Friday, May 23, 2008

BackStory Radio Show

Catherine Moore sent me an e-mail about a new public radio show called the Backstory. A temporary site is up at

It looks worthy so here is some information on it:

The site notes, "BackStory is a brand-new call-in radio show that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us every day. Each week, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths."

In her e-mail, Catherine wrote, "Over the course of a show, the hosts are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers who want to explore the roots of what’s going on now. Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and sometimes, the disconnections) between past and present."

I hope this show is successful and that many people are exposed to quality history over the radio.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fun Facts about Australia

I found this fun short article at As the site allows for the reproduction of articles by blogs and other websites, I am going to go ahead and reprint it here. The author of the article is Beverly P. Frank.
Interesting Facts About Australia
By Beverly Frank

Australia is a continent that many people are fascinated with, and for good reason. It is full of sites and places that thousands of tourists flock to each year.

But there is more to Australia than just a lot of things to see. There are many interesting historical and present day facts about Australia, including:

Australia was home to thousands of prisoners.

When the British began to settle Australia in the late 1700s, their main motivation for doing so was to establish a land to send their prisoners to. The common practice of that time was to send convicts and prisoners (typically those who owed money or defied the government in some way) to the American colonies to work for a period of seven to fourteen years. However, when the British lost control of the American colonies, they had no place to send their prisoners until James Cook, the first Englishman to chart and explore Australia, suggested it as a suitable place. As a result, thousands of British prisoners were sent to Australia, where they eventually were set free and allowed the colonies to prosper. Now, about twenty five percent of Australians have ancestors who were convicts.

There were originally over 200 languages in Australia.

Australia was first inhabited over 40,000 years ago by Aboriginal people. These tribes of Aborigines in the states and across the country spoke over 200 languages and dialects. However, more than half of these dialects are now extinct, as over ninety percent of the original Aborigines were killed when the British settled the continent, mostly as a result of diseases the Europeans brought over.

Australia is the smallest continent in the world.
Australia can claim itself as a country, continent, and island. While it is the smallest continent in the world, it is also the largest island in the world. In addition, Australia is the only country in the world that makes up an entire continent. The majority of the people in Australia live in the large coastal cities because over ninety percent of Australia is actually dry and flat, and about three quarters of the land can't support any type of agriculture.

Australia is famous for its sheep.

The population of Australia is more sheep than people; in fact, there are roughly ten sheep in Australia for every person. As a result, Australia is the largest exporter in the world of lamb meat and wool.

Australia's most famous animals are unique to Australia only.

When many people think of wildlife in Australia, they think of such animals as koala bears and kangaroos. Because Australia is an island and not connected to any other land, it has developed its own wildlife. The kangaroo, koala bear, emu, and kookaburra are animals that are only found in the wild in Australia.

Australia is a smart country.

Presently, Australia claims to have a 100% literacy rate, one of the highest in the world. Perhaps this is why they read more newspapers per capita than any country in the world.

Australians love to gamble.

Per capita, Australians spend more money on gambling than any other country in the world. And although they make up less than one percent of the total population of the world, Australia has over twenty percent of the world's poker machines.

As you can see from these few facts, Australia is a country that is full of interesting facts, both from the past as well as the present. For more Australia visit Australia at "Surfing the Net with Kids."

Beverly P. Frank is a mom and stay-at-home writer for the network of sites, including Surf Net Parents, and Santa Claus Fun.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SS Columbia Turns 106

SS Columbia Turns 106, Prepares For Odyssey From Detroit To Hudson River

New York, NY; Detroit, MI; May 21, 2008 – Planning is underway to transport the SS Columbia, the oldest surviving excursion steamer in the United States, from Detroit, Mich., to New York Harbor, as the volunteer organization, the SS Columbia Project, kicks off a capital campaign to complement challenge grants already secured. At completion of her journey—and subsequent restoration—the Columbia will become a catalyst for eco-tourism in both New York Harbor and the Hudson River, connecting Hudson River Valley towns to their histories and to opportunities for economic growth. Resurrected as a living ship, the Columbia will help promote jobs, simultaneously raising awareness of the scenic grandeur of the Hudson River and the crucial need to preserve it.

One of only two surviving vessels built by Frank Kirby, one of America’s greatest naval architects, the Columbia is adorned with such beauties as a grand staircase and an innovative, open-air ballroom. The artist Louis O. Keil collaborated with Kirby, decorating the interiors with mahogany paneling, art glass and gilded moldings. As swift as she was sumptuous, the Columbia’s massive 1200-horsepower steam engine—gleaming with brass and steel—ran open to public view. The steamship’s reign of transporting passengers lasted 89 years, from 1902 until 1991. Since then she has languished, tied to a Detroit pier, ghostly in her coat of shrink-wrap, her hull and engine in disrepair, her splendid interiors peeling and fading.

Headquartered in Manhattan, the SS Columbia Project is a non-profit 501c3, all-volunteer organization. “Our current goal is to raise $ 750,000 in matching funds in order to release $750,000 already granted by the State of New York,” said Richard Anderson, president and founder of the organization. “The SS Columbia is a National Historic Landmark, a treasure worth preserving. We are in urgent need of funds to match the challenge grant awarded to first stabilize, and then transport the ship—with a following phase devoted to her restoration. May 22nd honors National Maritime Day; we want the public to know we’ve been building up steam over the past two years through our volunteer corps and Board of Directors, as well as early benefactors to the project such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation.”

“Passengers riding the Columbia will connect with different eras in unforgettable ways,” Anderson continued. “This steamer provides a rich link with our historical past, while possessing the capacity to open windows into the future by promoting environmental stewardship and green technologies. For instance, she ran on coal, but now she’ll incorporate ‘green technologies.’ Her restoration signifies the creation of a unique, water-born classroom with potential to reach thousands in ways that other existing venues and educational tools cannot. Imagine her, also, as a floating salon, full of passengers enjoying cultural events, on deck and in her stunning interiors. The Columbia will serve as ambassador for ports along the river; she’ll string the towns like beads on the thread of the Hudson, bringing people and communities together.”

The Columbia’s deterioration through weather and disuse is taking its toll: she cannot wait forever. Matching the challenge grants can secure her future. The SS Columbia Project accepts donations large and small and welcomes anyone interested in volunteering. EMBARK, the newsletter about the SS Columbia Project’s progress, provides updates quarterly. To make a donation or to learn more, visit

For more information, please visit

Monday, May 19, 2008

Echoes of 1968

NPR: Echoes of 1968 - The American National Public Radio has a series examining the historic and influential events of 1968. This includes the killings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. It also features the signing of the Civil Rights Act and protests against the Vietnam War.

From the site:

Americans mourned the deaths of the Rev. Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and people marched in protest of the Vietnam War. This occasional series looks at how these and other events of 1968 continue to reverberate 40 years later.