Thursday, June 5, 2014

Holidays and Observances for June 5 2014

Hot Air Balloon Day

Have you ever heard of the Montgolfier brothers? No? We’re not too surprised, but now’s the time to learn. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne were the inventors of the first-ever hot air balloon. Indeed, their innovation and success was the true beginning of the modern era of flight — and you might be surprised at how far back this invention dates. The first hot-air-balloon flight took place in Annonay, France in 1783. That’s nearly 200 years before the Wright brothers — there seems to be a theme here — built the first successful airplane.

First Unmanned Flight
The idea for a hot air balloon actually stemmed from the brothers’ profession: They were paper manufacturers — exciting, we know — and, through their work, discovered that heated air flowing into a paper bag caused the bag to rise. Thus, an idea was born. The Montgolfier brothers threw time and effort into launching experiments and making their vision come to life. And, on June 5th, 1783, the first balloon, which was constructed out of silk and lined with paper, was deemed ready for flight. (Some people do claim it was June 4th, but we’re thinking it’s possible that it took a while for news to spread back in 1783.)

When inflated, the brothers’ first balloon spanned ten meters– that’s about 32 feet — in diameter. Perhaps slightly nervous at the potential outcome of the first flight, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne decided that the initial test should be unmanned, so an empty balloon was launched. Success! On its first flight, the balloon rose to an estimated 5500 feet. Although it was off the ground for only ten minutes, the brothers’ creation still managed to travel more than a mile.

The First Passengers
Naturally, when the news of the Montgolfier brothers’ success traveled far and wide — via Facebook, Twitter, etc — they were invited to make a demonstration for King Louis XVI. In order to simultaneously impress and honor the king, the brothers adorned this new balloon (this time nine meters in diameter and made from taffeta) with designs and symbols that paid proper laud to the French monarch. They also included a coat of alum as a means of fireproofing the craft. Good thinking, boys.

Although anxious to see subjects aboard the balloon, the king was nonetheless worried about the effects of traveling at high altitudes. So, as a potential solution, the King Louis offered to hand over several French prisoners as test subjects — yes, times have changed. The Montgolfier brothers, however, shook their heads and decided to use a more scientific approach: The first passengers on board the second-ever hot air balloon were a sheep, whose physiology was said to closely resemble a human’s; a duck, the “control group,” because it was accustomed to flying at high altitudes; and a rooster, which couldn’t fly very high above the ground. Just picture that in your head. On a summer day in 1783, a sheep, a duck, and a rooster were flying high above France in a hot air balloon. That sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke. Yet again, the brothers achieved success: This second balloon traveled about two miles in eight minutes and landed smoothly.

First Human Passengers
Because the sheep, the duck, and the rooster all arrived home safely, the next logical step was to try putting an actual human being in the basket. On October 15, 1783, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier — a scientist and physics teacher — stepped aboard the balloon. Erring on the side of caution, the Montgolfier brothers chose to tether the balloon to the ground. Pilâtre de Rozier was in the air for about four minutes and, just as the animals had, landed safely on the ground.

About a month later, true triumph was reached: On November 21, Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes made the first free flight, traveling from the center of Paris into the suburbs. The trip lasted a whopping 25 minutes, and the pair covered more than five miles.

It is only fitting that the Montgolfier brothers receive proper recognition for achieving such an accomplishment. Their success paved the way for further innovations in manned flight. Although the hot air balloon is not a heavily used means of travel — airplanes tend to be just a little bit faster — the talent of the Montgolfier brothers cannot be ignored. But, ladies, don’t let this be a brothers-only show. We want to see the next innovation in traveling be conquered by a pair of sisters, okay?

National Gingerbread Day

Grab Hansel and Gretel, June 5 is National Gingerbread Day!

According to the Orthodox Monastery of Saints, gingerbread was brought to Europe by an Armenian monk called Gregory. This was way back in the mid 990's. He is said to have called gingerbread food that warms the soul – probably because of all the spices in it.

Gingerbread can come in many forms – it can be hard or soft, baked as a loaf or as cookies, served with a lemon glaze or none at all, but in all cases it contains some form of ginger. Some recipes call for dried, powdered ginger, others for crystallized, and even some for fresh.

Other staples in most gingerbread recipes are honey, molasses or treacle. These typically take the place of honey.

The Germans are well known for their gingerbread, which is called Lebkuchen which can either mean cake of life or loaf cake depending on how you say it. The harder version of Lebkuchen is used to make gingerbread houses.

