Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holidays and Observances for April 17 2014

Bat Appreciation Day

On Bat Appreciation Day, take a moment to consider the humble bat. Bats are mysterious, enigmatic creatures which are all around us, though we may not be aware of them. Some species are as small as a thumb, and yet are capable of flying hundreds of miles over land and sea to migrate each year. Bats navigate the dark areas they live in using echolocation, and they’re also responsible for keeping many pests at bay, including mosquitos.

Unfortunately, several bat species are facing extinction, due to many factors, including offshore wind farms and loss of their habitats. On Bat Appreciation Day, why not take the time to learn more about this amazing creatures, and how you can help in their conservation. Many zoos feature a nocturnal house where you can see bats up close and personal, so it’s also a great excuse for a family day out at the zoo.

Fun Facts About Bats:
  • They are the only mammals capable of true flight.
  • They can “see” what we can't, in the dark, using echolocation. Bats emit ultrasonic sounds and then listen to the reflected sounds (or echoes); from the reflections their brains build a detailed image that includes distance and textures of things in the environment. Bats also listen for other sounds, such as those created by their insect prey: the fluttering of moth wings or the movement of earwigs in the ground. It's hard to imagine that bats can hear such teeny sounds while emitting 15 signals each and every second and listening for the echoes of those sounds, too, all the while flying at 5 to 10 miles per hour—even up to 60 miles per hour! Bats can tell the distance of walls and trees and insects, they can tell the difference between hard- and soft-bodied insects, and they can “see” and avoid wires as thin as a human hair!
  • Bats rid our world of many bothersome, disease-spreading, crop-invading insects. (Well, the insectivorous bats do, at least. Some bats eat fruit rather than insects.) One little brown bat can eat 1,000 mosquitos in JUST ONE HOUR! With a lifespan of almost 40 years, a little brown bat can eat a LOT of mosquitos!
  • Many kids and teachers are already familiar with Stellaluna, the young fruit bat from the enchanting children's book by Janell Cannon, but teachers may also want to visit this great Teachers Page if they're doing bat units for Earth fairs or Halloween. Here is a Kids' Page and here is a link to the Save Lucy Club, where kids can help protect North American bats.
  • A single little brown bat (myotis) can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in a single hour, and is one of the world's longest-lived mammals for its size, with life spans of almost 40 years.
  • Bats are more closely related to humans and other primates than they are to rodents. Several studies indicate that the Old World fruit bats and flying foxes may actually be descended from early primates such as lemurs.
  • There are over 1200 known species of bats, just about 25% of all mammal species. Most of these bats are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
  • Most bat moms give birth to only a single pup each year, making them very vulnerable to extinction. Bats are the slowest reproducing mammals on earth for their size.
  • Contrary to popular myths, most bats have very good eyesight, have excellent echolocation so they do not become entangled in human hair, and seldom transmit disease to other animals or humans.
  • The world's smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat of Thailand which weighs about as much as a dime and is critically endangered due to habitat loss.
  • Giant flying foxes (fruit bats) that live in Indonesia have wingspans of nearly six feet.
  • Bats are very clean animals, and groom themselves almost constantly (when not eating or sleeping) to keep their fur soft and clean, like tiny cats.
  • The pallid bat of western North America is totally immune to the stings of the scorpions and centipedes upon which it feeds.
  • The 30 million Mexican free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave in Texas eat 250 TONS of insects every summer night. They sometimes fly up to two miles high to feed or to catch tailwinds that carry them over long distances, and can fly at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.
