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For a wide selection of Music, Movies, and More

(001201) The Warner Bros Cartoon Companion
by E.O. Costello


Spumco's Cartoon Magazine

a part of

Spumco's Wonderful World of Cartoons!

Hollywood, California, USA

Buried deep in Spumco's Wonderful World of Cartoons is E.O. Costello's fantastic look at classic Warner Bros Cartoons. Dissecting the subtleties of visual gags and then popular culture references from the time these animated short subjects were created, this encyclopedia also explains in great detail about the people behind the cartoons. Perfect for the film scholar and kid in all of us who would wear our pajamas in front of the TV all Saturday morning if we could get away with it. The Warner Bros Cartoon Companion and other features at Spumco's Wonderful World of Cartoons! are bound to rot your brain away given enough exposure time. Spumco's Wonderful World of Cartoons! is "Brought to you by John Kricfalusi, the creator of the original Ren & Stimpy Show. If you love comics and cartoons, you'll love Spumco". Start with The Warner Bros Cartoon Companion if for no other reason than to have a point of reference. After a few hours, work your way out from there.  (Back to top of page)

(001202) IllusionWorks

IllusionWorks, L.L.C.
Los Angeles, California, USA

Sponsored by the Shimojo Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (, IllusionWorks contains dozens of optical illusions. Focusing on the varied types of optical illusions by using nicely rendered illustrations, IllusionWorks explains the mechanics of how our eyes and brains work together. From the simplest of line drawings to the complexity of work by M. C. Escher, being fooled has never been more entertaining. Thanks to Phil Konstantin for the suggestion.  (Back to top of page)

(001203) Señor CPU Yuletide Snappy Fun Ornament

Yeeeoww!!! Digital Cartoons
Pasadena, California, USA

This fun little holiday craft item requires a color printer, a pair of scissors, string, and tape or glue and the desire to have a blast with something rather silly. The Señor CPU Yuletide Snappy Fun Ornament dates back to 1995 and this set of pages are the last set still up at Yeeeoww!!! Digital Cartoons, something about four years, a new name and time for a major change. The Señor CPU Yuletide Snappy Fun Ornament comes in two flavors as a kit, either as a JPEG file for color inkjet printers or a higher resolution EPS file which works best with a color Postscript printer. Perfect for the tree, but the ornament could be attractive in droves around the office. I'm going to make a couple Señor CPU Yuletide Snappy Fun Ornaments and then swab the insides with liquid pine cleaner to give them that extra holiday goodness they deserve. There are a few prime-time TV grade swear words on the pages here, so supervise the tender or easily offended while harvesting and creating Señor CPU Yuletide Snappy Fun Ornaments.  (Back to top of page)

(001204) Mrs. Claus's Workshop
at West Loogootee Elementary

Loogootee Elementary West
Loogootee Community Schools
Loogootee, Indiana, USA

With help from 2nd grade students at Loogootee's West Elementary, Mrs. Claus has put a site together that has a lot of things going for it. Information at Mrs. Claus's Workshop includes true facts about Reindeer, a Reindeer Slideshow with more true facts, pointers to Reindeer related sites and even a Reindeer Quiz! Other fun activities include a section with riddles and jokes similar to the following submitted by Danny G. and Leslie K. who go to school at Vivian Elementary School in Lakewood, Colorado:

Q: What kind of a bird can write?

A: A PEN-guin!

Pointers to other holiday sites and activities add to the enjoyment, but perhaps the most useful elements are the recipes and craft ideas — all of the classics are here. Educators will appreciate the lesson plans that Mrs. Claus has assembled to accompany a list of books, and may also wish to submit a letter from their class with questions for Mrs. Claus. A number of schools did so last year and the letters are posted in a special section. Students in Mrs. Ison's 1st grade class at Northside Elementary School in Midway, Kentucky showed Mrs. Claus absolutely no mercy… Lee wanted to know "Why can't Santa use his beard like a parachute?" and Ashley asked "Why doesn't Santa come during the day so we can see him?". What fun.

