Establishing a Habit of Learning

In 5 Steps

Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

to Empower Your Learners

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

symposium

Degreed was thrilled to participate and sponsor Human Capital Media’s 2015 Spring CLO Symposium at Trump National Doral Miami. The three day conference, from April 13th – 15th, brought together over 300 learning executives.

Degreed’s COO, Chris McCarthy, and Hellman Worldwide Logistics’ Chief People Officer, Kenneth Finneran, presented an outstanding workshop on The New Generation of “Bring Your Own Learning”, What Every CLO Needs to Know. During the presentation, they explained what the consumerization of learning means and how executives can create a “learners first” culture in their organization while maintaining security and visibility. The key takeaways from the presentation included:

The learning levy has burst. People are taking learning into their own hands.

Empowering employee learning is the next big movement in education. Those who embrace it will thrive.

Accountability equals love. Empower while enforcing learning outcomes.

The workshop also included a breakout session where the 60 attendees were asked ‘What can we do as learning leaders to support and empower our learners?’ and discussed solutions in creating a learning culture in their organization.

It was an honor to have Degreed be considered as one of the elite thought leaders and solution providers in the learning and development community. The quality of sessions, speakers, organizations and networking opportunities were outstanding

Read more on the CLO symposium presentations and learning cultures with this Miami Herald Article ‘On-demand courses help employees learn on their own schedules’

Check out the Bring Your Own Learning presentation here:

 

Did you miss our webinar on Building a Learning Culture? Catch up with this wrap-up and tell us your thoughts on learning cultures by tweeting us @Degreed

First, why build a learning culture?

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In 2009 Bersin by Deloitte surveyed 40,000 organizations to see how they used various HR & training processes and how they performed on 10 business measures. They discovered “Among all the HR and training processes we study, the single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.” The study found the following about High-Impact Learning Cultures:

-32% more likely to be first to market

-58% more likely to have skills to meet future demand

-37% greater employee productivity

Here’s how to start building a Learning Culture that can bring lasting payoffs.

LearningCulture

Of a survey we administered, 89% of learners would rather be given credit for their own learning than learn at HR’s direction. It is an impossibility for you to know the needs, desires, goals, and real-time challenges for every individual within your organization, so how can you be expected to tailor fit learning initiatives that are top down? You can’t. It has to come from the bottom up.

LearningControl

 

For a Learning Culture to thrive, you must give the freedom to learn to the individual. It doesn’t matter what they learn, just that they are learning. Employees have goals and desires outside of our organizations, but part of their lives is their work. This means that while people will desire to learn about things like WWII history, and deep sea diving, they will also want to learn how to become better at their jobs within our organizations. Focus on making learning social, and implement it using these 3 key principals:

1. Trust. Trust that your employees want to develop new skills, and they will spend some time learning things that will improve their jobs within your organization.

2. Empower. Empower your employees to learn with time, money, and resources. For example, at Degreed, every employee is given $100 in FlexEd money a month to support whatever learning they want.

3. Personalize. Support people’s own unique learning strategies.

When the strategy, objectives, and policies are established and communicated within the organization, the culture and action can follow.

Here are the 3 big takeaways for building learning cultures:

1. Learning cultures focus on the needs of the employee and empower them to achieve their dreams.

2. For learning cultures to develop, it doesn’t matter what people learn.

3. Alignment is achieved through strong mission, strategy, & clear objectives.

Do you have questions about building a learning culture? Tweet them to us @degreed and check out the full webinar here:

 

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1. Ben Franklin came from a large family.

In fact, his father, Josiah Franklin, had 17 children with 2 wives. He was the 8th to the second wife but the 15th in total. He started to work with his brothers in a print shop at the age of 12.

2. Ben Franklin was a writer.

Franklin started out with a passion in writing and wrote many writings immediately after starting work. However, his older brother refused to publish his writings. After more work and effort, he was able to take his writings elsewhere to get published, many of which are famous today.

3. He was a volunteer fireman.

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He had a passion for “paying it forward” and giving back to the community. The department he volunteered for is called the Union Fire Company, but is now known as “Benjamin  Franklin’s Bucket Brigade”. After volunteering multiple times, he wrote articles on fire safety.

