is notable for many anniversaries in world history. And one of them is the Jesuit Restoration of 1814. 
    The Jesuits, of course, are the religious order of priests noted for schools such as Georgetown, Fordham and several universities named Loyola -- prominently in New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore. They are also the order of the much-loved Pope Francis.
    But the Jesuits weren’t always so popular, and from 1773-1814 they were driven into exile. The website Jesuit Restoration 1814, notes the soap operatic history of the controversial clerics. The site offers a timeline of the suppression, exile and restoration of the Jesuits, along with brief biographies of supporters and opponents.   

    Sept. 15:
    The newest Ken Burns documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, is must-see television.  
   The history of this family of patrician activists is fascinating, thought provoking and jarring. The PBS website on the series offers videos, image galleries, lesson plans and more.  
   The seven-part series is currently showing on PBS stations.

     Sept. 8:
     Sept. 13-14, marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore – and of the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
     Many websites can be found explaining how Francis Scott Key, author of the national anthem, watched the bombardment anxiously from a British truce ship while negotiating the release of an American prisoner. But the Smithsonian Institution has produced a website worth visiting with: The Star-Spangled Banner, the Flag that Inspired the National Anthem.
     The site offers a concise history, artwork of the time and even an interactive quiz about the War of 1812 and Francis Scott Key.       

    Aug. 29:
    It turns out that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.
    To prove it, check out the Urban Observatory website, an interactive exhibit that gives visitors the opportunity to contrast cities all over the world by comparing temperature, weather, housing, population density, amount of parkland and more. (The next time you think your city is crowded, check out Tokyo.)
    The observatory will also be available at the Smithsonian Institution in 2015.

    Aug. 19:
    With schools in the process of opening nationwide, it is time to scope out homework sites. 
    Some are out to make money -- and you figure that out quickly. But HippoCampus.org is free and offers math homework instruction for middle school, high school and college students. Lessons are taught through animated tutorials, and log-in is not required.     
    HippoCampus.org is part of the NROC Project (National Repository of Online Courses) and is a community-guided, nonprofit project funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and NROC members across the country.

    Aug. 6    
    Some websites are flat-out fun. One example is Historic Pictoric.
     The website features historic photography from a host of major cities. Sunbathers in long sailor dresses splash about the Jersey Shore, dock workers unload goods on the New Orleans riverfront and travelers mill about a sunlit Grand Central Terminal in New York.
      It’s worth the visit just to gawk, but the website also sells images and calendars.    

    July 30
    A great many websites focus on nutrition, but at times, it is difficult to separate legitimate information from quackery.
       One place to start the hunt is the government’s website: nutrition.gov. The site offers information on nutrition, healthy eating, physical activity and food safety. It also offers tips about weight management, meal planning and dietary supplements.   

   July 16
   July 20 marks the 70th anniversary of Operation Valkyrie, the 1944 attempt by German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
   The website GHDI –German History in Documents and Images, a collection of original historical materials documenting German history, offers a concise account of the operation, led by Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg.
   It was Stauffenberg who detonated a bomb in Hitler’s East Prussian headquarters known as the Wolf's Lair. He then fled to Berlin, thinking he had killed Hitler. But the dictator survived the attack. Stauffenberg was arrested and shot. (The story was told in the 2008 movie Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise.)
   GHDI is an initiative of the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.

   July 1
   So what exactly is a derecho?
   Weather forecasters have taken to tossing this term about lately – and with good reason. Derechoes are large “clusters of thunderstorms” that leave wind damage, according to weather.com.
   Derechoes are most active during the late spring and summer. In fact, a storm was predicted in the Midwest in early July.

   June 23  
   Did you know that World War I injuries inspired a physician to invent plastic surgery?
   That and other tidbits can be found on the BBC’s World War I website. Consider that blood banks were developed during World War I. The youngest British soldier was 12 years old. And the war nearly caused a financial meltdown in Britain.  
   But alas, while the website offers solid information about the war, some of its videos are unavailable for those of us in the colonies.

    June 10
    PBS has a long history of providing educational programming for young children.
    But beyond Sesame Street, the PBS Kids website offers children skill-building word games and number games.  There are also videos and apps.
    It’s colorful. It’s animated. It’s fun.