Part of the West Elementary Internet Projects site ( which contains many more creative and interesting sites and ideas for younger students.  (Back to top of page)

(001205) Book-A-Minute


Durham, New Hampshire, USA

From RinkWorks, the same folks who brought us The Dialectizer ( (SdJotD 980624) comes Book-A-Minute and Movie-A-Minute. "Ultra-condensed" versions of important literary and cinematic pieces, perfectly suited for those who don't have the time or the inclination to wade through all of that plot and character business. Like a good round of Punchline Theater.  (Back to top of page)


Greg Dean Schmitz
Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA is a site devoted to news and information about motion pictures. A combination of industry and fan propaganda, US release schedules, reviews, rumors, and speculation about who is directing or acting in what, with who, and when. Before the trailers are even distributed to movie houses, visitors to have a good idea about what to expect from studios large and small. Video release dates are also listed here based on the standard lead-times used by the industry. Like any product, movie release dates can be changed due to numerous factors so consider using this site for entertainment purposes only. What do we have to look forward to in the next few years? According to, sequels are here to stay. For example, November 2002 has a pair that makes the word sequel an understatement — James Bond 20 ( and Star Trek 10 ( An interesting site for anyone who likes movies.  (Back to top of page)


Bradford and Reed, Inc
New York, USA

Imagine winning one billion dollars. Odds of picking the lucky 7 numbers in the field of 77 are stacked mighty high (1:2,404,808,340) against your 1 chance but what is the likelihood that the biggest, fastest ship to ever ply the waters of the North Atlantic would ever sink on her first trip across the pond? It could be a huge pay out for National Indemnity Company, a member of the Berkshire Hathaway family of insurance companies, the firm underwriting the annuity. If the prize is won, payments will be spread out over 40 years or as an immediate pay out of 170 million dollars. Why is Bradford and Reed, Inc offering one of the largest prizes in contest history? They want you to enter so they can send e-mail messages on subjects you have requested, and of course there will be advertising. There is a method you can use to discontinue the messages but the privacy policy states that they do make physical mailing addresses and telephone numbers available to third parties in list form. Sure it's a big gamble, a billion dollars is a lot of money and that annuity needed to be paid for in some manner. The big sweepstakes is "Offered and open only in the United States and Canada to natural persons, at least 13 or older, and in the United Kingdom to natural persons at least 18 or older, who are legal residents of the foregoing countries. Void in Florida, Quebec, Puerto Rico and where otherwise prohibited. Ends 11:59:59 p.m. (ET) 12/26/00 11:59:59 PM". There are other contests and prizes available at and while the only sure bet here is that if this whole promotion is a success and the odds work in the favor of the companies involved, there will be more of the same in the new year. Before taxes, that billion dollars would be something in the neighborhood of $68,400 a day over 40 years.  (Back to top of page)

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(001208) Project Linus ... Providing Security Through Blankets

Project Linus
Englewood, Colorado, USA

(Project Linus ... Providing Security Through Blankets was first featured as Site du Jour of the Day on January 14, 1998 (SdJotD 980114) and bears another mention. To date, the project has distributed an additional 230,000 security blankets to children around the world. The original idea was to comfort pediatric cancer patients and "…has broadened its focus aiming toward seriously ill or traumatized children ... children in need of a big hug". There are currently over 350 Project Linus chapters in Australia, Canada, England, Mexico, Philippines, Romania, and the United States. Here is the original Site du Jour of the Day episode more or less as it went out nearly three years ago.)

The more that I pay attention to it, life has a certain degree of irony to it. Last night a memorial service was held for a friend's mother. She fought a six month battle against cancer which ended on Saturday. Her husband and children were all beside her when she fell into a peaceful sleep, sharing deep laughter with those she loved during the last few minutes awake. One would imagine that she was fully aware of what was happening to her.