4. Ben Franklin is known for inventing the glass harmonica.

armonica

He designed the glass harmonica, or armonica, in 1761. It creates musical tones by using different sized glass bowls. It’s kind of like the old-fashioned version of rubbing your finger on a crystal glass.

5. Franklin could speak 5 languages.

He taught himself to read French, Latin, Italian, and Spanish, after already knowing English. He was always looking for ways to self-improve and figured being fluent in other languages would help him in his future.

6. During experiments, Franklin was almost killed twice.

The only reason he survived was because he didn’t receive a strong enough charge. One time he was trying to help cure a paralyzed man with electric shock. The other time was a result from his attempt to kill a turkey with electrical shock.

7. He created the first insurance company in the colonies.

The number one adversary? Fire. The full name was Philadelphia Contributorship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss By Fire. The idea was so every man could help each other.

8. Franklin invented the rocking chair.

Next time you’re sitting in a rocking chair and thinking, “This is the life!”, remember our good pal Benjamin Franklin. He fitted the legs of his armchair with curved pieces of wood and made an invention that is still widely used today.

9. Ben Franklin owned his first company at the age of 22.

He was the owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper. His printing company also printed paper money for Pennsylvania and Delaware.

10. 20,000 people attended his funeral.

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This is a large number today, but especially back then it was huge. Franklin died on April 17, 1790. His funeral was well attended by people who had been touched by his life and looked up to his legacy.

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We’re constantly making new discoveries about the human body. Below we created a list of some fascinating facts about bones in the human body.

Scientists recently discovered a new body part that has eluded or remained undetected for over a century. As Science Daily reports, two surgeons at University Hospitals Leuven have located a new ligament in the human knee. Dr. Steven Claes and Professor Dr. Johan Bellemans, after four years of research, discovered a new ligament and called it the anterolateral ligament.

1. Smallest Bone in the Human Body: Stirrup Bone

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The smallest bone in the human body is the stirrup bone, the stapes, one of the 3 bones that make up your middle ear; measuring 2-3 millimeters. It is shaped like a “U.” It is the innermost bone that receives sound vibrations and passes them along to the cochlea to eventually be interpreted by the brain.

2. Biggest (and Strongest) Bone in the Human Body: Femur

Femur

The femur is the strongest bone in the human body. It extends from the hip to the knee.  It can resist a force of up to 1,800 to 2,500 pounds. Only events of a large amount of force can cause it to break, such as by a car accident or a fall from an extreme height, taking months to heal.

3. Body Part with the Most Bones: The Hands

Hand Bones

The hands have the most bones — 27 in each hand.The hands and feet together make up more than half the bones in the human body. There are 206 bones in the human body; 106 of these are in the hands and feet (27 in each hand and 26 in each foot).

4. Most Fragile Bone in the Body: The Toe Bones

Toe Bones

The small toe bones break the easier and most often. Almost everyone has broken a toe, even a small one, in their life. And there’s really you can do about it, but let it heal.

5. Most Commonly Broken Bone: The Ankle!

Even more common than breaking a toes is spraining or breaking your ankle. It happens almost everywhere: on the field of play, on a hiking trail or trying not to trip over children’s toys. There is a difference between a sprained and broken ankle. Ankle fractures and sprains are both often accompanied by tendon damage.

6. Most Common Form of Bone Surgery: Arthroscopic Surgery

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Arthroscopic procedures on the knee increased 49% between 1996 and 2006. Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure by which the internal structure of a joint is examined for diagnosis and/or treatment using a tube-like viewing instrument called an arthroscope. Arthroscopy can be helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of many noninflammatory, inflammatory, and infectious types of arthritis as well as various injuries within the joint.

7. Most Common Bone Disease: Osteoporosis

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Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease, which is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone structure. Osteoporosis can be prevented, as well as diagnosed and treated. Low bone mass is when bones lose the minerals that make them strong, especially calcium, which makes them weak and fracture easily.