  • These Mexican free-tailed bat mothers can find and nurse their own young, even in huge colonies where many millions of pups cluster at up to 500 per square foot. The youngsters can be as curious and playful as many other animal babies.
  • A single colony of 150 big brown bats can protect local farmers from up to 33 million or more rootworms each summer.
  • A nursing little brown bat mother can eat more than her body weight nightly (up to 4,500 insects).
  • Many important agricultural plants, like bananas, peaches, bread-fruit, mangoes, cashews, almonds, dates and figs rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.
  • Tequila is produced from agave plants whose seed production drops to 1/3000th of normal without bat pollinators, such as the Mexican long-tongued bat.
  • Hoary bats are the most widely distributed bat in the Americas, ranging from northern Canada all the way down into South America, and there is even an endangered sub-species found out in the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Vampire bats adopt orphans, and are one of the few mammals known to risk their own lives to share food with less fortunate roost-mates.
  • An anticoagulant derived from vampire bat saliva is now used to treat human heart patients and stroke victims.
  • All mammals can contract rabies; however, even the less than half of 1% of bats that do, normally bite only in self-defense and pose little threat to people who do not handle them.
  • Nearly 40% of American bat species are in severe decline or already listed as endangered or threatened. Losses are occurring at alarming rates worldwide.
  • Providing bat houses can help build the populations of many valuable bat species that eat many crop-damaging insects, such as cucumber and June beetles, stink bugs, leafhoppers and corn worm moths. Bat houses furnish places for bats to roost, hibernate and raise young, in addition to the dwindling number of natural sites available to them.
  • Red bats, which live in tree foliage throughout most of North America, can withstand body temperatures as low as 23 degrees during winter hibernation.
  • Little brown bats can reduce their heart rate to 20 beats per minute and can stop breathing altogether for 48 minutes at a time while hibernating. They may hibernate for more than seven months if left undisturbed, but can starve if they are awakened too many times during the winter, which causes them to run out of energy reserves before spring.
  • Tiny woolly bats of West Africa live in the large webs of colonial spiders.
  • The Honduran white bat is snow white with a yellow nose and ears. It cuts large leaves to make "tents" that protect its small colonies from jungle rains, one of 15 other species known to make tents.
  • Frog eating bats identify edible from poisonous frogs by listening to the mating calls of male frogs. Frogs counter by hiding and using short, difficult-to-locate calls.
  • Moths are also known to take evasive action when they hear the echolocation calls of bats, sometimes plummeting to the ground in an attempt to escape.
  • Male Gambian epauletted bats of Africa have pouches in their shoulders that contain large, showy patches of white fur, which they flash during courtship to attract mates. The Chapin's free-tailed bats have big tufts of white fur on top of their heads, which they fluff up during courtship.
  • Bat droppings in caves support whole ecosystems of unique organisms, including bacteria useful in detoxifying wastes, improving detergents, and producing gasohol and antibiotics.
  • African heart-nosed bats can hear the footsteps of a beetle walking on sand from a distance of more than six feet.
  • Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair protruding only two millimeters above a pond's surface.
  • Desert ecosystems rely on nectar-feeding bats as primary pollinators of giant cacti, including the famous organ pipe and saguaro of Arizona.
Help save bats!
Unfortunately, many bat species are in trouble. Bats are susceptible to pesticides and other poisons; they can be killed by wind turbines; their homes and hibernacula are often disturbed by spelunking (cave exploration) or other human activities. Check out this blog post to learn more about dangers to bats.