Today a reader sent a suggestion for a site that put the past few days into a better perspective. Maintained by a non-profit organization providing comfort to children fighting cancer and other traumas three and four year-olds should never have to deal with. Project Linus has distributed over twenty thousand security blankets through chapters in the U.S. and Canada to children too young to completely understand what is happening to them. Inspired by the courage of a little girl whose own "blankie" helped her through intensive chemotherapy and the stress associated with the treatments, Karen Loucks-Baker started giving blankets to young patients at Denver's Rocky Mountain Children's Cancer Center. The simplicity of the project is amazing — make a washable blanket to help a child deal with something most adults have difficulty with. If you quilt or sew have a look at this site. There's bound to be a few yards of fabric in your supply that could go to good use. The site contains a list of contacts for local chapters, including e-mail addresses and telephone numbers.  (Back to top of page)

(001209) John Lennon Artificial Intelligence Project

David Maggin
The Triumph PC Group
Rockville, Maryland, USA

It's hard to believe that it's been twenty years. It was the top news story that cold Tuesday morning — just before midnight on Monday, the former Beatle was shot and killed outside of his New York apartment after returning from the recording studio. I went to bed with the knowledge that Lennon was dead, staying up to record a concert a Detroit radio station was airing live. The disk jockey, who was in tears, broke the program to make the announcement that John Lennon had been murdered. I still have the Cassette tape which includes the breaking story and the beginnings of what would become a day-long tribute to one of the most influential recording artists in history. A performer who had just come out of a retirement brought on by the birth of a child and a series of legal battles to stay in the United States. The album Double Fantasy was doing well with the critics and on the charts, appearing just days earlier in Billboard ( (SdJotD 980912) rather unfortunately in retrospect, with a bullet. The photograph of John Lennon signing an album for the person who would ultimately kill him hours later is still haunting. The irony in that image alone is easily worth a thousand of those made up words Lennon was so fond of.

Purists will probably not appreciate the John Lennon Artificial Intelligence Project. Using textural versions of phrases and expressions culled from interviews and the writings of John Lennon, The Triumph PC Group has created a Chat-Bot that gives the illusion one is typing with John Lennon. Let the Java program load longer than recommended for better results and then have a go at it. Being familiar with the career and public personality of John Lennon helps out as well, allowing users to ask questions and converse with the device as if it were the actual person. Again, certain fans may not fully appreciate the John Lennon Artificial Intelligence Project and nobody knows for certain what Lennon himself would have thought. The man who once found that wearing a toilet seat around his neck was a laugh-riot might like this. Pointers to related sites and a whole lot more make this site worth a look even if you have no interest in talking to a machine pretending to be the late John Lennon.

Also of interest will be the site for Rolling Stone ( Editors and readers of the magazine had a special relationship with John Lennon, and the section called Lennon Remembered ( is very well done.  (Back to top of page)

(001210) Kennedy Center Millennium Stage

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, District of Columbia, USA

One of the Performing Arts for Everyone initiatives, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage has a free performance every day at six in the evening Eastern time. Residents and visitors to the US capital can experience diverse programs now through the end of the current Millennium — RealVideo streams provide a glimpse for the rest of the world as well. A sample of the schedule: The Bolling Air Force Base Gospel Choir (December 10th), the annual Merry TubaChristmas event (11th), two evenings of Holiday Vaudeville (16th and 17th), Cantor Aaron Marcus directs Lights: A Hanukkah 5761 Celebration in Song (21st), Jinny Marsh's Hot Kugel Klezmer Band (26th), and American spirituals, inspirational music and folk songs offered by Faith, Spirit and Soul and InProcess…. (28th). Performing Arts for Everyone initiatives also include other performances on every stage of the Kennedy Center, many with free or low-cost tickets. A series of outreach programs have also been developed. If you miss a show, the Millennium Stage Performance Archive has the last seven days worth available at a glance, and a searchable index of daily performances and streams which go back to October 1998. Without question, music lovers should make give this site a bookmark or two and explore the archive as time allows.  (Back to top of page)

(001211) An Online Christmas Songbook
Hymns & Carols to Sing and Play

Christopher R. Baker
San Pablo, California, USA

Suggested by Site du Jour of the Day reader Jaymie, An Online Christmas Songbook has MIDI files and printable lyrics and music for voice for over one hundred hymns and carols. Contemporary numbers are not included because of copyright restrictions, instead the growing collection contains traditional pieces and those which have fallen into the Public Domain. While some of these hymns and carols date back hundreds of years, English language arrangements are the rule at An Online Christmas Songbook. Sources used are annotated, the following example is from the version of Deck the Halls (

