Sunday, January 26, 2014

Holidays and Observances for January 26th 2014

Dungeons & Dragons 40th Anniverary

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Role Playing Game Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D or DnD) is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published on January 26 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames with a variation of the Chainmail game serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is widely regarded as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

D&D departs from traditional war-gaming and assigns each player a specific character to play instead of a military formation. These characters embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting. A Dungeon Master serves as the game's referee and storyteller, while also maintaining the setting in which the adventures occur and playing the role of the inhabitants. The characters form a party that interacts with the setting's inhabitants (and each other). Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process the characters earn experience points to become increasingly powerful over a series of sessions.

The early success of Dungeons & Dragons led to a proliferation of similar game systems. Despite this competition, D&D remains the market leader in the role-playing game industry. In 1977, the game was split into two branches: the relatively rules-light game system of Dungeons & Dragons and the more structured, rules-heavy game system of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as AD&D or ADnD). AD&D 2nd Edition was published in 1989. In 2000, the original line of the game was discontinued and the AD&D version was renamed Dungeons & Dragons with the release of its 3rd edition with a new system. These rules formed the basis of the d20 System which is available under the Open Game License for use by other publishers. Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5 was released in June 2003, with a 4th edition in June 2008.

As of 2006, Dungeons & Dragons remained the best-known and best-selling role-playing game, with an estimated 20 million people having played the game and more than US$1 billion in book and equipment sales. The game has been supplemented by many pre-made adventures as well as commercial campaign settings suitable for use by regular gaming groups. Dungeons & Dragons is known beyond the game for other D&D-branded products, references in popular culture and some of the controversies that have surrounded it, particularly a moral panic in the 1980's falsely linking it to Satanism and suicide. The game has won multiple awards and has been translated into many languages beyond the original English.

National Peanut Brittle Day

There is always something to celebrate. January 26 is National Peanut Brittle Day.

Brittle is a type of confection consisting of flat broken pieces of hard sugar candy embedded with nuts such as pecans, almonds, or peanuts. In parts of the Middle East, brittle is made with pistachios, while many Asian countries use sesame seeds and peanuts.

Peanut brittle is the most popular brittle recipe in the United States. The term brittle first appears in print in 1892, though the candy itself has been around for much longer. Peanut brittle was one of the first types of candy ever made. It is made with molasses, honey, or sugar.

According to one account, peanut brittle was a Celtic dessert. The Celts covered peanuts in sugar and baked them. This eventually evolved into a caramel bark.

Peanut brittle can be a little challenging to make. A candy thermometer is used to allow the exact temperature to be regulated. The weather plays a major part in having good results. Peanut brittle will not hold its shape if it is made on a humid day.

Try making your own peanut brittle or pick up some from the candy department of your local grocery store or from the candy shop.

Spouses Day

On January 26th, people celebrate ‘Spouses Day.’ Usually people think this day is like Valentine’s Day, which is coming up on February 14th. This is only somewhat true. Spouses Day is kind of like a prelude to Valentine’s Day. You don’t give gifts on this day, but you should spend time together and enjoy each other.

Show the other person that you really do appreciation everything he or she does for you and your loved ones. Find a special way to show him or her that you care. Especially when people have been together for a long period of time, people tend to take things for granted. Each person does something small every day that they may not need to for the other person. Take special time to look at those things that you may not notice anymore but still love that it is done. This is the perfect opportunity to say thank you either in words or in some other special way.

Think of ways today that you can surprise your significant other to show how you feel about him or her. Maybe you can do something that you normally wouldn't, especially if the other person will enjoy it. Perhaps you can write a poem, or get a special card, or give him or her a massage. Be creative and think of things you would not normally do. Make this day special for the two of you so you remember why you fell in love in the first place and rekindle and reconnect!

Bald Eagle Appreciation Day

When it comes to holidays, January is all about appreciation. Not only do we appreciate the chance to ring in a New Year, but we also get to appreciate Appreciate a Dragon Day, Gun Appreciation Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day and Beer Can Appreciation Day. And January 26 is another day that celebrates one of the world's most magnificent creatures - it's Bald Eagle Appreciation Day.

America's Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, became America's national bird in 1782. These amazing birds of prey live in North America along rivers, lakes and coastlines and consume fish, small mammals, turtles and waterfowl. While their eyes are about the same size as humans, their eyesight is at least four times better than someone with perfect vision!

With a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet and standing about 3 feet tall, adult females weigh from 10 to 14 pounds compared to male eagles that weigh in at about 8 to 9 pounds. Bald Eagles can live up to 30 years but the average lifespan is 15 to 20 years.

Bald Eagles mate for life. They build a very large nest, called an aerie, which measures abut 4 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep. The birds return to the same nest year after year. During the winter months, millions of people "flock" to various areas of the United States to watch these magnificent creatures in action.