Google “bat rescue” to see if you can find any local efforts to save bats. Perhaps you can donate money, build bat houses for your backyard,  or teach others about the importance of bats to our ecosystem. Here is a story about a rescue of some orphaned baby bats in Australia (check out the adorable photo!),  and here is an organization trying to save bats in the U.S. 

Blah, Blah, Blah Day

Sometimes it seems as if everyone is a critic. Are you fed up with your nearest and dearest suggesting you lose weight, give up smoking or paint that ceiling? Or, even if nobody is hounding you, are you all too aware that you’re putting off until tomorrow things that should have been done yesterday?

If any of these questions strike home, then Blah Blah Blah Day is the opportunity to stop procrastinating and get to grips with all those stalled projects and broken promises right now!

This unusual holiday was created by Wellcat, a holidays and herbs company. It is celebrated around the world – if celebrate is the right word for this particular day. The best way to mark it is by digging out and dusting off those forgotten New Year’s resolutions and making another start on them, before the blahs and the blues strike all over again.

Ellis Island Family History Day

By official proclamation of our nation’s governors, April 17 has been designated as “Ellis Island Family History Day.” Under the auspices of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. and the National Genealogical Society, the day has been set aside annually to recognize the achievements and contributions made to America by Ellis Island immigrants and their descendants.

Historically, April 17 marks the day in 1907 when more immigrants were processed through Ellis Island than on any other day in its colorful history -- 11,747 people. Over 40% of the U.S. population today -- 100 million Americans – can trace their roots back to the 17 million brave and hopeful immigrants who took their first steps towards freedom and opportunity by going through the “Golden Door” of Ellis Island.

In celebration of “Ellis Island Family History Day” the Foundation has instituted the “Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards” which are given annually to a select number of Ellis Island immigrants or their descendants who have made a significant contribution to the American experience.

Ellis Island Family History Day was first celebrated on April 17, 2001 to commemorate the opening of the American Family Immigration History Center® at Ellis Island and its companion website:

Ford Mustang Day

The Ford Mustang, a two-seat, mid-engine sports car, is officially unveiled by Henry Ford II at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, on April 17, 1964. That same day, the new car also debuted in Ford showrooms across America and almost 22,000 Mustangs were immediately snapped up by buyers. Named for a World War II fighter plane, the Mustang was the first of a type of vehicle that came to be known as a “pony car.” Ford sold more than 400,000 Mustangs within its first year of production, far exceeding sales expectations.

The Mustang was conceived as a “working man’s Thunderbird,” according to Ford. The first models featured a long hood and short rear deck and carried a starting price tag of around $2,300. Ford general manager Lee Iacocca, who became president of the company in October 1964 (and later headed up Chrysler, which he was credited with reviving in the 1980s) was involved in the Mustang’s development and marketing. The car’s launch generated great interest. It was featured on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines and the night before it went on sale, the Mustang was featured in commercials that ran simultaneously on all three major television networks. One buyer in Texas reportedly slept at a Ford showroom until his check cleared and he could drive his new Mustang home. The same year it debuted, the Mustang appeared on the silver screen in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger.” A green 1968 Mustang 390 GT was famously featured in the 1968 Steve McQueen movie “Bullitt,” in a car chase through the streets of San Francisco. Since then, Mustangs have appeared in hundreds of movies.

Within three years of its debut, some 500 Mustang fan clubs had cropped up. In March 1966, the 1 millionth Mustang rolled off the assembly line. In honor of the Mustang’s 35th anniversary in 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the original model. In 2004, Ford built its 300 millionth car, a 2004 Mustang GT convertible 40th anniversary model. The 2004 Mustangs were the final vehicles made at the company’s Dearborn production facility, which had been building Mustangs since their debut. (Assembly then moved to a plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.)

Over the decades, the Mustang underwent numerous evolutions, and it remains in production today, with more than 9 million sold.

Get to Know Your Customer Day

The third Thursday of the beginning of each quarter (January, April, July and October) is Get To Know Your Customer Day.  This is a day that happens just once a quarter to put emphasis on getting to know your customers or clients.