8. Most Common Forms of Bone Cancer: Osteosarcoma

Bone Cancer

These are some of the most common types of bone cancer:

  • Osteosarcoma  start in bone cells and found most often in the knee and upper arm. It is diagnosed most often in teens and young adults.
  • Ewing’s sarcoma is seen in younger people between the ages of 5 and 20. It most commonly occurs in people’s ribs, pelvis, leg, and upper arm.
  • Chondrosarcoma occurs most often in people between 40 and 70. The hip, pelvis, leg, arm, and shoulder are common sites of this cancer, which begins in cartilage cells.

Although almost always found in bone, multiple myeloma is not a primary bone cancer. It is a bone marrow cancer. Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones.

9. Weirdest Disease of the Human Bone: Disappearing Human Bone Disease:

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The clinical terms for this disease is massive osteolysis. It’s more commonly known as Gorham’s disease. Regenerating bone after a fracture is overtaken by the process of absorbing bone and the bone is broken down into almost nothing. The bone just kind of disappears, as the name suggests. What’s perhaps most mysterious is that a number of cases of Gorham’s have ended in spontaneous remission. The disease itself disappears.

 10. Broke the Most Bones over a Lifetime: Evel Knievel

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Evel Knievel (USA, b. Robert Craig Knievel), the pioneer of motorcycle long jumping exhibitions, had suffered 433 bone fractures by end of 1975. In the winter of 1976 he was seriously injured during a televised attempt to jump a tank full of sharks at the Chicago Amphitheater. He decided to retire from major performances as a result.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to have only one No. 9. Thanks Jared!

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Since the face of psychology is constantly changing, it is impossible to end the “History of Psychology” series with a definitive, “…and that’s how psychology came to be.” Separate branches of the discipline have formed, medicine has become staggeringly important in treatment and prevention of mental illnesses, theories have formed and crumbled, and scholars have dedicated their careers to advancing the field. The science has been adapted by the masses, and has even become prevalent in pop culture – music (Blink 182’s “Stockholm Syndrome” comes to mind), television, and films have all explored mental illnesses and treatments.

The series has only briefly outlined the science’s origins and growth, and it continues to inspire many to study the workings of the human mind. Luckily, those who came before us provided us with the tools and terminology to hit the ground running and discover incredible things they couldn’t have even imagined.

More recently, the incorporation of technology into psychology has made it possible to supplement therapeutic techniques with computer-based counseling, test brain activity, and accurately record and analyze complex data – and that’s not even the beginnings of its potential influence on the field. Although technology will undoubtedly open up doors for the next generation of researchers, a Google search of “psychology technology” actually leads to a number of pages dedicated to explaining the effects of technology on our own minds.

The topic is broad enough to expand into dozens of articles, so this top 10 list tackles only some of the most staggering results of studies and surveys pertaining to social media. Chances are, if you’re reading this you participate in social media in some way or another, so next time you go to check your Facebook, retweet an interesting link, or choose an Instagram filter for a selfie, think about the ways your brain is processing the seemingly endless stream of information it is taking in.

1. Social media is addictive.

Studies show that 63% of Americans log on to Facebook daily, and 40% log on multiple times each day. People use the site for myriad reasons; however, it usually serves, on some level, the same basic purposes: distraction and boredom relief. “Likes” and comments are positive reinforcement for posting information, making it difficult for a person to stop. Researchers have found this so common that they created a scale to measure this addiction: The Berge Facebook Addiction Scale.

2. Social media makes us compare our lives with others’.

Posts on social media many times present an idealized version of what’s happening, what something looks like, or how things are going. This can lead users to constantly compare themselves to others and think less of their own lives. If things are going particularly well for people in your newsfeed and you’re having a rough day, of course this will likely negatively affect your mood. In fact, in 2012 a team of researchers in the UK surveyed users, 53% of whom said social media had changed their behavior; 51% said it was negative behavior because of decline in confidence they felt due to unfair comparisons to others.

3. Social media makes us restless.

Out of the same sample as the above example, two-thirds admitted to having difficultly relaxing when unable to use their social media accounts.

