Sunday, February 16, 2014

Holidays and Observances for February 16 2014

Do a Grouch a Favor Day

While we can all be one from time-to-time, chances are pretty good you either know one, work with one and/or live with one. You know the type – prickly, stern, cranky, abrasive, with zero sense of humor and downright nasty to be around. Doom and gloom is their mantra! Yessir, they can make life just plain miserable for non-grouches!

But today is about turning the other cheek and doing something nice for those folks we avoid most - habitual grouches, grumps, scrooges and sourpusses everywhere. No matter how painful it is to even consider, February 16 is Do a Grouch a Favor Day! Just image doing something nice for your least favorite grump when he or she least’s expects it! Their expression could be priceless! While the origins of this “holiday” are unknown, the annual event occurs a few days after Valentine’s Day. Coincidence perhaps?

Famous American Grumps & Cranky Characters
  • Children learn all about grumps from everyone's favorite green grump - Oscar the Grouch.
  • While she may be little rough around the edges, Maxine tells it like she sees it!
  • One is most certainly grumpy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • The Wizard of Oz has several less than cheery characters in this classic film, including Miss Gulch and/or the Wicked Witch of the West and the Wizard himself.
  • Ebenezer Scrooge is an old and bitter miser who changes his tune once a few ghosts show up.
  • James Stewart and Donna Reed star in this classic holiday film, It’s a Wonderful Life.
  • Whether you watch the original Odd Couple television series starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman or the film versions starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, sometimes opposites do not attract!
  • Ed Asner starred as a crotchety editor in both the Mary Tyler Moore Show and his own Lou Grant television series.
  • Real-life father and daughter duo, Henry and Jane Fonda, star in this Academy-award winning film that also stars the delightful Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond.
  • Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau play in two films about grumps - Grumpy and Grumpier Old Men.
  • Walter Matthau stars in the 1993 remake of Dennis the Menace.
  • Charles Grodin plays the grumpy dad in this fun animal flick, Beethoven.
  • Jim Carrey shines in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway star in The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Jack Nicholson plays the crotchety grump in As Good As It Gets.
  • Clint Eastwood plays grump extraordinaire in Gran Torino.
Kyoto Protocol Day

On this date in 2005, the Kyoto Protocol officially commenced. An international scheme that set participating countries binding goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% of the 1990 levels by 2012. A total of 37 industrialised countries participated, and now in 2013, the protocol is continuing, though slightly changed. Countries now aim to reduce their emissions by at least 18% of the 1990 levels by 2020. Australia, I’m happy to report, is one of these countries. 

While there does exist heavy criticism for the Kyoto Protocol – “Pro-business people say it is harmful to business and the world economy. Environmentalists say it will do little to arrest global warming and more radical solutions are need to make a significant change. By some calculations even if the United States signed the protocol, the effects would only be to delay warming by six years as of 2100″.

To the people who say trying to hard to save the environment will destroy the economy – it’s all very well and good to have a strong economy…but without a world for those rich people to live on, you’ve accomplished very little. 

Radical measures do need to be taken, true, but we can all take little measures of our own at home. It’s corny and overused, but true, we can all make a difference. Even if that difference is getting up from your computer now and turning off all lights and appliances you aren't using right now (putting them on standby isn't good enough – turn that thing right off at the wall). You help save the world and your electricity bill magically decreases.

Even if global warming turns out to be a huge scientific embarrassment by being totally out of our control, it doesn’t hurt to try and help. After all, the contributors to global warming often all contribute to other environmental problems. Yes, we’re burning fossil fuels by driving our cars. We’re also creating more roads with growing population and taking up more space, consuming more metal to make more cars etc. If we eat less meat not only will be reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farting livestock (no seriously, this is actually a huge problem) but we will also be destroying less of the natural environment to the creation of farms. Air pollution is a very real health hazard, regardless of whether global warming is real or not. Even if you don’t believe what science currently advocates, you don’t really have an excuse to keep every electrical appliance you own running more often than an Olympic athlete. 

National Almond Day

Good for your heart. Good for your waistline. Good for your skin. What can’t almonds do? With a history that dates back to ancient times, it’s no wonder this miraculous little tree fruit is so widely used and revered. It’s also no wonder that this ultimate super food has its very own day of honor.

So whether you enjoy them plain or roasted, paired with chocolate or fish, or perhaps as the ultimate aid for dry skin be sure to celebrate National Almond Day February 16.