Like many other species, eagles have faced serious threats over the years. Besides habitat destruction and the pesticide DDT, birds also suffered from lead poisoning from lead ammunition which is still an issue today. Once listed on the Endangered Species List , the bird is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement

Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement is a little-known holiday celebrated each year on January 26. Originally established as a day to connect with others through the heart, it stresses the importance of sharing a kind word with fellow man. Although the name conjures thoughts of childhood storybooks and amusement park rides, Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement is actually rooted in an 1800's-era school house located in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

While on staff at a local community college, Ralph C. Morrison, storyteller and subsequent founder of the Toad Hollow collective, taught an elderly student named Eunice, who was profiled in the local paper. The article mentioned that she attended Toad Hollow Country School, and upon reading the piece, Morrison says he became enamored with the name. He went on to explain during a personal interview that he began spinning tales of the legendary place for his performances, prompting audience members to inquire about its true location, to which he would always respond that it was not found on any map, but only “in your heart.”

The Story
Morrison's interview further revealed that the legend of Toad Hollow grew into a reality for local residents when Kalamazoo County officials offered him land from a seldom-used park for his storytelling activities. He accepted the offer and organized a nonprofit society to operate the park in 1992. With help from volunteers, they constructed an 1800s pioneer homestead and town and refurbished a run-down grist mill already located on the property. For the next three years, Toad Hollow hosted Civil War reenactments, Renaissance Fairs and even Teddy Bear Picnics. After that, the county reclaimed the property, and the people of Toad Hollow donated all of their improvements, except the mill, to other historic organizations and museums.

The group that oversaw Toad Hollow were all volunteers. While discussing the park, Morrison described how the volunteers shared their expertise with visitors, teaching classes on blacksmithing, quilting and soap and candle making. At the height of Toad Hollow's popularity, it had a staff of over 100, who referred to themselves as "Voluntoads." After Toad Hollow reverted back to Kalamazoo County, the Voluntoads continued their classes off campus, starting seven schools, including storytelling, writing, barbecuing and early American arts and trades, which continued until 2003. While telling his story, Morrison stated that the idea for the Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement grew out of their passion for helping others, ultimately becoming a way to motivate people to share what is in their hearts every day. From this beginning, the Voluntoads also founded the Toad Hollow Day of Thank You on June 20, and later, the Toad Hollow Week of Encouragement, which falls in mid-March.

The original Toad Hollow Country School—the first erected in Kalamazoo County—was built in 1834 at the end of Knox Street. Toad Hollow Cemetery (also known as Bailey/Southside Cemetery) is located on the north side of MN Avenue, between 38th and 40th Streets in Charleston Township. The park that once served as headquarters for Toad Hollow remains under the control of Kalamazoo County as Scotts Mill Park, and according to its website still features a working water-powered grist mill.

As Morrison tells it, the Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement carried on as a local holiday until the publishers of “Chase’s Calendar of Events” contacted him about the possibility of including the January occasion in their publication. After its promotion in the book, word of the annual observance spread, and now sites across the Internet known for listing unusual days of the year contain reference to it. Web-based merchants even offer Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement sweatshirts, coffee mugs and other gift items for sale.

International Customs Day

The Convention establishing the Customs Co-operation Council was signed on 15 December 1950 in Brussels and entered into force two years later - on 4 November 1952. The official inauguration session of the Council was held in Brussels on 26 January 1953 with the participation of representatives of 17 countries. In 1994 the Customs Co-operation Council adopted a new name - World Customs Organisation (WCO), thus becoming a global intergovernmental organisation. The Republic of Bulgaria acceded to the Convention establishing the Customs Co-operation Council on 4 June 1973.

On 26 January every year the Customs administrations of 179 Member States of the World Customs Organisation organize various national events to celebrate the first session of the Customs Co-operation Council. On its part, the WCO Secretariat chooses a topic for the International Customs Day. In 2014 the 26 January' celebrations are devoted to the topic "Communication: sharing information for better cooperation".

It has become a well-established tradition for the Bulgarian Customs Administration to celebrate the International Customs Day, too. As usual, this year our Customs administration will mark the event giving due consideration to the utmost importance of the celebrations topic chosen by the international customs community. As part of the initiatives to celebrate the Customs Day, WCO certificates of merit, signed by the Secretary General of the Organisation, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, will be awarded. Certificates of merit will be awarded to 15 officials of the Bulgarian Customs Administration who, by their exceptional professionalism, have contributed to the achievements of the customs administration in various fields.

Television's Birthday

The Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gives the first public demonstration of a modern television system in London, England. Baird’s invention, called a “televisor,” uses mechanically rotating disks to scan moving images into electronic impulses. The impulses are then transmitted by cable to a screen where images appear low-resolution patterns of light and shadow. Baird’s first televised demonstration depicted the heads of two ventriloquist dummies, which were operated in front of the camera, while the operator remained out of sight.

On 26 January 1926, Baird repeated the transmission for members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times in his laboratory at 22 Frith Street in the Soho district of London. By this time, he had improved the scan rate to 12.5 pictures per second. It was the first demonstration of a television system that could broadcast live moving images with tone graduation.