4. Social media gives rise to cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is an enormous concern, especially for adolescents. An organization that aims for internet safety, called Enough is Enough, conducted a survey that found 95% of teenagers who use social media have witnessed cyberbullying, and 33% have been victims themselves.

CDC data

5. Social media glamorizes drug and alcohol use.

A study that explored the relationship between teenagers, social media, and drug use found that 70% of teenagers ages 12 to 17 use social media, and that those who interact with it on a daily basis are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to use alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana. In addition, 40% admitted they had been exposed to pictures of people under the influence via social media, suggesting correlation between the two factors. Although a correlation is all it is, it makes sense that social media would amp up the amount of peer pressure to which teenagers are exposed.

6. Social media can make us unhappy.

A study from the University of Michigan collected data about Facebook users and how it correlated with their moods. Simply put, they found that the more avid users were overall more unhappy than those who used the site less. Over more time, avid users also reported lower satisfaction in their lives overall.

7. Social media can lead to fear of missing out, aka FOMO.

Fear of missing out is a phenomenon that occurs when you feel pressure to be doing what everyone else is doing, attend every event, and share every life experience. It can evoke anxiety and cause social media users to question why everyone is “having fun without them.” Surveys have even found that people feel insecure after using Pinterest because they feel that they aren’t crafty or creative enough. Facebook and Twitter can make people feel like they aren’t successful or smart enough.

8. Social media often leads to multitasking.

How many tabs do you have open right now? How are you even concentrating on one thing? The thing is, you’re probably not – especially if one of those tabs is a social media site. Research has shown that our brains don’t have the capacity to fully focus our attention on two things at once, and instead multitasking causes our brain to quickly switch from one task to another. This hinders information processing and productivity. Closing out your Twitter feed can seriously help you get some work done.

Social media isn’t all about selfie-taking narcissists, cyberbullies, and killing productivity. When used in moderation with the right intentions, it really can achieve what it was first set out to do: connect people. Which brings us to…

9. Social media enhances our connectivity.

A paper linking social media usage to the Freudian ideas of the id, ego, and super-ego cites many examples of positive psychological effects of social media. Perhaps one of the most important points is that social media doesn’t necessarily take us out of the real world. It can instead be used to revive and preserve relationships with other people. Even more exciting about this technological world is that there is an incredible number of like-minded people who can connect in just one click. Research presented in the journal The British Psychological Society found that students who experience low self-esteem can take advantage of social media and its capability to bond them with others in order to pull themselves up from slumps in their mood.

10. Social media can help with socialization.

Research presented at the 119th annual American Psychological Association found that introverted adolescents can actually gain social skills by using social media. In part, this is because shy individuals may feel safer behind a computer screen (or smartphone, or tablet, or… well, you get the idea…it’s everywhere). Dr. Larry D. Rosen, who presented the information, also stated that teens were becoming very good at virtually expressing empathy towards others.

History of Psychology series. Previous post: The Stanford Prison Experiment

Sources

Academia.eduPsychological impact of social networking sites: A psychological theory
iVillage. 10 (good and bad) ways social media affects your mental health
Medial News Today. Social media: How does it really affect our mental health and well-being?
Science Daily. Social networking’s good and bad impact on kids

Photo credit: Multitasking by Sorosh Tavakoli [CC-BY-2.0]

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Vincent van Gogh is one of the most prominent artists in history. Here are 10 facts about this incredible painter.
1.  He was born in Holland
Have you heard of Groot-Zundert, Holland? That’s where artist Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853.
2. He had a brother with the same name
Vincent had an older brother who died at birth. His name was also Vincent van Gogh.
3.He was supposed to be a pastor
Van Gogh was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. Would the world have been robbed of his art if he had stuck with this career path?


4. He didn’t start painting until he was older
Van Gogh was 27 years old when he painted his first piece. Before that, he was failing as an art dealer and engaging in missionary work. He was mostly self-taught and he started out by painting dark and sad depictions of peasants. Maybe there’s still hope for other late bloomers out there.
5.  He enjoyed painting himself
Vincent van Gogh is well-known for his self-portraits — he painted over 30 of them between 1886 and 1889. Post-impressionist selfies?