History of Almonds
Those almonds you pop as a midday snack travelled a long, roundabout way before settling in California where about 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are now grown. Originally from central and southwest Asia, almonds became a staple food there that helped sustain the long journeys of nomadic tribes. 

Wild stands of almond trees grew near trade routes such as the Silk Road that connected central China with the Mediterranean. Easy access allowed for the spread of the wild almond groves because almonds took route in the ground on which they fell. Evidence of this occurs even today in central California, where wild species of almond trees can be seen growing in ditches and roadways.

Nearly every ancient civilization used almonds. By 4,000 B.C. people were cultivating almond trees, which blossomed well in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. 

Hebrew literature from 2,000 B.C. mentions almonds. Early references from Turkey, Romania and the Baltic peninsula also cite references to the nut. The Bible makes numerous references to almonds as an object of value and symbol of hope. In Genesis 43:11, for example, a famine in Canaan prompts Jacob to ask his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain. He told them, "Take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds."

King Tut took several handfuls of almonds to his grave in 1352 B.C., to nourish him on his journey into the afterlife. Persians and Arabs made a milk of almond meal and water, which they valued both as a refreshing drink and as an ingredient in other foods.

All around the Mediterranean, hillside almond culture became well established with some areas developing important industries based on the nut, including France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. Except for Spain, which is the second-largest almond producer after California, these countries are comparatively small players in the international trade in almonds.

Worship, Legends & Customs
It’s said Moses crafted pure gold lamps in the shape of almonds, Persian rug makers wove their image into rugs and Van Gogh devoted many paintings to their likeness. Since at least biblical times, it’s believed the almond has been revered in art, music and literature as emblems of beauty, hope and rebirth.

 The shape of the almond seed is prominent in religious art of the Renaissance and earlier. The distinctive oval of the kernel forms a halo around religious figures in paintings, stained glass windows, frescoes, friezes, and in many other art forms to signify spiritual energy or to serve as a protective shield. Widely used by Italian artists, the halo was referred to as a mandorla, the Italian word for almond.

Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic and social significance. The Bible's Book of Numbers tells the story of Aaron's rod that blossomed and bore almonds, giving the almond the symbolism of divine approval.

The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. Today, North Americans give guests at weddings a bag of sugared almonds, representing children, happiness, romance, good health and fortune. In Sweden, cinnamon-flavored rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is a Christmas custom. Find it, and good fortune is yours for a year.

Consumption of almonds in India is believed to be good for the brain, while the Chinese consider it a symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.

California, here we come
In 1840, attempts to grow almonds in America were met with little success. The thinking went that if peaches, which are genetically similar to almonds, could grow in southern states then they could grow almonds successfully in Texas, New Mexico and Georgia. But growers soon discovered that the early blooming almond regularly fell to late frosts in those areas or to diseases of high humidity.

In the 1850s, plantings near Sacramento, Monterey and Los Angeles showed promise and a new industry was born for California growers. Today, the state of California is the biggest producer of the world’s supply of almonds. 

To Your Health
Packed with vitamin E, magnesium and fibre, almonds are one of the most heart-healthy foods on the market. In fact, the FDA issued a qualified health claim in 2003 that states: "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

A one-ounce, 160-calorie handful of almonds is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium. That quantity also provides 12 per cent of your daily protein allowance. Plus, almonds offer potassium, calcium and iron. Some say they’re good at preventing osteoporosis as one ounce or about 20 almonds contain as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk.

It’s also believed that eating almonds regulates your blood pressure because they’re high in potassium and low in sodium. They also help in keeping your cholesterol levels in check.

If this sounds too good to be true, here’s one more claim: some say they aid in cancer fighting thanks to their vitamin E and other protective nutrients such as calcium and magnesium.

Weight Loss
Almonds are the perfect snack for anyone fighting the battle of the bulge. Their protein, fibre and healthy monounsaturated fat contribute to that fuller feeling and work hard at keeping you satisfied when hunger pangs loom. Try munching on a handful as a mid-morning or midday snack. Or consider eating a few about 30 minutes before dinner. You will feel more sated and won’t eat as much.

Also consider drinking unsweetened almond milk for faster weight loss.

