Thursday, January 9, 2014

Holidays and Observances for January 9th 2014

Balloon Ascension Day

Balloon Ascension Day takes place on January 9th , it is an international date for celebrating balloons of all kinds. The date was designated Balloon Ascension Day, after Jean Pierre Blanchard became the first man to successfully ascend in a balloon on the North American Continent. The original Balloon Ascension Day happened on Jan 9th, 1793, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Blanchard landing in Woodbury, New Jersey. This event helped to spread the fascination with ballooning that the majority of Western society shared at the time. This fascination with ballooning led to the designation of a day solely to celebrate Ballooning.

While, at the time of it’s inception, Balloon Ascension Day was only meant for the large, hydrogen-filled, silk balloons of the time; it has since expanded to include all manner of balloons. The day is now for the recognition of every time of balloon, from small, helium-filled party balloons, to the massive, hot air balloons that have become commercially successful in modern times.

Balloons have had an interesting history, from a testament to the ingenuity of the human race, to an example of the disastrous effects human ambition can have through the Hindenburg disaster. Since the Hindenburg disaster and the sharp decrease in balloon popularity, ballooning has made a slight recovery and is now used in the commercial tourism sector.

On Jan 9th, each year, people around the world try to celebrate the day in whatever balloon related way they can, rekindling the spirit of the 18th century’s ‘balloonatics’ . While the day is not a huge success and no major hot air balloon festivals are held on the day, the occasion can be seen as more of a celebration for those who have a special fondness for watching or taking part in balloons ascending into the sky, the day commemorates North America’s, soon to flourish, love affair with balloons and flight.

Jan 9th, 1793 was a day of wonder and amazement for the on-lookers in Philadelphia. Over 4800 people gathered around the takeoff spot, including the President, George Washington and future Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe. Blanchard was ascending for his forty-fifth time and had the utmost confidence in his methods and materials, Blanchard had voyaged across the English Channel in 1785 and viewed this ascend as an easy way to get his name in the record books as first to ascend in North America. Blanchard was successful in his attempt and, after taking air samples, descended into the countryside near Woodbury, New Jersey. Blanchard was greeted by several farmers upon his landing. The farmers were confused and frightened by the Frenchman until he presented a document, detailing the nature of Blanchard’s flight and making it clear that he posed no harm, the document was signed by George Washington himself. The farmers were able to return Blanchard and his balloon or ‘aerostat’ as it was called in that time, to Philadelphia.

Blanchard had made history and created the basis for Balloon Ascension day. While ballooning has certainly lost popularity and prestige as the most advanced man-made flying machine, Balloon Ascension Day promises to keep Blanchard’s important achievement in memory and serves to recognize the wonder and simplicity of flight through ballooning.

National Apricot Day

Apricots are delicious and nutritious, but they are usually not at the top of most grocery lists for fruit to buy. Perhaps today will be different. January 9 is National Apricot Day.

What are apricots?
Apricots are a fine summer treat. Apricots are smaller than peaches but softer than plums, and they have a distinctly delicious flavor when ripe. Originally from China where they still grow wild to this day.

The word "apricots" means "precious" in Latin. Apricots ripen earlier than most summer fruits, making them a precious commodity every spring.

Most apricots come from California’s San Joaquin Valley where 95 percent are grown in the United States.

The season for locally fresh apricots is short usually from mid-May to July or August. Choose apricots that are firm to touch, plump in appearance and possess a deep orange or yellow/orange colour. A red tinge is also often present. Look for fruit that is unblemished, as apricots bruise easily. Although squishier, bruised apricots are ideal for use in sauces, moisture and flavor addition in baked goods. So, if you can get them at a bargain price, don't overlook them.

Apricots are a perfect fast food anytime. If you cannot find fresh apricots in your grocery store, you can always pick up a package of dried apricots to snack on.

Whether you prefer them fresh or dried, enjoy an apricot today in honor of National Apricot Day.