6. He produced his most famous artwork while in a mental hospital
Vincent van Gogh painted Starry Night while residing in an asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France. You can still see this painting at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
7. He was very prolific
Vincent van Gogh produced his most famous paintings in the 10 years before he passed away suddenly. In that time frame, he made roughly 900 paintings. Think about it – in just 10 years, he did 900 paintings that are now considered some of the greatest works of art ever created. His most expensive painting, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, is valued at $148.6 million dollars. He painted it in 1890 and it was sold for this price in May 1990.


8. He was best friends with another artist
Van Gogh was very close friends with artist Paul Gauguin. The famous incident of van Gogh’s ear actually involved Gauguin. According to the well-known version of the story, van Gogh chopped off his own ear after having a fight with his friend, but a recent book suggests it was actually Gauguin who cut off the ear.
9. He sold only one painting while he was alive
Van Gogh sold just one painting, The Red Vineyard, during his lifetime. He became famous only after his death.


10. His death may, or may not, have been a suicide
Van Gogh died in 1890 under mysterious circumstances. He was thought to have committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, but a recent theory suggests he might have been shot by a local teenager.

 

Sources
Vincent van GoghBiography
Fun factsVan Gogh Gallery

 

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Joseph Stalin was a ruthless dictator who transformed the Soviet Union into a world superpower. Here are 10 facts that help paint a picture of this man who changed the world.

1. His last name is a title meaning, “Man of Steel.”
Stalin was awarded the title “Man of Steel.” Why this Superman-esque name? It fit perfectly with his stern image as leader of the industrial-powerhouse of the USSR. Moreover, it hid his true identity, protecting his family from the many assassination attempts and deceptions that plagued him, as well as the communist party.
2. He had another nickname, “Comrade Index Card.”

The name came from a joke made by Stalin’s rival in the communist party, Leon Trotsky. A play on Stalin being only a small contributor to the party, the name was given when the Man of Steel took his first major political position as General Secretary of the Russian communist party. It was in fact a secretarial position, thus the nickname “Comrade Index Card” mocked Stalin’s duties. However, Trotsky would not be laughing as history would unfold to see Stalin at the head of the country and Trotsky on the run for his life.
3. He may not have actually said his infamous statistics quote.
“A single death is a tragedy, a million dead is a statistic.” Cold, harsh, yet truthful words that Stalin is often quoted as saying. The reports are easily believed, due to the various purges, unexpected “missing” people, and general fear created by his regime. However, there is little evidence that the quote was real. It was reported originally by the German writer and pacifist Erich Maria Remarque and, judging by the source’s background and stance against war, it might be reasonable to assume that Man of Steel did not in fact say the infamous words.
4. He would not even give ransom for the return of his own son.
During World War II, Stalin’s son, Yakov, was taken prisoner by the Nazis and of course, Hitler was ready to make as audacious a ransom offer as possible. True to his Man of Steel moniker, Stalin refused any ransoming agreement. No matter what torture Hitler threatened would befall his son, Stalin did not budge. His son would go on to die in prison. Tough love.
5. He had a city named after him.

The famous siege of Stalingrad was fought during World War II. Because the city was named after its leader, Stalin ordered a victory at Stalingrad, and there was no arguing with the man. Though pushed to the fringe of survival, the Russian Army was able to achieve a decisive victory. Some speculate that this victory was the turning point in favor of the Allies in the war against Adolf Hitler. Following the victory, the Russians would go on to push the Nazis all the way back to Berlin.
6. He was very paranoid.