Words: J.P. McCaskey, The Franklin Square Song Collection, 1881
Music: NOS GALEN (New Year's Eve) §7266
Edward Jones, Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards, London 1784

The really nice feature here is that all material including the MIDI files is Open Source, and a uses the Copyleft principle. Although originally formatted for An Online Christmas Songbook, the black and white image files and MIDI files can be used for other purposes without permission. Saving off a batch of images to later include in a songbook created for your organization or family program is as easy as (right/shift) clicking on the music and saving the image file. Once you have what you need, insert the files in the required order in a new or existing document using your favorite page layout or word processing program. The images themselves are not created for the purpose of printing, but if you do not mind a bit of distortion they wok out just fine. Including sheet music in the printed program distributed to the audience is a nice touch especially if it is in book form using a once-folded letter size sheet. A great deal of work has gone into this project so far and the section titled The Future gives a clear view of what Christopher R. Baker has in mind for An Online Christmas Songbook. Even for the remotely curious, this is a very nice site.  (Back to top of page)

(001212) Dealing With The December Holidays

Erika Lowndes
hosted by, Inc.
New York, New York, USA

Along with all of that Holiday Cheer we are supposedly sharing during the last month of the year comes a great deal of stress. For certain people it can be unbearable, for others it's just a minor annoyance. Regardless of where your stress comes from during the holidays, there is often a method for addressing it and this feature from About Nursing at ( could help out. Maintained by Erika Lowndes, an Employee Health Nurse for Lee Memorial Health System ( here in Fort Myers, Dealing With The December Holidays is a collection of articles which look at some of the causes of holiday stress. Topics range from Alcoholism to Nutrition to Women's Health issues and the way we are influenced by such things even if we are not suffering from a lack of good tidings. For some, the next two weeks will be the most difficult of the year and a little time spent here could go a long way toward a healthy and happy holiday season.  (Back to top of page)

(001213) The Annotated Dennis Miller (Archive) at,5744,12870,00.html

Locke Peterseim Inc.
Chicago, Illinois, USA

As sort of a wierd-ass consolation prize for losing O.J. Simpson from the announcers booth on television during Monday Night Football we get comedian Dennis Miller. Attempting to dissect the historical and cultural references Dennis Miller is notorious for, runs a fresh article every week that uses the resources held by the company most famous for their encyclopedias. While not a Dennis Miller fan nor a football fan, the idea of combining both sports still seems a bit strange to me and I'm sure that I'm not alone. With the regular football season almost over here in the US it seems fairly clear that the experiment worked for both the network and Dennis Miller — if he's back next year we'll know for certain. If you have watched any of the Monday night games and have wondered just what the heck Dennis Miller was talking about, which is not uncommon, here's your chance to find out. If you have yet to see a Monday night game this season, here's what you've missed aside from the football. It's nice too see that decided to tackle this whole subject and from the looks of it Locke Peterseim has done a fine job.  (Back to top of page)

(001214) FindLaw Legal News - Election 2000

a part of

FindLaw: Your Online Legal Resource

Mountain View, California, USA

Originally featured as Site du Jour of the Day on February 12, 1998 (SdJotD 980212), FindLaw is a tremendous resource for legal professionals, students, business executives, and otherwise normal citizens of the United States of America. Started as a set of law pointers for the Northern California Law Librarians in 1994, FindLaw now covers increasing ground. With the US Supreme Court writing more than a couple of opinions on the recent election and the way the ballots were handled there will be a great deal of interest in the workings of highest court in the land. FindLaw Legal News - Election 2000 has an extensive archive of PDF, MP3, and RealAudio files that pertain to the entire election cycle including the historic audio recordings released without precedent so quickly after the US Supreme Court Oral Arguments were heard. Up until now, these recordings were not released until well after the fact, if at all. Election 2000 is all over except for maybe a little bit of shouting, but the historical significance of the events which occurred during the last five weeks will be analyzed for decades to follow. This is some of the material that will be studied and for the most part it's pretty dry reading and/or listening, yet the importance of it cannot be argued.  (Back to top of page)

