Friday, April 18, 2014

Holidays and Observances for April 18 2014

National Velociraptor Awareness Day

April 18 has been designated Velociraptor Awareness Day. The day was created not only to remember those who have fallen to these terrible beasts, but to raise awareness of how one can attempt to protect themselves from these dangerous and cunning predators. For those of us who are martial artists and personal protection personnel, we may be called upon to help save the lives of humans against these menaces. It is best not to answer this call, but to run. It is best not to run all manly as if you are merely ‘regrouping’, but to flail your arms and cry like a little girl. The velociraptor will see this as a sign of respect and seek out a different, less reverent target. If for some insane reason we find ourselves morally or ethically compelled to intervene between a velociraptor and its prey, the first thing we must evaluate is the main engagement styles martial artists have at our disposal; grappling, percussion, and weaponry.

Grappling techniques against a velociraptor are ill advised. The shoulders have more of a forward and down orientation compared to humans that will require major adjustments to grappling techniques to effect most types of joint locks. The rear-facing ankle bone also means that any type of leg controls will be utterly alien and unfamiliar to a similarly trained groundfighter. Equally distasteful is the proposition that the velociraptor has a long neck and sharp claws. While the diligent grappler is learning to adapt his technique to these new body mechanics, the velociraptor is using his face as a chew toy. If the grappler somehow gets in very close and can get under the raptor’s mouth, it will counter by lacerating his guts open with his rear claws. No, the skeletal structure and body mechanics are just too different from that of a human to make the grappling arts such as jujitsu and aikido effective, and create a dangerous “learn on the job” proposition.
Special hint: If you must grapple with a velociraptor, go for the figure 4 tail lock. Done properly, from a ground technique, the grappler uses his feet to push against the velociraptor’s back legs. This keeps his rear claws from lacerating you, and you’re sufficiently far away from his mouth and teeth. Its front arms are too weak to help it stand. Hope that your help arrives before its help arrives: They are pack hunters, and they don’t tap out.
Percussion techniques against a velociraptor are also ill advised. The primary target would conceivably be the creature’s head. Unfortunately, the majority of a velociraptor’s head is it’s mouth and the majority of its mouth is it’s teeth. Putting hands and feet inside the mouth of a velociraptor is inadvisable. To make matters worse, the body orientation of a velociraptor is advantageous in that it does not stand upright. Leaning forward in hunting mode, its torso remains well behind its formidable jaws, a very effective protection. Even barring the raptor’s primary weapon, its secondary weapons are its claws. These are sharp, and made for climbing and rending flesh. While the percussionist throwing a punch is thinking of hitting with the correct form, the Velociraptor rakes your face with its talons and watches your mandible dangle uselessly from your skull. If Wolverine saw the wounds, he’d be so impressed that he’d log on to to see if he was somehow related to the raptor.
Special hint: If you must engage a velociraptor with punches and kicks, do your best to stay at the thing’s side. It’s forward sloped shoulders will cause it to have a hard time hitting you with it’s arms and claws, and its legs are so geared to running and hopping there is not as much side to side movement capability. Staying at the side towards the rear is the best flank to avoid its long neck and bite.
This leaves the martial artist with weaponry. Of course, the first thought is something along the lines of an AR-10 with the formidable 7.62x51 cartridge and a magazine with the shot capacity of a bad 1980’s era soldier of fortune movie. This is an excellent option if the shooter can score the hits. Velociraptors are fast and stealthy, though, meaning a protector must be fully aware and able to bring this heavy main battle rifle to bear very quickly. Too often, the velociraptor surprises its prey and is already engaged, making the rifle useless in close quarters. Remember, close quarters combat (CQC) to humans is within arm’s reach while CQC to a velociraptor is with your head in its mouth. It is likely that the best firearm for velociraptor defense is the 12 gauge pump shotgun with a sawed off barrel and some 3” magnum 000-buckshot , or a possibly a Magnum Research BFR Revolver in .45 Long Colt / .410 shotgun.