His goal of uniting the nation with him as the leader grew to frightening heights. Stalin enacted a series of purges known as “Stalin’s Terror,” whereby millions of people were sent to forced labor, assassinated, or publicly executed, out of fear that they were enemies of the state. With the state police, the NKVD, at the helm of the purges, millions were condemned for having even a single contact with questionable individuals on Stalin’s hit list. Interestingly enough, it was found out after his death that Stalin had been suffering from atherosclerosis (fatty tissue build-up in the arteries) of the brain, possibly explaining his deranged “terror.”
7. He ordered the development of a half-human, half-ape hybrid.
With a desire to create a new human that would be resilient to pain beyond normal man and would not care about the quality of food eaten, Stalin ordered his top scientists to create a hybrid ape-man. In the dictator’s eyes, this hybrid man would be the greatest solider, capable of great strength but with an underdeveloped brain so as to be easily controlled. Aside from military purposes, such a man would provide greater manpower to speed up Russia’s industrial development. Unfortunately, the chief scientist for the job, Ilya Ivanov, was unsuccessful. Because of this failure, in typical Stalin-fashion, Ivanov was arrested and exiled to Kazakhstan.


8. He trained as a priest.
Before being swayed by the leftist ideas of Marxism and anti-religious thought, Stalin intended to become an Orthodox priest. Following the wishes of his mother, he attended the Tbilisi Theological Seminary on a full scholarship, with the goal of becoming ordained at the Russian Orthodox Church. However, as fate would have it, Stalin would pick up the works of Karl Marx and forgo the priesthood.
9. He was not actually Russian.
Stalin was actually not a native Russian. Rather, he hailed from impoverished beginnings in the country of Georgia. However, as he became acclimated to Marxist thought, he grew in power, slowly rising up in the communist party of Russia. His home country would not escape him, however. He played a key role in the forced military imposition of Vladimir Lenin’s communist movement in Georgia. This military campaign in his home country was the first of many that exemplified Stalin’s hard-liner approach to spreading the communist ideology.
10. He had a rough childhood.

Stalin’s father, Besarion, was an alcoholic, leading to business failures and violence towards Joseph and the boy’s mother. On top of this, Joseph experienced many physical calamities in his youth. He grew up constantly getting into brawls with others his age, and smallpox left his face extremely scarred. Moreover, he was struck by a horse-drawn carriage not once, but twice, leading to permanent damage of his left arm, which in turn exempted him from fighting in World War I, where he would likely have died.
Sources
Haugen, Brenda. Joseph Stalin: Dictator of the Soviet Union. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point, 2006. Print.
Military History Monthly. Stalin Facts
TVtropesUseful Notes: Josef Stalin
RussiapediaOf Russian Origin: Stalin’s Purges

Photo Credits: “Joseph Stalin” and “Stalingrad” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R80329 [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; “Young Joseph Stalin, 1894” by paukrus [CC], via Flickr

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Although he is depicted as evil in most Greek myths and fables, he is much more than just a merciless god of the underworld. Here are 10 facts about Hades.
1. Hades isn’t actually evil
He is actually altruistic and passive, bringing balance to the human world. He’s only harsh when souls try to leave the underworld or people try to cheat death.
2. Hades was one of the first heroes of Greek myths
Hades, along with his brothers Zeus and Poseidon, led the rebellion against their titan father Kronos for power over the universe. Hades’ part included slipping by Kronos’s armies to destroy their weapons.


3. Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon took dominion over parts of the earth
Hades got unlucky.
4. The god of the underworld is also the god of wealth
Silver, gold, and other precious metals are under his domain. Besides the name Hades, he also goes by Pluto or Plouton, the giver of wealth.
5. He has his own set of enchanted tools and a chariot led by four black horses to announce his arrival
The tools include an ebony throne, a bird-decorated scepter, and a helmet that gives him the power of invisibility.


6. Hades has a three-headed dog as his pet
The three-headed dog is not unique to Harry Potter. Cerberus has a serpent’s tail, lion’s claws, and a mane of snakes.


7. In Ancient Greek, Hades means invisible
This refers to his helmet.
8. The word Hades also refers to the underworld in general
The Greeks believed that all souls, after death, went to the underworld.
9. Charon is Hades’ ferryman who brings souls from earth into the underworld
He takes a token from the dead and ferries them across the River Styx.


10. Hades cannot have children, but he is married to Persephone, the daughter of the goddess Demeter
He…may or may not have abducted Persephone and forced her to marry him. Their children, according to Orphic fables, were a result of Zeus, in the form of Hades, seducing Persephone.