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(001215) Little People Page
Choking Hazards and Assorted Schmoo

Quinn Rollins
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Introduced by the Fisher-Price toy company over forty years ago, Little People ( have helped young children develop social skills through play. Little People are made of plastic these days, but retain the simple charm of a tubular torso with no extremities except for a round head. The ethnic and cultural diversity associated with the different dolls made the product line an instant hit with parents and the play sets turned social interaction and role playing into entertainment for kids as young as a year and a half old. Grown-ups still find the charm in playing with Little People toys, Quinn Rollins has made an art form out of it. By painting and adding volume to the toys, Quinn Rollins has turned Little People into well known characters from the worlds of television, the movies, comic strips, and books. The work here is clever and amusing yet it remains obvious that someone must have an awful lot of time on their hands. Nice to see that it's being put to good use though.  (Back to top of page)

(001216) Children's Books of the Early Soviet Era

Rare Books and Special Collections Division
McGill University Libraries
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

During the 1920s and 1930s children in the Soviet Union were an important part of the future, more so than in other parts of the world. The task of unifying more than a hundred distinct cultures was not an easy one and the political machine started to introduce youngsters to Communist ideals by using literature. A new genre at the time, the artwork and typography used were often created by the same individuals who were responsible for motivational posters and other forms of propaganda. This gallery of covers and certain title pages from the Rare Books and Special Collections Division, McGill University Libraries is a remnant of a special display which occurred in June and July 1998. That additional pages from the books are not available is unfortunate, but the quality of covers here makes up for any lack of substance. Eight sections at the site explore topics including the many languages used in the Soviet Union, the animal kingdom, revolution and industry, and the Soviet North. Judging these books by their covers is the only option for visitors yet many of these covers tell nearly complete stories as it is. In fact, some are absolutely stunning in their simplicity. Students of either the Soviet Union or commercial art are almost certain to appreciate this resource. Everyone should be interested to learn what young comrades were reading about at the same ages we were enjoying books with talking bears and little capitalist piggies going to market.  (Back to top of page)

(001217) Goldie's Winter Wonderland
Golden Books' Holiday Site

Golden Books Family Entertainment, Inc.
New York, New York, USA


Marine Toys for Tots Foundation

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation
Quantico, Virginia, USA

With an assortment of Shockwave games for children of all ages, this Golden Books site is a pleasant advertisement for several of the titles in their catalog. Help and elf navigate a maze, create a really cool snow globe, have a story read to you, spend time coloring, and even send one of four g-cards. The beauty part of this site is that by playing the games, visitors help contribute donations to the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation through Golden Books Family Entertainment, Inc. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, is independent of the U.S. Marine Corps, but is the fund raising, funding and support organization for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. Running between November 20, 2000 and January 7, 2001, up to $10,000 will be donated based on traffic and participation at the site. Goldie's Winter Wonderland is an enjoyable diversion and it helps an important cause.  (Back to top of page)

(001218) Hanukah: Festival of Lights
Your Step-By-Step Guide to Hanukkah and its Laws and Customs

Amy J. Kramer
Everything Jewish, Inc.
Skokie, Illinois, USA

Like the other sections at ( Hanukah: Festival of Lights takes an in-depth look at the Jewish holidays. Broken down into several categories, these pages take on the mysteries surrounding the Festival of Lights which honors the Maccabean victory over the Greek Army. The origins, religious meaning, laws and customs are all explored. Of particular interest is the section titled Heroes & Villains which puts a human face on this ancient holiday. The other holidays covered at are Shabbat, Rosh Ha'Shanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Purim, and Passover — all using the same categorical structure.  (Back to top of page)

(001219) Christmas Traditions in France and in Canada

Traditions de Noël en France et au Canada

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Hull, Quebec, Canada

Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication
Saint Quentin, France