Almonds work wonders on your skin and hair.
Consider almond oil or almond milk for your skincare regime. It moisturizes and leaves your skin smooth and soft. The oil helps relieve itching and dryness and it can ease inflammation and rashes. It also helps relieve dry and chapped lips. Almond oil contains Vitamins A and E that help the production of collagen, which can make the skin look smoother and tighter. The moisturizing Vitamins B1 and B6 are found in the oil as well. Almond oil can also lighten dark spots on the skin.

You can prepare a mixture of almond oil, honey, and lemon juice, and apply this as a face mask once a week. You can soak almonds for a few hours, grind them, and use this paste with milk or rose water as an excellent face scrub.

Go Nuts for Almonds
Whether you’re using almond milk, paste, flour, butter, oil, or meal, it’s obvious that foodies love the little nut. Almonds offer a delicate flavour yet a rather pronounced texture to foods, especially if toasted.

From spiced or sweetened almonds for snacking, as a crust on chicken or fish, in cookies, cakes and granola bars, marzipan, torrone, on salads, in cereal or yogurt, on green beans or coating a cheese ball, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. 

Those on gluten-free diets love almonds because they’re a great substitute for bread crumbs and some flours.

There are about 25 major almond varieties produced in California orchards. They are categorized into five broad classifications based on distinguishing characteristics such as size and shape. The majority of almond production in California falls into the following three major classifications: Nonpareil, California, and Mission.

911 Birthday

9-1-1 is the emergency telephone number for the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), one of eight N11 codes. This number is intended for use in emergency circumstances only, and to use it for any other purpose (including non-emergency situations and prank calls) can be a crime.

In the earliest days of telephone technology, prior to the development of the rotary dial telephone, all telephone calls were operator-assisted. To place a call, the caller was required to pick up the telephone receiver and wait for the telephone operator to answer, they would then ask to be connected to the number they wished to call, the operator would make the required connection manually, by means of a switchboard. In an emergency, the caller might simply say "Get me the police", "I want to report a fire", or "I need an ambulance/doctor". Until dial service came into use, one could not place calls without operator assistance.

The first known experiment with a national emergency telephone number occurred in the United Kingdom in 1937, using the number 999. The first city in North America to use a central emergency number (in 1959) was the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, which instituted the change at the urging of Stephen Juba, mayor of Winnipeg at the time. Winnipeg initially used 999 as the emergency number, but switched numbers when 9-1-1 was proposed by the United States. In the United States, the push for the development of a nationwide American emergency telephone number came in 1957 when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that a single number be used for reporting fires. In 1967, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended the creation of a single number that could be used nationwide for reporting emergencies. The burden then fell on the Federal Communications Commission, which then met with AT&T in November, 1967 in order to come up with a solution.

In 1968, a solution was agreed upon. AT&T chose to implement the concept, but with its unique emergency number, 9-1-1, which was brief, easy to remember, dialed easily, and worked well with the phone systems in place at the time.

Just 35 days after AT&T's announcement, on February 16, 1968, the first-ever 9-1-1 call was placed by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, from Haleyville City Hall, to U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill, at the city's police station. Bevill reportedly answered the phone with "Hello". At the City Hall with Fite was Haleyville mayor James Whitt; at the police station with Bevill were Gallagher and Alabama Public Service Commission director Eugene "Bull" Connor. Fitzgerald was at the ATC central office serving Haleyville, and actually observed the call pass through the switching gear as the mechanical equipment clunked out "9-1-1". The phone used to answer the first 9-1-1 call, a bright red model, is now in a museum in Haleyville, while a duplicate phone is still in use at the police station.

In 1968, 9-1-1 became the national emergency number for the United States. Calling this single number provided a caller access to police, fire and ambulance services, through what would become known as a common Public-safety answering point (PSAP). The number itself, however, did not become widely known until the 1970s, and many municipalities did not have 9-1-1 service until well into the 1980s.[citation needed] Conversion to 9-1-1 in Canada began in 1972 and now virtually all areas, except for some rural areas,[which?] are using 9-1-1. Each year, Canadians make 12 million calls to 9-1-1 (as of 2008).

On September 15, 2010, AT&T announced that State of Tennessee has approved a service to support a Text to 9-1-1 trial statewide, where AT&T would be able to allow its users to send text messages to 9-1-1 Public-safety answering points (PSAPs).

The former British colonies of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, despite being part of the North American Numbering Plan, use 999, as in the United Kingdom. Most British Overseas Territories using the North American Numbering Plan, like Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands use 911.