Photo Credits: “Greek Trinity” by British Museum (photo by FinnBjo); sculpture in Copenhagen Port (photo by Hansjorn and Aviad Bublil [CC-BY-SA-3.0]; “Hades with Cerberus” by I, Grizzli [CC-BY-SA-3.0]; “Héraldique meuble Cerbère” by Tretinville [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was born 271 years ago this month. Here are 10 ways he contributed to American life and politics.
1. Wrote The Declaration of Independence (1776)
Thomas Jefferson was appointed by Congress to a five-person committee in charge of writing The Declaration of Independence. The other four members were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. Jefferson was responsible for writing the first draft—within 17 days, the draft document was written, reviewed and revised by the committee, and presented to Congress.


2. Wrote The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1777)
Jefferson considered The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom to be one of his greatest accomplishments. This document, which was introduced into the Virginia General Assembly in 1779, declared freedom of religion a “natural right” and became a model for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
3. Advocated for free public education (1779)
Jefferson was an early advocate of having an informed populace. In 1779, he wrote A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, which outlined a plan for establishing Virginia public schools where “all the free children, male and female” were to be given three years of instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, and history. The bill was defeated in the state legislature, but it laid the groundwork for free public education.


4. Served as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–1793)
Jefferson served as the country’s first Secretary of State under President George Washington. In this office, he advocated for each state to pay its own portion of the Revolutionary War debt and supported France in its war with Britain, though he believed the United States should maintain neutrality in the conflict.
5. Made the Louisiana Purchase (1803)
In 1803 as President of the United States, Jefferson purchased more than 800,000 square miles of Louisiana Territory from France for about $15 million, effectively doubling the size of the United States.


6. Launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804)
Having just greatly increased the size of the United States, Jefferson wanted to explore both the new part of the country and the rest of the continent. He appointed as his personal secretary Meriwether Lewis, who then enlisted William Clark. They left on their journey in 1804 with the goals of learning more about the landscape and the Native American tribes, and of finding a water passage between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.
7. Participated in the founding of the Library of Congress (1815)
James H. Billington, the current Librarian of Congress, wrote: “If ever a library had a single founder, Thomas Jefferson is the founder of the Library of Congress.” In 1815, Jefferson sold his personal library, consisting of almost 6,700 volumes, to the federal government for just under $24,000. These books formed the core collection of the Library of Congress.


8. Founded the University of Virginia (1819)
Jefferson thought universities should educate leaders rather than just preachers and professors. He founded the University of Virginia as the United States’ first nonsectarian university as well as the first to use the elective course system.
9. Revolutionized gardening and advanced sustainable agriculture
Jefferson experimented with various gardening techniques and was a huge fan of eating his vegetables, which he grew at his home of Monticello. At that time, many people believed that certain vegetables, like tomatoes, were poisonous, but Jefferson loved them. He also pioneered many efforts in sustainable agriculture.


10. Popularized macaroni and cheese in the United States
In his early career, Jefferson traveled in Europe and became enamored with its cuisine, especially pasta. He served macaroni and cheese to guests at Monticello and even drew plans for a macaroni machine. He has been referred to as a “Founding Foodie” and “America’s First Foodie,” and there is even a mac ‘n’ cheese recipe in his own handwriting.

Photo Credits: “United States 1803-04” by Golbez [CC-BY-SA-3.0]; “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate” by Christopher Hollis for Wdwic Pictures [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Louis Armstrong has undoubtedly left a strong and lasting impression on modern music. Often referred to as the “Father of Jazz,” he revolutionized the way people listen to and play music. With his unmistakable vocals and solo style, he recorded some of the most influential jazz albums ever, performed nightly with unparalleled charisma, and had a long and fruitful career domestically and overseas. Although his road to success was a rocky one, after his death in 1971 he is remembered for not only his contributions to jazz music, but to American culture as a whole. Here are ten facts about the man who shaped jazz music into what it is today.

1. A tough childhood prevented Armstrong from finishing school.

Louis Armstrong was born in raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, in an area called “The Battlefield.” His father left soon after his birth, leaving Louis’ mother to be his sole caretaker. As a result of financial hardship, his mother often left Louis in the care of her mother while she turned to prostitution. Because of his familial situation, Armstrong was forced to leave school during fifth grade to begin working. He soon formed a strong relationship with a Jewish family who employed him, encouraged him, and even fed him.