A combined effort between the Governments of Canada and France, this site looks at shared traditions and folklore surrounding the December holidays. With common cultures in many parts of both countries, celebrations run parallel and this site helps to explain the histories involved. Among the most colorful stories include the belief that domesticated animals are given the gift of speech at Midnight on December 25th. Any human attempting to verify such an event runs the risk of everything from bad luck in the coming year or even death. Another belief has it that the dead rise from their graves on Christmas Eve for a mass at the cemetery cross. The previous parish priest prays for the Nativity, and after looking at former domiciles, the dead return to their graves. This is an extensive document covering centuries worth of tradition. Contributing agencies and individuals in Canada and France have a lot to be proud of with this relatively obscure site.  (Back to top of page)

(001220) Bill's Antique Christmas Light Site

Bill Nelson
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

One of the many outstanding things about the Internet is the degree of specialized information to be found. Bill's Antique Christmas Light Site is perfect example of that, allowing individuals to disseminate information previously of too little interest for traditional publishing houses. Bill Nelson has assembled a most impressive history of electric Christmas lights in the United States. Using images of antique light sets and period advertisements, Bill's Antique Christmas Light Site traces the invention, evolution, and marketing techniques related to illuminated Christmas decorations. Created to replace the dangerous practice of placing burning candles on the Christmas Tree, and probably more importantly — to sell more electricity and light bulbs. The depth of coverage here is the best I have ever seen on a subject I enjoy, the following is an example of the content at Bill's Antique Christmas Light Site:

"Thomas Edison's wonderful light bulb was invented in 1879, and it was to be only three years later that an associate of his, one Edward Johnson, electrically lit a Christmas tree for the first time. It created quite a stir, and was dutifully recorded by a reporter named Croffut in the Detroit Post and Tribune:

'Last evening I walked over beyond Fifth Avenue and called at the residence of Edward H. Johnson, vice-president of Edison's electric company. There, at the rear of the beautiful parlors, was a large Christmas tree presenting a most picturesque and uncanny aspect. It was brilliantly lighted with many colored globes about as large as an English walnut and was turning some six times a minute on a little pine box. There were eighty lights in all encased in these dainty glass eggs, and about equally divided between white, red and blue. As the tree turned, the colors alternated, all the lamps going out and being relit at every revolution. The result was a continuous twinkling of dancing colors, red, white, blue, white, red, blue---all evening.

I need not tell you that the scintillating evergreen was a pretty sight---one can hardly imagine anything prettier. The ceiling was crossed obliquely with two wires on which hung 28 more of the tiny lights; and all the lights and the fantastic tree itself with its starry fruit were kept going by the slight electric current brought from the main office on a filmy wire. The tree was kept revolving by a little hidden crank below the floor which was turned by electricity. It was a superb exhibition.'"

Modern light sets have come a long way since the first custom example was displayed 121 years ago and a visit to Bill's Antique Christmas Light Site could help take the sting out of finding that bad bulb or provide the motivation to get outside and take all of that hard work down after the New Year arrives. If Site du Jour of the Day utilized a site ranking system, Bill's Antique Christmas Light Site might receive a perfect score — it's that good.

For more on Christmas lights, be sure to see Chuck Smith's PlanetChristmas ( (SdJotD 991218). Although it is smaller than last year's, this display in Franklin, Tennessee contains 52,205 lights, 10 reindeer, Santa in a helicopter, and two singing penguins controlled by a hybrid computer based switching system invented for this specific application and location.  (Back to top of page)

(001221) NASA Human Spaceflight - International Space Station

Kim Dismukes and Kelly Humphries
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Houston, Texas, USA