    June 1
    Earlier this month, we wrote about a website devoted to labor history, the  Illinois Labor History Society.
    Our new Worthy Clicks is about a group of people making labor history by fighting for a $15-per-hour wage. The organization is called Fight for $15, and it was formed by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago -- a city with a rich history of scrappy workers. 
   The website features photos, information and updates for and about workers.

    May 12
    Turn, AMC’s riveting drama about espionage during the American Revolution, is not as spectacular or talked about as Mad Men or Breaking Bad.
    But the well-acted, well-written series undeniably gets under the skin. Based on the book Washington's Spies by historian Alexander Rose, Turn tells the story of the Culper spy ring, a group responsible for information that helped turn the Revolutionary War.
    The show stars Jamie Bell as Abraham Woodhull, farmer and capable spy, Heather Lind as Anna Strong and Seth Numrich as Ben Tallmadge, the young officer appointed by Washington to lead the ring.
    The show’s website features interactive maps, episode descriptions and games.

    May 1   
    Not that anyone remembers, but 128 years ago a group of Chicago workers rallied for the eight-hour day.
    An estimated 80,000 workers marched down Michigan Avenue on May 1, 1886. “This solidarity shocked some employers, who feared a workers' revolution, while others quickly signed agreements for shorter hours at the same pay,” recalls the Illinois Labor History Society on its website.
    On May 4, workers meeting at Haymarket Square were attacked by police. Someone “threw the first dynamite bomb ever used in peacetime history of the United States,” the website recounts. “The police panicked, and in the darkness many shot at their own men.”
    Seven policemen and four workers died. Eight men, all involved in the labor movement, were eventually arrested. Some hadn’t been present when the violence began.
    Read an account of the Haymarket Affair here.

    April 14
    So maybe you’ve had enough of Captain America, the heroic hunk suffering survivor’s guilt in the latest blockbuster installment of the Marvel franchise. 
    Another movie soon at theaters, The Railway Man, tells the true story of a veteran still coming to grips with the horrors of war.  
    The story is based on a memoir by Eric Lomax, a signals officer in the British Army during World War II.  Years after surviving torture at the hands of the Japanese, Lomax confronted his tormenter, by then working at a museum.  Lomax is portrayed in middle-age by Colin Firth and in flashbacks by Jeremy Irvine.
    Lomax died in 2012.

    April 1
    NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) will crash on the moon’s surface.
    But don’t worry. That’s what it is supposed to do (see story in our Tomorrow section), around April 21. The spacecraft has completed its tasks and will even do a couple of more jobs before its work is done, according to NASA.  But eventually, it will impact on the moon’s surface.
    For sport, NASA wants to know what time you think the crash will occur.  First, visit NASA’s LADEE Take the Plunge Web page for information. Make your estimate on NASA’s form here.

    March 23
    If you’ve had enough of the annual basketball ritual known as March Madness, try something different: Hubble Madness.
    Space geeks are choosing their favorite images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The next round runs from March 31 to April 3.The Final Four will begin April 4. To play, go to the Hubble Madnesspage on Facebook.

    March 18
    A pop test: Ukraine, now the center of international dispute, was initially settled by: A) Russians; B) Vikings; or C) Ukrainians.
    The answer is B, according to the Lonely Planet.com's travel guide. Ukraine was the home of the first Russian state. “So historically Ukraine is the birthplace of Russia rather than vice versa,” the website points out.
    This initial state, Kyivan Rus, was founded in the ninth century by Vikings, “an indication of just how much foreigners have meddled in the region’s convoluted history.”
    Not that anyone is planning a vacation to Ukraine right now, but the Lonely Planet’s website offers a concise historical overview. See more here.

    March 9  
    A mere two weeks after celebrating the French culture, cuisine and revelry of Mardi Gras, we turn to the more serious festival of Irish culture, green beer and debauchery that is St. Patrick’s Day. But where is the best parade?
    Think of St. Patrick’s Day and think of Chicago, wildly turning the Chicago River green.  New York City brags that it hosted the first parade in 1762 – 14 years before the Declaration of Independence, according to the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade website.
    But Boston’s parade is deeply entrenched in American history. (See: Henry Knox and the Miracle at Dorchester Heights on the South Boston Parade website.)
    The Irish will shrug off St. Patrick’s Day as the concoction of sentimental types who would never move to the Emerald Isle but proclaim themselves proudly Irish. Even so, the Irish are in on the act. Dublin’s three-day festival begins on March 14.