2. Louis was arrested at 11 years old.

In 1912, Armstrong took a New Year’s celebration to an unacceptable level when he fired his stepfather’s pistol into the air. He was immediately arrested and then sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. It was there he developed a passion for playing the cornet. He was mentored by Professor Peter Davis, who recognized young Armstrong’s potential and taught him both music and strict discipline. Upon his release from the home, Armstrong continued developing his talent, eventually being mentored by Joe “King” Oliver, a leading cornet player in New Orleans.

3. He adopted his cousin’s child.

During his marriage to Daisy Parker, Armstrong adopted three-year-old Clarence, the child of Armstrong’s cousin, who had died in childbirth. Clarence had suffered a head injury at an early age that left him mentally disabled, and he was taken care of by Armstrong his entire life. Unfortunately, during this time Louis’ marriage to Daisy failed, and she passed away shortly after their divorce.

4. He moved to Chicago to join King Oliver’s band.

A few years later, Armstrong reconnected with Oliver when he was invited to join his band in Chicago. During this time he was married to pianist Lillian Hardin, who later told Armstrong she felt as though Oliver was holding him back. Soon thereafter he left Chicago for New York, where he joined Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra. Armstrong’s style was quickly adopted by Henderson and his arranger, transforming the group into what is now regarded as the first big jazz band. Despite this success, Armstrong felt his southern roots weren’t accepted in New York, so he returned to Chicago.

5. He recorded 60 of the most influential jazz records in history – all in the span of three years.

Between 1925 and 1928, Armstrong cut more than 60 records with his band the Hot Five. It was then that Armstrong single-handedly transformed jazz into a soloist’s art. Unprecedented and daring swing rhythms, extremely high-pitched notes, and scat-singing soon became the new norm for jazz music.

6. Armstrong didn’t switch to playing the trumpet until 1926.

During his time recording with the Hot Five and Hot Seven, Armstrong also played nightly with Erskine Tate’s orchestra at the Vendome Theater in Chicago. This was where he switched to playing the trumpet so the sound would fuse better with the other players.

7. He got into some trouble with the mob.

Armstrong  got tangled up with rival  mob bosses who controlled the night club scene in New York and Chicago. As a result, Louis avoided these areas during the early 30’s, hit the road, and ended up staying in California for a short time. Unaware of the continuing feud between bosses, Armstrong was threatened by gangsters when he returned to play in Chicago, ordering him to go to New York. Armstrong defied them, returned to the south, and shortly thereafter began touring Europe.

His manager, Johnny Collins, proceeded to leave Louis stranded in Europe in 1934 after a heated argument. Armstrong chose to stay for the better part of 1934 to rest his lip, which was sore from belting high notes for years. Within a few months of his return to America, Armstrong’s troubles disappeared with help of new manager Joe Glaser, who was close with Al Capone.

8. He was the first African American jazz musician to write an autobiography.

This accomplishment was one of Armstrong’s many firsts. He was also the first African American to get featured billing in a Hollywood film and the first African American entertainer to host a national radio show in 1937.

9. Armstrong performed all over the world in the ’50s and ’60s.

The age of swing began to wind down in America during the 1940s, but Armstrong’s popularity continued to skyrocket overseas. CBS legend Edward R. Murrow and a camera crew followed him on some of his worldly excursions and later used the footage to produce the documentary Satchmo the Great (1957).

10. He didn’t speak out publicly on Civil Rights until he saw the Little Rock Central High School integration crisis.

The whole situation infuriated Armstrong so much that he broke his silence on the issue of civil rights. He told a reporter that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had “no guts,” saying: “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell.” Armstrong’s words made headlines, and he was criticized by both black and white public figures. This moment is now revered as one of the most brave and definitive in Armstrong’s life.

Sources

Louis ArmstrongBiography.
Louis ArmstrongThe Famous People.
Louis Armstrong in the 30’sRiverwalk Jazz.

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