Thursday, September 26, 2013

Holidays for September 26th 2013

World Maritime Day

The United Nations (UN), via the International Maritime Organization (IMO), created World Maritime Day to celebrate the international maritime industry’s contribution towards the world’s economy, especially in shipping. The event’s date varies by year and country but it is always on the last week of September.

World Maritime Day focuses on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the marine environment and to emphasize a particular aspect of IMO's work. The day also features a special message from the IMO’s secretary-general, which is backed up by a discussion paper on the selected subject in more detail.

World Maritime Day is celebrated in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Many maritime organizations and unions hold special events and activities to celebrate this day. These activities and events range from symposiums to luncheons, as well as school lessons that focus on the day. Some classes may organize a trip to a maritime museum so students can understand the significance of the maritime industry in shaping world history and its importance in world trade.

Throughout history, people have understood that international regulations that are followed by many countries worldwide could improve marine safety so many treaties have been adopted since the 19th century. Various countries proposed for a permanent international body to be established to promote maritime safety more effectively but it was not until the UN was established that these hopes were realized. An international conference in Geneva in 1948 adopted a convention formally establishing the IMO, a specialized UN agency that develops and maintains a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping.

The IMO’s original name was the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) but the name was changed in 1982 to IMO. The IMO focuses on areas such as safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.

World Maritime Day was first held on March 17, 1978 to mark the date of the IMO Convention’s entry into force in 1958. At that time, the organization had 21 member states. It now has about 167 member states and three associate members. This membership includes virtually all the nations of the world with an interest in maritime affairs, including those involved in the shipping industry and coastal states with an interest in protecting their maritime environment.

Banned Books Day

What would you do if you went to the library to check out a book, only to find it wasn't there? Not because it was already checked out, but because someone else disapproved of its content and had it removed from library shelves?

Not likely to happen? Think again.
Despite the perception that censorship no longer occurs in the United States, attempts to ban books frequently take place in our schools and libraries. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or banned from the school curriculum.

According to the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), there were 464 reported attempts to remove or restrict materials from schools and libraries in 2012 and more than 17,700 attempts since 1990, when the ALA began to record book challenges.

Just recently Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) called for a ban on the novel "The Bluest Eye," stating that the book should be removed from libraries and the 11th Grade Common Core reading list because he believes the book is "highly objectionable" and has "no value or purpose." "The Bluest Eye" is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison's first novel and is often included in honors and Advanced Placement English classes. If successful, such an action will deny educators and students the right and the freedom to choose books and literature that contain diverse ideas drawn from across the social and political spectrum.

Holtzclaw's demand is just one example of reading list challenges that are currently taking place in Arizona, North Carolina and Ohio.

While not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to choose for ourselves what to read, listen to or view. It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and national awareness campaigns such as Banned Books Day, September 26th, which stresses the importance of preventing censorship and ensuring everyone's freedom to read any book, no matter how unorthodox or unpopular.

Book challenges to school library materials are not the only threat to students' freedom of inquiry. Online resources, including legitimate educational websites and academically useful social networking tools, are being blocked and filtered in school libraries. In an effort to raise awareness, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the ALA, has designated one day during Banned Books Day, as Banned Websites Awareness Day - Wednesday, Sept. 25 - and is asking school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how excessive filtering affects student achievement.

For more than 30 years, libraries and bookstores have celebrated Banned Books Day by hosting special events and exhibits on the power of literature and the harms of censorship. Many will showcase selections from the ALA's OIF's Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2012. The list is released each spring and provides a snapshot of book removal attempts in the U.S. the previous year. The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2012 reflects a range of themes and consists of the following titles:
"Captain Underpants" (series), by Dav Pilkey (Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group)
"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie (Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)
"Thirteen Reasons Why," by Jay Asher (Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group)
"Fifty Shades of Grey," by E. L. James (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit)
"And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson (Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group)
"The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini (Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit)
"Looking for Alaska," by John Green (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)
"Scary Stories" (series), by Alvin Schwartz (Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence)
"The Glass Castle," by Jeanette Walls (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit)
"Beloved," by Toni Morrison (Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence)

Readers from across the United States and around the world will demonstrate their support for free speech by participating in a Virtual Read-Out on YouTube where participants will read from their favorite banned books. More than 1,500 videos have been submitted since the readout began in 2011, including many by bestselling authors and celebrities such as Sherman Alexie, Laurie Halse Anderson, Khaled Hosseini, Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Lauren Myracle and many others.