He demonstrated the world's first color transmission on 3 July 1928, using scanning discs at the transmitting and receiving ends with three spirals of apertures, each spiral with a filter of a different primary color; and three light sources at the receiving end, with a commutator to alternate their illumination. That same year he also demonstrated stereoscopic television.

In 1932, Baird was the first person in Britain to demonstrate ultra-short wave transmission. (Today, we refer to "ultra short waves" as the VHF band.) Contrary to some reports, these transmissions were far from the first VHF telecasts. In 1931, the US Federal Radio Commission allocated VHF television bands. From 1931 to 1933, station W9XD in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, transmitted some of the first VHF television signals. The station's 45-line, triply interlaced pictures used the U. A. Sanabria television technology.

Rocky Mountain National Park

On January 26 1915, Congress passed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act, and the National Park Service began the hard work of turning hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness land into a majestic park that would attract visitors from across the world.

Some of the original work involved building roads and trails, suppressing fires and planting seedlings, and nurturing wildlife and controlling predators. As private land was purchased, buildings, roads, and fences were removed.

Trail Ridge Road was built in a six-year span, starting in 1926, which is a feat in itself, given that workers only had about four months of each year that were suitable for construction (mid-June to mid-October). Throughout the construction project, every effort was made to avoid damaging the fragile landscape that Trail Ridge Road crossed.

The next major investment in Rocky Mountain National Park came shortly after World War II, when the National Park Service rolled out “Mission 66,” which was implemented nationwide. In this round of improvements, overlooks, campgrounds, visitor centers, and employee housing were added to Rocky Mountain National Park.

In the ensuing years, more and more environmental laws have been passed by Congress to ensure the protection of the landscape and wildlife, and many of these have positively impacted Rocky Mountain National Park.

End of an Era

Western Union announces the end of its telegram service. Once God wrought e-mail, the era of the telegram -- already in decline -- was doomed.
Telegraphy, the first technology to allow rapid communication over long distances, went through a long evolution, but the first telegram -- "What hath God wrought?" -- was sent in 1844 from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore by Samuel Morse via electrical telegraph.

Western Union inaugurated telegram service in 1861 and it continued without interruption, bringing everything from glad tidings to terrible news, until 2006, when the company posted this terse notice on its website:
"Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative."
Given the times, a suitably bloodless, bureaucratic end to a colorful tradition.

Lotus 1-2-3 Day

Lotus begins selling its spreadsheet application for Microsoft DOS, called 1-2-3.

1-2-3 was not the first spreadsheet application — it was preceded by VisiCalc. But 1-2-3 quickly became the most popular, helping to boost sales of IBM PCs and PC clones, all of which ran DOS, and facilitating the rapid rise of Microsoft’s operating system.

VisiCalc was the first killer application for the Apple II computer. It, too, was not only a hit for its maker, Software Arts, but also helped propel Apple to the big time. Software Arts later released versions for the Atari 8-bit computer, the Commodore PET, the TRS-80 and the IBM PC.

But those versions came too late to unseat 1-2-3, whose built-in charting and graphing capabilities, plus its support for macros, helped it in short order to begin outselling VisiCalc. Lotus Development Corp. sold $53 million worth of the software in the company’s first year of existence, and 1-2-3 quickly came to dominate the business software market in the mid and late 1980's.

Spreadsheet software, which seems commonplace and rather boring today, was a major breakthrough for personal computing. Sure, it made it easy to keep track of columns of numbers, such as sales receipts, paychecks, expenses or even athletic records.

But the real power of the spreadsheet was the ability it gave business people to run quick and easy “what-if” calculations. What if we lowered the price of our widgets by $10? What if mortgage rates drop to 5 percent and we refinance? What if we laid off 5,000 workers and shuttered our Kalamazoo plant, then outsourced manufacturing to a Chinese company for less than half the price?

Technology pundit John C. Dvorak has lamented the effects of the “what-if society,” saying that corporate executives have become slavish devotees of spreadsheet scenarios, failing to make decisions based on what customers actually want. But there’s no doubt that the spreadsheet has given companies, both large and small, a far better picture of their bottom lines. For better or worse, that power has transformed American business and the economy.

1-2-3′s reign lasted nearly five years, dwindling only when the company failed to make the transition from DOS to the increasingly Windows-centric world of the late 1980's and early 1990's. By comparison, Microsoft Excel was much easier to learn than the forbiddingly austere, black-and-green text screen of Lotus’ product, and by 1989 Excel had started to outsell 1-2-3.

But something was lost in the switch to graphical user interfaces. While easier to learn, power users lamented the slowness of Excel, which requires you to use a mouse for nearly every action. By contrast, skilled users of 1-2-3 could accomplish complicated computing and formatting tasks nearly instantaneously, with a few quick keystrokes — keystrokes that often became second nature as they disappeared from conscious thought into muscle memory.

Lotus founder Mitch Kapor left the company he created in the 1980's and went on to co-found the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990. He was founding chairman of the Mozilla Foundation in 2003 and served on its board until recently. His company, Lotus, went on to create another incredibly successful business application, Lotus Notes, which is still used by many companies today. Since 1995, Lotus has been a division of IBM.