This is a simple concept.  Pick up the phone and call a customer you haven’t talked to in a while or don’t know that well.  Take someone to lunch.  Set up a few meetings.  Have a cocktail reception for a few of your customers. (Don’t make this one too big or you lose the personal contact and impact you are trying to achieve.)  Your goal to take dedicated time to build a stronger relationship with a few of your customers.
  1. Send a thank-you note to every client past and present. Do not attempt to sell them anything, simply thank them for the business.
  2. The use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools is common. Ensure success by including key dates such as anniversaries and birthdays. One of the greatest examples of CRM is Southwest Airlines. Every year they send a personal thank-you card to their customers.
  3. Provide a special sales promotion. Retailers constantly provide sales promotions but what have you done for your customers. They are the ones that truly keep you in business.
  4. Depending on the size of your operation call your clients if they have not visited. A call from you just might prompt a surprise visit.
  5. I mentioned the use of CRM; also use paper or computer tools to recall family, pet names, spouses and significant others. Customers will think you have the memory of an elephant and they will admire the attention.
  6. To help acquaintances offer your customers something free. They will appreciate the additional attention and good will.
  7. Get your employees and freelancers involved. Customer appreciation and knowledge is a cultural shift. The more prevalent the culture of customer service the better the productivity, the better the morale and the better the patronage.
Today’s tight competitive market creates a dire need for customer service. With numerous competitors and a myriad of distractions, customers believe there is ubiquity and they obtain similar services from any vendor. The key to competitive differentiation is customer service. Appreciation from your greatest asset takes no time, little investment and pays a huge return.

National Ask An Atheist Day

National Ask an Atheist Day is an opportunity for secular groups across the atheist country to work together to defeat stereotypes about atheism and encourage courteous dialogue between believers and nonbelievers alike. The event is intended to be an opportunity for the general public - particularly people of faith - to approach us and ask questions about secular life. It is our hope that encouraging participation on a national level will raise awareness of the event and We're encouraging all SSA affiliate groups to participate at whatever level they are able!

This day occurs every year on the 3rd Thursday of April. Ask an Atheist Day 2014 will be April 17th.

Groups can participate in National Ask an Atheist Day however they like. We leave the details of the event to you and your group - you'll come up with bigger and better ideas than we ever could. Here are some ideas that some of our affiliates are already planning to help you get ideas of your own:
  • Request Ask an Atheist stickers from the SSA (or print your own) and have your group's members wear them around campus.
  • Post Ask an Atheist Day Flyers around your campus.  (You'll be able to request flyers as the event gets closer!).
  • Table with stickers, posters, flyers and other information (Get SSA's "What is an Atheist?" brochures to help!).
  • Flyer your campus to get people thinking in advance about the big day.
  • Flyer your campus with Atheist FAQs.
  • Hold an "Ask an Atheist" panel event.
  • Get on the campus radio with a live "Ask an Atheist" session where listeners can call in their questions.
  • Put an ad in the campus newspaper to advertise your event. Check out our sample press release!
  • Contact religious or interfaith student organizations and invite them to your event(s).
National Cheeseball Day

It’s National Cheeseball Day! Did you know that the term “cheeseball” can actually refer to two very different foods? The first type of cheeseballs are the bright orange, marble-sized snacks that turn your fingers orange (very similar to cheese doodles). The second type is the kind you might serve with crackers at a party.

A traditional cheeseball appetizer includes ingredients like cream cheese, cheddar cheese, nuts, salt, pepper, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Gourmet versions use bleu cheese, olives, pineapple, sherry, or smoked salmon. According to legend, a man named Elisha Brown Jr. pressed the first cheeseball at his farm in 1801. It weighed 1,235 pounds! He presented it as a gift to President Thomas Jefferson at the White House.

To celebrate National Cheeseball Day, pick up a bag of cheeseballs at your local grocery store or make your own gourmet cheeseball as a dinner appetizer! Enjoy!

National High Five Day

It’s National High Five Day! Today is all about celebrating the high five and giving high fives to everyone you meet, including friends, classmates, coworkers, and strangers. You can even send a free virtual high five to faraway friends and family. A group of students at the University of Virginia declared the first National High Five Day in 2002. Today, people all across the country celebrate this unique holiday and help raise money for theNational High Five Project.

Nobody knows who invented the high five. NBA player Derek Smith claimed that he created the high five while playing for the University of Louisville basketball team in 1979. According to another story, a man named Mont Sleets popularized the gesture. While Mont was growing up in Kentucky, his father's old army friends would greet each other by extending their arms straight up in the air and saying the name of their division: "Five." As a young boy, it was difficult for Mont to remember all of the names of his father's friends, so when he saw them he would just say "Hi, Five!" This childhood greeting stuck with him and he started to greet others with high fives.