National Static Electricity Day

It happens when you least expect it. You are busy at work, at home or at school, minding your own business, when bam, it happens. Whether you touch another person or an inanimate object, it can be a "shocking" experience! During the winter months, it is often hard to avoid. And every once in a while, it can even make your hair stand straight up! So what is it?

January 9th is National Static Electricity Day. While the origins of this annual holiday are unknown, static electricity is, well, we'll leave that to the experts to explain.

Static Electricity Facts & Fun
Word Nerd Day

January 9th is Word Nerd Day. And if you go and research it, you'll most likely find - as I did - that though lots of folks list it as a holiday on their blogs and what-have-you, there isn't one single site that explains its existence, or origin, or anything. It seems that somebody just up and submitted it to Chase's Calendar of Events, and the good people there decided it was a great addition to their list of festivities, and voila!a holiday is born.

Whether it has a long and storied history (uh-uh) or a rather unspectacular back story (yup) makes no nevermind to me. What Word Nerd Day does do, is give me the excuse to talk about words. Not that I need one. But having a questionably valid excuse to do so is better than having no excuse at all.

So, where did this word, "nerd" come from? The earliest documented appearance of "nerd" in print came from none other than that most venerable Sage of Silliness: Dr. Seuss. I'll prove it. Go and dig out your beloved-and-quite-possibly-well-worn-copy of his 1950 book, If I Ran the Zoo. Flip to page 47, and you will see these words:
And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-TrooAnd bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo,a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!
You'll also see this:

But there isn't any other lexical explanation. The Sage of Silliness leaves the reader to his or her own devices there. It seems that, in the book, it was more of a name for a particular species of animal-person-thing, akin to "bear," or "alligator," rather than a description of a certain type of individual.

Then, the October 8, 1951 issue of Newsweek (page 28) wrote of its popular use as a synonym for "a drip" or "a square" in Detroit, Michigan. By the early 1960's, "nerd" was in common use nationwide in the United States, and had even hopped the pond to Scotland, where the Glasgow, Scotland Sunday Mail included the word in its regular column "ABC for Squares," defining "nerd" as "a square -- any explanation needed?"

Now, let's jump ahead to today, where - while "nerd" still clings to its initial geeky meaning - it has also morphed into somewhat of a badge of honor; one who is accomplished in and/or obsessed by whatever field the word is attached to, such as: computer nerd, science nerd, gamer nerd, art nerd, comic book nerd, music nerd, or my personal favorite...word nerd.

Blogger and novelist Wolf Gnards offers his definition of "word nerd" on his writing blog:
A Word Nerd is anyone who loves the written language and isn't afraid to admit it: be it literary classics or this month's Spider-Man comic.
Which brings us back to Word Nerd Day. And so, to celebrate those folks who love all things wordy or literary or bookish in any way, here are a few Websites You May Want to Wander To:
  • Word Nerd - Bethany Warner's blog, whose slogan is: "No pocket protectors here; just don't break the spines on books." She she blogs about books and writing and such, and refers to herself in her postings as "Word Nerd."
  • The Word Nerds - A site dedicated to "words, language, and why we say the things we do." Though the site ceased publishing weekly podcasts in April 2009, it still has an active forum that keeps the wordy ways and discussions alive.
  • Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing - Mignon Fogarty is your host for this most useful website. If you have any questions about using the English language in any way, chances are you can find the answers you need right there, or in her book. And, Grammar Girl is on Twitter.
  • Martha Brockenbrough - Author of books for kids and adults alike, she is a humor columnist, blogger, and one who can find the "funny" in the often staid world of grammar. You can find Martha on Twitter, as well.
  • - An online dictionary - launched in June 2009 - that is anything but ordinary. It is a database of (at last count) over 4 billion words gathered from such varied sources as multiple dictionaries, websites, books, magazines and newspapers. CEO Erin McKean points out that this site will give you not only definitions in text, but also relevant Flickr images, Twitter search matches, and user-contributed tags and comments. The site invites users to submit words, too. And, wordnik Tweets with the best of them.
Happy, happy Word Nerd Day, fellow word-lovers! May your day be deliciously lexical!