Aside from firearms, other weapons considerations are pepper sprays, and melee weapons. It is a little known fact, but oleoresin capsicum, the chief ingredient in pepper spray, has the same meaning in the velociraptor’s language as “mild sauce”. This is pure speculation on the author’s part, as no velociraptors have volunteered for pepper spray application, but I’m going to call this “ineffective”.

This leaves melee weapons, namely swords. Swords are noteworthy for their ability to do a significant amount of damage, as well as keeping the attacker at a slight distance. The sword equalizes the protector against a velociraptor if he knows how to use it. The best kind of sword for velociraptor defense is the katana. Its curved blade facilitates slicing, and the blade’s legendary sharpness will be needed to rend the leathery hide of this predator. Swords win against teeth and claw, because while formidable, the velociraptor risks taking damage on its person by attacking the sword wielder.
Special hint: It is important to note that dinosaurs are related to birds, and chickens are birds. Decapitated chickens run around like a chicken with its head cut off. That’s why that phrase exists. Velociraptors do the same, and their heads bite too. Decapitate, blend with the force of the body going by, then kick the head away. Weapon, grapple, percussion = WIN.
By the time the reader is perusing this article, it will be too late for many of you. For those that will live to see Thursday, please consider enrolling in your local kendo, iaijutsu, or other sword training curriculum so that you can be ready for next year. Also take up running. Jogging and distance running is good but remember the arm flailing and crying. The runners you see are actually preparing for this holiday, but often leave out this side of the training.

National Animal Crackers Day

Who doesn't love the crunch and sweetness of an animal cracker? These fun little crackers are usually in the shape of circus or zoo animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, bears, and monkeys.

Animal-shaped crackers were first brought to the United States during the late 1800’s. The demand for these treats skyrocketed so bakers began to produce them domestically.

Stauffer's Biscuit Company was the first company to produce animal crackers in 1871 in York, Pennsylvania. Other local bakeries soon came together under the National Biscuit Company, or "Nabisco Brands." It was not until 1902 though that the animal cracker's box debuted its "Barnum's Animals" circus theme.

Did you know that since their start in 1903, there have been 37 different animals included in Barnum's Animal Crackers? Today more than 40 million packages of animal crackers are sold each year around the world. To celebrate National Animal Crackers Day, enjoy a box (or two) of some delicious Barnum's Animal Crackers!

Adult Autism Awareness Day

This day recognizes the challenges faced by those aging with autism, including higher education, independent living and career development. Celebrated annually on April 18. director and Pittsburgh resident Carolyn Komich Hare founded national Adult Autism Awareness Day and will hold a series of panel discussions at the University of Pittsburgh to commemorate the fifth annual celebration on April 18. According to, Mrs. Hare states that the goal of National Adult Autism Awareness Day is to "create awareness of our Adult Autism Community, demonstrate the importance of transition planning, promote inclusiveness through education, and improve social and employment outcomes for adults with autism." provides support for college students with Asperger's Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, High-Functioning Autism, and Non-Verbal Learning disorders, and is the official national sponsor of Adult Autism Awareness Day. The program currently exists in Washington D.C., Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders (ABOARD), is co-presenting the conference which includes sponsorship by Autism Speaks, the Bureau of Autism Services, Carnegie Mellon University, Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, the Pennsylvania State Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and UPMC. Speakers include Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA), founder of the Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE), as well as university officials, licensed specialists, and young adults with autism. The conference brochure can be found on's website. Conference topics include post-secondary education and employment, as well as research and legislation. There will also be a special proclamation by the City of Pittsburgh!

World Amateur Radio Day

Each year on 18 April, radio amateurs celebrate World Amateur Radio Day. On that day in 1925 the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) was founded. 

Amateur radio has truly entered the 21st Century. In less than 100 years amateur radio communications has evolved from crude spark-gap technology to digital signal processing and software-defined radios. The amateur's HF choice between voice and CW has been expanded to a broad range of communication choices from television to spread spectrum. 