Want to know the trick for the perfect high five? Look at the other person's elbow as you are about to high five them. You’ll have a perfectly accurate high five every time. Happy National High Five Day!

National Haiku Poetry Day

Today is National Haiku Day, a day to celebrate the fun, popular, and very short form of Japanese poetry. The haiku develped after the hokku portion of traditional Japanese poetry broke from the tanka. Introduced to the West in the 1950′s, the haiku grew into a phenomenon and was particularly enbraced by beat poets like Jack kerouac. While traditional English haiku is made up of 17 syllables over three phrases (5-7-5), the format is actually more flexible. What distinguishes haiku is the use of a “season” word and the juxtaposition two different elements. Still, even these markers are flexible, and the haiku has inspired many pseudo-haiku and other variations.

HaikuNow! 2013 Contest Winners:
snowflakes fallingon the child’s upturned facethe stillness of stars     — john hawkhead (United Kingdom)
the Lee at spring tide —the reflection of a bridgeflows under the bridge     — Anatoly Kudryavitsky (Ireland)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . .all the sparrows fly awayand I lose my count     — Anon (Malaysia)
Nothing Like a Dame Day

A day to pay homage to dames and their unique blend of wit, wisdom, strength and style. Nothing Like a Dame Day celebrates the dames who've gone before and urges you to cultivate the “dame” that lies within.

Nothing is likely to inject a little sunshine and gaudiness into someone’s day more effectively than Nothing Like a Dame Day.

This celebration of big, brash, smiling-through-the-pain ladies of the theatre, gives even those of a straight-laced nature the opportunity to grab a boa, glue on some spidery lashes, and sashay like Carol Channing, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, or Ethel Merman.

Those people who aren’t the dressing up type might mark Nothing Like a Dame Day in a more private way, by digging out Rogers and Hammerstein’s brashest work and having a singalong to those big numbers from South Pacific, which gave us the unsubtle joys of There Is Nothing a Dame.

In Great Britain, where there is less of a theatre tradition of brassy, ballsy dames, Nothing Like Dame Day is more likely to celebrate their pantomime dame. These men, dressed very unconvincingly as women, are a comical staple of their family shows at Christmas time.
Support Teen Literature Day

Libraries play a key role in fostering literacy. And with the booming market in young adult literature, their role in making these books available to young readers is especially significant.

On April 14, during National Library Week, libraries will be raising awareness of this growing, vital genre on Support Teen Literature Day.

The event is celebrated every Thursday of National Library Week, by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). National Library Week 2011 is April 10-16.

“Support Teen Literature Day provides a chance for libraries and librarians who serve teens to expand the awareness of teen literature and the endless reading possibilities that exist for teens, said YALSA President Kim Patton. “Celebrating this event allows library professionals to engage our communities in conversations about our teen collections and share the importance of teen reading as we connect with the parents, educators and teens in our communities.”

Librarians are supporting teen literature in a number of ways this year. One way is by spreading awareness of the multiple teen/YA book awards. Every year, YALSA committees select books and media for six awards: Alex, Edwards, Morris, Nonfiction, Odyssey, and Printz.

Libraries also make young readers aware of a book list chosen entirely by teens, the Teens' Top Ten.  Teens are encouraged to read the 25 nominees and vote for their favorites during August and September.  The winners are announced during Teen Read Week, the third week of October.

Official 2013 Teens' Top Ten titles:
  1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Disney/Hyperion)
  2. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic/Scholastic Press)
  3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books)
  4. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (Harlequin Teen)
  5. Poison Princess by Kresley Cole (Simon & Schuster)
  6. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic/Scholastic Press)
  7. Crewel by Gennifer Albin (Macmillan/Farrar Straus Giroux)
  8. Every Day by David Levithan (Random House/Alfred A. Knopf)
  9. Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (Egmont)
  10. Butter by Erin Jade Lange (Bloomsbury)