    March 2
    Every year, the practice of resetting clocks leaves millions of Americans sleepy. But contrary to legend, we don't have Benjamin Franklin to thank for daylight saving time.
    In a satirical essay, Franklin proposed changing sleep schedules (not clocks) to make the most of the summer sun.
    William Willett, an Englishman and avid horseman, had the idea of actually changing the clock during an early-morning ride in 1905, according to History.com. Willett managed to get his idea before Parliament, but the measure failed.
     It took a war to change things. “In 1916, with World War I ratcheting up, Germany put itself on daylight saving time to save energy for the war effort,” the website Live Science reports. “Britain followed a month later.”
     This year, the first day is March 9.  Before going to bed March 8, set the clock forward one hour. 

     Feb. 24
     The International Space Station has been called a mobile lab and a stepping stone into space, but it is also a reality show. Updates about activities at the space station can be seen weekly on NASA’s Space to Ground broadcast. Budding astronomers can find the space station through NASA’s Spot the Station. Type in your state of residence and ZIP code and the website will tell you when to see the station. The site also tells you how to spot the station.

     Feb. 10-23
     This is a good time to check out Olympic.org, the official website of the Olympic movement.
     The site features a history of the games dating to 776 B.C. Back then, sports included “running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, pankration and equestrian events,” according to the website. Pankration, by the way, is a combination of boxing and wrestling.
     The modern games were reborn in 1896 in Athens, and the athletes must have been tough. For one of the longer swims, the website tells us, "the swimmers were transported by boat out to sea and left to swim the required distance back to shore."     

     Feb. 3
     The Library of Congress has launched an online collection showcasing selected items from the Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive.
     Sagan, who died in 1996, was a well-known astronomer, writer and producer. Druyan, also a writer and producer, is his widow. Online visitors can view 300 items, including rare books, manuscripts, celestial atlases, early science fiction books, and such personal items of Sagan’s as journals, loose notes, letters and a full draft of his science fiction novel, “Contact,”  according to the library's blog.
     “Through the selected items in this presentation, visitors can explore connections between some of Carl Sagan’s work communicating about the cosmos and the possibilities of life on other worlds and the extensive diversity of collections of the Library of Congress,” the blog says.
     MacFarlane, an actor, director, producer and writer, donated money to help the library acquire the papers.

    January 2014

    Jan. 27
    Pete Seeger, legendary folk musician and social activist, died Jan. 27. He was 94. Any number of tributes can be found online.
    Start with the statement of President Barack Obama on whitehouse.gov: “Once called ‘America’s tuning fork,’ Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song.  But more importantly, he believed in the power of community – to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be,”
    For an overview of Seeger’s work, see the Rolling Stone's website.
    Last but not least, Bruce Springsteen knew what it was like to work alongside Seeger. See his website for a touching tribute.   

    Jan. 20
    On March 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Japan’s coast triggered tsunamis and the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant began releasing radioactive materials. Last year, Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station found that bluefin tuna caught off the California coast tested positive for radiation.
     On its website, the California Department of Public Health asserts that there are no health and safety concerns for residents.
     That may be the case, but a scientist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution wants to know for sure. Marine chemist Ken Buesseler has launched a crowdsourcing campaign and citizen science website to collect and analyze seawater along the West Coast of North America, according to the institution. Through the website ourradioactiveocean.org, the public can support the monitoring of radiation in the ocean with tax-deductible donations to fund the analysis of existing samples or by proposing new locations and funding the samples and analysis of those sites. 

     Jan 16
     Debates over citizenship status are often a point of contention in today’s debates over immigration. But the issue is hardly new. It goes back to the early years of the American republic. Even then lawmakers were trying to figure out who counted as an American citizen, writes Tom Cutterham on website The Junto, which focuses on early American history.
     The early debates didn’t involve newcomers, but rather the original inhabitants: the Indians. Were they citizens of the states or separate nations? And what did that mean for their property rights? For many years Native Americans didn’t fare well in the debates, Cutterham writes.    