On this winter solstice*, as we head into the 21st Century, it seems rather fitting that the second brightest object in the night sky is something created by humans. Recently added to the International Space Station are the 240-foot-long, 38-foot-wide solar arrays which reflect enough sunlight to be visible with the naked eye. Expedition 1 crew members Bill Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev have the arrays and systems configured to provide electrical power for the station's Zarya Control Module. The crew will be spending the holidays on the International Space Station and are scheduled to end their mission on March 1, 2001 with the arrival of the Expedition 2 crew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery STS-102. The NASA Human Spaceflight - International Space Station site has all of the freshest news from the station as well as a number of additional features. The most useful of these features may well be found on the Realtime Data pages ( with the NASA SkyWatch ( Java Aplet leading the pack. To the minute tracking of a number of objects including the International Space Station help ground-based viewers with locating the position and identities of visible objects. Before an holiday gathering it would be fun to enter data for your specific location and round up a list of items that will be visible during the evening. Taking the kids and interested adults out of doors to see spacecraft and satellites in orbit can only add to the excitement. Giving the NASA SkyWatch Quick Start Guide ( a good once over will be worth the time invested before using the NASA SkyWatch utility.

*For more on the solstice be sure to see Teresa Ruano's Candlegrove's Ancient Origins of the Holidays ( (SdJotD 971212).  (Back to top of page)

(001222) Swedish Christmas Chemistry

Anne and Johan Santesson
The Hague, the Netherlands

For about a week now, while we should have been doing more important things, my wife Jenni and I have been making Christmas stuff. The shopping is all done, has been for the most part since the first week of December, packages wrapped and shipped off, leaving us with the task of turning the house into a winter wonderland. After watching them sit in the garage for a couple of years, I was finally allowed to use the four cans of fake snow that were purchased for twenty five cents each in a post-holiday clearance sale somewhere. This isn't ordinary fake snow, it contains Lucite so you know it's got to be good. I just hope it washes off as easily as the test patch did — four cans go a long way! What has occupied my attention longer than any other holiday craft project has been experimenting with ways to apply Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt) to clear glass Christmas balls, both inside and out. The first round involved a slush-like solution of tap water and Magnesium Sulfate. It turned out to be too runny and the crystals never had a chance to form. Next came a similar slush that used Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol instead of water. Rapid evaporation prevented proper crystal formation but allowed for perfect snow-like clumps on the exterior surface. Finally, a solution of Magnesium Sulfate and Glycerin proved to give just the right ice effect for the inside surface. Common household chemistry at work, and the Ice Balls sure do look pretty when the light hits them. Now all I have left to do is work on convincing Jenni how cool the effect will look on all of the windows next year. Sure it may seem silly to those of you who already have more snow than you know what to do with. But from where I'm sitting in Florida, it's probably as silly as the idea of a tanning bed.

Rather than look for suggestions on the Internet for working with Magnesium Sulfate right off the bat I waited. Once a viable method was arrived at, I performed a search just to satisfy the urge. Instead of being specific, "chemistry of christmas" was all that was used. What came up was a number of sites that have rewritten Christmas songs and carols, most of which were pretty lame and had pocket protector written all over them. Whoever wrote this one must have been dating a poetry major at some point:

Iron the Red Atom Molecule

There was Cobalt and Argon and Carbon and Fluorine

Silver and Boron and Neon and Bromine

But do you recall

the most famous element of all?

Iron the red atom molecules

had a very shiny orbital

And if you ever saw him

You'd enjoy his magnetic glow

All of the other molecules

used to laugh and call him Ferrum

They never let poor Iron

join in any reaction games.

Then one inert Chemistry eve

Santa came to say

Iron with your orbital so bright

won't you catalyze the reaction tonight?

Then how the atoms reacted

and combined in twos and threes

Iron the red atom molecule

you'll go down in Chemistry!

Almost ready to give up, it appears. A great site which explores Swedish and Scandinavian Christmas traditions and then goes a step further by explaining the chemistry involved with some of them. Subjects range from candles to Lutfisk and for some, Swedish Christmas Chemistry may be a bit over the top. For nerds and other interested parties though, Swedish Christmas Chemistry offers fairly clear explanations of the sights and smells we associate with the holidays. Inspired by a greeting card mailed out by the NBC Defence Department of the Swedish National Defence Research Establishment in 1986, Anne and Johan Santesson have created an informative site by mixing history and chemistry into a delightful read. There's even a recipe for Glögg here.  (Back to top of page)

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Updated December 24, 2000

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