For the first time this year, Twitter parties will help promote the message of Banned Books Day. A party will be held from noon to 2 p.m., Eastern time on Sept. 25. Supporters are urged to tweet using the hashtag #bannedbooksday.

We must keep in mind that even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. Young people especially deserve our trust. Reading literature that challenges them and encourages them to think about others and their own place in the world does no harm and can only spur them to become better students and better persons.

Danger does not arise from viewpoints other than our own; the danger lies in allowing others to decide for us and our communities which reading materials are appropriate!

National Pancake Day

While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.

Just in time for the end of National Breakfast Month, September 26 is National Pancake Day.

Stacked and soaking up butter and syrup, spread out and covered with a fruit compote, pancakes are the ultimate comfort food. It’s no surprise this breakfast staple has a long history, dating back to the ancient Greeks. But, depending on where you are, pancakes will look vastly different.

In Germany, they’re made out of potatoes; in France and Belgium, they’ll be thin and light; in South Africa, they’re filled with lemon juice and sugar; and in Mexico, you might find a hotcake (a pancake made with cornmeal instead of wheat flour).

Depending on your batter, you can either end up with a crêpe, a pancake, a crumpet or a flapjack. All use the same technique: A batter of flour, eggs, milk and, in some cases, a leavening agent is beaten, left to rest and then poured in batches onto a hot griddle or pan. Typically, when bubbles form on the uncooked side of the pancake, it’s ready to flip.

Pancakes don’t necessarily stick to the sweet side of things either. In some parts of the world they’re served for dinner, filled with savory ingredients such as ground meat, onions and cheese. Because the American-style pancake is hard to roll up, and therefore hard to fill with ingredients, any additional flavors are added to the batter. Common preferences include fruit, nuts, chocolate chips and even granola.

Johnny Appleseed's Birthday

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, was born on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts. Chapman was an eccentric frontier nurseryman who established orchards throughout the American Midwest. He became the basis of the folk hero Johnny Appleseed, who has been the subject of countless stories, movies and works of art. Chapman died on March 18, 1845 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Jonathan Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1774. His father, Nathaniel Chapman, fought as a minuteman at the Battle of Concord, and later served in the Continental Army under General George Washington. In July of 1776, while her husband was at war, Elizabeth Chapman died in childbirth. Nathaniel Chapman returned home and remarried shortly thereafter. He and his new wife, Lucy Cooley, had a total of 10 children together.

A limited amount is known about Chapman's early life. He may have traveled west to Ohio with his brother initially, meeting up with the rest of his family in 1805. It is likely that Nathaniel Chapman, a farmer, encouraged his son to become an orchardist, setting him up with an apprenticeship in this area. By 1812, John Chapman was working independently as an orchardist and nurseryman.

John Chapman traveled widely, particularly in Pennsylvania and Ohio, pursuing his profession. While the legend of Johnny Appleseed suggests that his planting was random, there was actually a firm economic basis for Chapman's behavior. He established nurseries and returned, after several years, to sell off the orchard and the surrounding land.

The trees that Chapman planted had multiple purposes, although they did not yield edible fruit. The small, tart apples his orchards produced were useful primarily to make hard cider and applejack. Orchards also served the critical legal purpose of establishing land claims along the frontier. As a consequence, Chapman owned around 1,200 acres of valuable land at the time of his death.