Amateur digital communications has evolved. At the end of World War II until the early 1980's, radioteletype, also known as RTTY, was the only HF digital mode available to amateurs. In the 1980's, AMTOR made its debut along with the increased popularity and availability of personal computers. AMTOR was the first amateur digital communication mode to offer error-free text transmission. 

From the early 1980's, the rate of change increased dramatically. Packet Radio emerged and for a period of time was the most popular form of amateur digital communication. As microprocessor technology became more sophisticated, there was a rise in modes such as Clover, PACTOR, and G-TOR that were capable of error-free exchanges under marginal band conditions. In the late 1990's, there was an invention that harnessed personal computer technology to create PSK31. 

In the VHF-UHF frequency ranges, Packet Radio had less activity at the close of the century than it did in the 1980's and 1990's. However, Packet Radio was reborn as the popular Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) and traditional packet systems still exist to support public service activities with greatly enhanced functionality. 

Thanks to individual amateurs, hams now enjoy digital meteor scatter contacts and even moonbounce on VHF and UHF frequencies with modest stations. An ordinary computer sound device and software that can be downloaded free from the internet is all that is needed. 

The Japan Amateur Radio League developed the D-STAR digital voice and data standard and there has been significant amateur growth as amateurs establish D-STAR repeater networks on the VHF, UHF and microwave bands. 

All of these development have inspired amateurs around the world to experiment in their own HF, VHF, UHF and microwave band digital communication. 

Activities on the occasion of World Amateur Radio Day  can be a great opportunity to spread the word about what the "hams" are doing in the 21st Century. 

National Columnists Day

April 18th is celebrated as National Columnists’ Day in memory of Ernie Pyle, a journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner who was killed on this date in World War II. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists sponsors this holiday, inviting everyone to celebrate the late Ernie Pyle and “other journalists who carry on the difficult task of covering war, and all columnists who use their writing as a means of revealing truth, demanding accountability, and offering critique, commentary or comfort in so many aspects of life.”

Journalism has changed drastically in just the past couple of decades. With the introduction of the world wide web, anyone can share their research, thoughts, and opinions with a large audience at the drop of a hat. Newspapers are struggling unlike ever before as more people turn to their computers for news and entertainment, and more amateurs try their had at writing columns (blogs). Still, as much fun as we’re having with this project, and as much as its offered me an opportunity to sharpen my extremely rusty writing skills, I wouldn’t dare to consider my writing even a hundredth of the stuff that real columns are made of. (Unless you’re comparing me to Dear Abby….I don’t know what was wrong with that woman!) True journalism is a career not a hobby and, although our modern accessibility to vast amounts of information is amazing, it also means that we have to weed through a lot of mediocre content to get to the good stuff. On the other hand, when you pick up a newspaper or a magazine, an editor (presumably) has already done this for you. I really hope print media (or at least on-line versions of edited magazines) are still available when my kids are old enough to read.

Pet Owners Independence Day

April 18 is Pet Owner's Independence Day, an annual 'howliday' created by the fine folks at Wellcat in an effort to switch things up a bit.

Whether you have a fabulous feline, curious canine, bird, lizard or another beloved pet in your household, have you ever wondered what it is they do all day and all night long? While many of us lead busy and hectic lives, life may not be too "ruff" for Fido & Fluffy! If you think your pooch or kitty has it pretty darn easy, today is the "purrfect" day to reverse roles with your four-legged friends! Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn, going to work, running errands, doing homework with the kids and/or tackling those endless household chores, today you get to stay home , lounge around the house, play, groom yourself and/or eat and drink all day long! And if you feel like it, scratch yourself whenever and wherever you want! Sniff your significant other all day long. Heck, you don't even have to clean up after yourself either!

In order for the switcheroo to work, your pets will have to fill in for you. It's only fair since they get free room and board for life, right? Fido & Fluffly will need to go work for you, run all the errands, help the kiddies with their homework and complete all those miserable chores. And if you happen to have a Polly the Parakeet in your home, put her in charge of social media for the day. Polly the Parakeet does all the tweeting!