     Jan. 10  
     In his blog, Lights In the Dark, space writer Jason Major gives us “12 Awesome Space Stories of 2013.”
     This was a busy year for space news. Major had plenty of material for his list, from the meteor that blasted Russia in February to images of Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft.  In his view, the biggest story of the year may have been news that water vapor was observed erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.
     Major’s enthusiasm and love of science make this a good read and a worthy click.

    December 2013

    Dec. 22
    For nearly 60 years, NORAD -- North American Aerospace Defense Command – has officially tracked the progress of Santa as he makes his way around the globe.
    The NORAD tradition began in 1955, according to this year's NORAD Tracks Santa website. “A Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa," the website recounts. Children unwittingly phoned the hotline for the Continental Air Defense Command (NORAD's predecessor). 
    "The director of operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.”
     This year's website, Noradsanta.org, is a work of art. Visitors will find a detailed explanation of how NORAD tracks Santa using radar and satellites, along with games and movies about the Santa-tracker operation.   

    Dec. 16
    Are you pro snow?
    It may be a tough question, particularly if you are still shoveling out from last week’s storm. But the Climate Reality Project wants to know. The project, “dedicated to unleashing a global cultural movement,” focuses on the effects of climate change on communities that depend on winter sports.
     Olympians and members of the U.S. Ski Team are joining the “I Am Pro Snow movement,” the site brags. While learning about the environment, site visitors can register to win skis or a snowboard.

    Dec. 9
    We take it for granted now, but the sneeze guard changed the way restaurants operate, according to the Food & Think blog on the Smithsonian.com website. 
     Johnny Garneau, who owned a chain of self-service restaurants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, filed a patent for the “food service table” in 1959. Later known as the sneeze guard, it is now required by law.
     The entrepreneur’s daughter described her father as a germaphobe who didn’t want people sneezing on his food.   

     Dec. 2
     On December 2, 1863, the last section of the Statue of Freedom was put in place on top of the U.S. Capitol. Ironically, for the next two years, scaffolding will cover the dome as repairs are under way. Even so, this marks its 150th Anniversary, a good excuse to admire a building that symbolizes freedom.

  • The government’s website offers a complete history and timeline of the construction.
  •  The website for the Architect of the Capitol building has a page on the restoration project.
  •    Prominently, 60 minutes offered a fascinating segment.  [One complaint: They should have devoted the entire show to anniversary.] 

November 2013

    Nov. 25
    We may be taking beer for granted.
     Beer is an example of how a product can change history, writes Nick Thornton, CEO of  Unboring Learning, on his website.
    “Public houses became important meeting places for revolutionaries, scientists and thinkers as well as social activists. Beer has a history going back (reliably) to 3500 BCE Iran and ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Monks popularized the beverage in Europe during the rise of Christianity, the Industrial age brought better brewing methods and more variety and today beer is the third most consumed beverage on the planet.”   

    Nov. 18
    What do Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Bill O'Reilly of the Fox News Channel and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush have in common? All made videos recording the Gettysburg Address. Ken Burns, film documentary maker, along with numerous partners, launched the project to celebrate the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous address. It is well worth watching.   

    Nov. 11
    Critics and reviewers proclaim 12 Years a Slave "the most important mainstream media effort to portray American slavery from the perspective of a slave,” notes history blogger Keith Harris.
     That's fair, Harris writes, but they may be overlooking something: “In January 1977, for eight successive nights, ABC Television aired what I feel is the most important media event concerning American slavery to date. Roots, the television miniseries, enthralled a vast cross-section of Americans – the viewership transcending race, ethnicity, and economic demographic.”
      Just in time, the History Channel is remaking the landmark miniseries, according to Deadline Hollywood. The original series was  “a major turning point in the coverage in popular culture of the issue of slavery in America,” writes Martin Chilton, culture editor of The Telegraph. Even so, in the years since, there have been claims that “the alleged factual history of the book was something of an invention.”

     Nov. 3
Naomi Watts stars in Diana, the latest film about the people’s princess. The film focuses heavily on Princess Diana on her own and alone, writes Carolyn Harris, a historian and university professor based in Toronto.
    “The problem with the screenwriter’s decision to focus on Diana’s lonely life behind closed doors is that the film provides little sense of why she became an iconic figure who enthralled the public worldwide,” Harris writes.