Chapman was a follower of the New Church, also known as the Church of Swedenborg. He spread his faith while traveling to establish orchards, preaching to both Anglo-American and indigenous people he encountered along the way.

Among Chapman's eccentricities was a threadbare wardrobe, which often did not include shoes and often did include a tin hat. He was a staunch believer in animal rights and denounced cruelty towards all living things, including insects. He was a practicing vegetarian in his later years. Chapman did not believe in marriage and expected to be rewarded in heaven for his abstinence.

The exact place and time of Chapman's death are matters of dispute. Nineteenth-century sources suggest that he died in the summer of 1847 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, though contemporary sources often cite March 18 as his death date.

After his death, Chapman's image developed into the pioneer folk hero Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed festivals and statues dot the Northeastern and Midwestern United States to this day, and Appleseed is the official folk hero of Massachusetts.

The character has served as the focus of countless children's books, movies and stories since the Civil War period.

The legend of Johnny Appleseed differs from the life of the historical John Chapman in several key respects. While Chapman planted strategically, for profit, the Johnny Appleseed character sowed seeds at random and without commercial interest. The fact that Chapman's crops were typically used to make alcohol was also excluded from the Appleseed legend. Despite these discrepancies from the historical record, the Johnny Appleseed character reflects an interest in frontier settlement during a period of expansion in the far western portion of the continent.

National Food Service Employee's Day

I’d like everyone to take the time today to raise a glass to the food service employees of the world.

How many times have you been out for dinner when the food was mediocre at best but the service MADE the meal? Or a phenomenal dinner has been raised to sublime by the quality of the service?

That’s just the service we see: the “front of the house” staff whose job it is to make us feel intelligent,special, valued. A long retired veteran of service myself, I admit to sometimes taking that kind of thing for granted. After all, IT’S THEIR JOB to provide good service, right?

Well… I have had the pleasure of many, many dining experiences, from “fine” to “basic”, where the employees from front of house to back have worked exceptionally as a team to elevate the experience. From the care taken in preparing and plating the food to the genuinely friendly and helpful service. I was in a “family” restaurant yesterday in Vallejo, California. Burgers, omelettes, that kind of thing (not even licensed, much to Jim’s horror and dismay!). it could have been scary – bad part of town and all that – but the staff made it awesome. And it paid off. The place was packed, on a sleepy Friday afternoon in an area closely resembling a ghost town.

It should be recognized, though, that the food service employees I’ve mentioned so far at least have a chance of reaping a reward – in the form of gratuities or a share in them – for their service. but as I discussed on “National Food Checkout Day” (you’ll have to do a search for it; I’m currently blogging from the hotel bathroom on my Blackberry), the very inexpensive food we enjoy in North America comes with a very high social (and environmental) cost.

That cost is borne by “invisible” food service employees working for subsistence or starvation wages. Often these are recent immigrants without whose “unskilled” and poorly-remunerated labour the entire “cheap food” system depends.

What can we do about it? There is no easy answer. As discussed earlier, we have to steel ourselves to pay the REAL cost of what we consume. This may mean living slightly less “large”. We also have to resist further efforts to drive down the minimum wage. Support public education. I could go on. The point is, we KNOW there are real social costs to a cheap hamburger at a fast food joint. We’ve heard it all before. We just have to start making choices instead of blithely pretending everything’s ok.

In the meantime, raise a glass with me to all of the food service employees you’ve benefitted from in your lifetime. If you ARE a food service employee, raise a glass for yourself.

And the next time you go out for dinner, look at the food on your plate (or the burger in its wrapper) and think of how much it really cost.

Shamu the Whale's Birthday

September 26, 1985. Born at Sea World at Orlando, FL, this was the first killer whale born in captivity to survive. Named Kalina but currently using the stage name Shamu (formerly Baby Shamu!), she went on to give birth herself in 1993 and has since produced several healthy calves. She is now living at Sea World Orlando, where she performs daily, although she has spent time in other parks as well.