Speaking of which, according to the Guinness World Records, the largest gingerbread house ever built was done so in 2006 by Roger Pelcher at the Mall of America in Minnesota. It was more than 45 feet long, 35 feet wide and 60 feet tall.

Below is my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe. It’s from a co-worker’s great aunt of County Down, Northern Ireland, and calls for both ground ginger and crystallized ginger.

National Moonshine Day

Moonshine, white lightning, mountain dew, hooch, or Tennessee white whiskey is a high-proof distilled spirit, generally produced illicitly. The word is believed to derive from the term "moonrakers" used for early English smugglers and the clandestine (i.e., by the light of the moon) nature of the operations of illegal Appalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey.  source: Wikipedia 

The history and story of Moonshine is filled with characters and legends that have all helped shape this unique and colorful part of American history. 

There has to be a good reason to go to all the trouble of making moonshine. Actually, there have been several reasons, but they all boil down to one thing: government control of the alcohol trade.

Moonshining began very early in American history. Shortly after the Revolution, the United States found itself struggling to pay for the expense of fighting a long war. The solution was to place a federal tax on liquors and spirits. The American people, who had just fought a war to get out from under oppressive British taxes (among other purposes), were not particularly pleased. So they decided to just keep on making their own whisky, completely ignoring the federal tax.

For these early moonshiners, making and selling alcohol wasn't a hobby or a way to make extra cash -- it was how they survived. Farmers could survive a bad year by turning their corn into profitable whisky, and the extra income made a harsh frontier existence almost bearable. To them, paying the tax meant they wouldn't be able to feed their families. Federal agents (called "Revenuers") were attacked when they came around to collect the tax, and several were tarred and feathered.
All this resentment finally exploded in 1794, when several hundred angry citizens took over the city Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. President George Washington called for a gathering of militiamen under federal authority. Thirteen-thousand troops dispersed the mob and captured its leaders. This Whisky Rebellion was the first major test of federal authority for the young government.

Despite the failure of the rebellion, moonshining continued throughout the United States, especially in Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas and other southern states. Excise taxes on alcohol didn't go away, so moonshiners always had incentive to avoid the law. Gun fights between moonshiners and revenuers became the stuff of legend.

These battles escalated in the 1860s as the government tried to collect on the excise tax to fund the Civil War. Moonshiners and Ku Klux Klansmen joined forces, and many pitched battles were fought. The tactics of the moonshiners grew more desperate and brutal, intimidating locals who might give away the locations of stills and attacking IRS officials and their families. The tide of public sentiment began to turn against the moonshiners. The temperance movement, which sought to ban alcohol, gathered steam as the United States headed into the 20th century.

In the early 1900s, states began passing laws that banned alcohol sales and consumption. In 1920, nationwide Prohibition went into effect. It was the greatest thing the moonshiners could have asked for.

Suddenly, there was no legal alcohol available. The demand for moonshine shot up like a rocket. Moonshiners couldn't keep up with the demand, which led to cheaper, sugar-based moonshine, as well as watered-down moonshine. The distillers would do anything to increase their profit. Organized crime blossomed as speakeasies opened in every city -- these secret saloons had hidden doors, passwords and escape routes in case the "Feds" ever showed up to conduct a raid.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the market for moonshine grew thin. Although moonshine continued to be a problem for federal authorities into the 1960s and '70s, today, very few illegal alcohol cases are heard in the courts. Large commercial distilleries can buy raw materials on such a large scale that, even with the taxes they must pay, their products aren't too much more expensive than moonshine. While some counties in the south and midwest United States remained "dry" (alcohol-free) for decades after the end of national Prohibition, even those localized liquor bans have, for the most part, faded away. That leaves consumers of alcohol little reason to seek out moonshine other than the temptation of buying and drinking something that's "forbidden" and the flouting of government authority. The desire to flout government authority is one of the reasons moonshining exists in the first place.

National Ketchup Day

Whether it’s being spread on a hotdog, splattered over a plate of French fries or spooned onto your mom’s homemade meatloaf, ketchup has become such a staple of the American diet that it’s earned its own day. That’s right, today is National Ketchup Day!

Heinz ketchup is arguably the most popular and consistent condiment gracing the tables, refrigerators, restaurants, and picnic baskets of Americans, but that hasn’t always been the case. When H.J. Heinz first began bottling and selling condiments in his home in Pennsylvania in 1869, he started with horseradish, sauerkraut, vinegar, and pickles.  In 1876 ketchup made its official debut, and in 1937 Heinz took production to a factory in Fremont, Ohio, which currently produces 34 million cases of ketchup annually. Today, Heinz is selling 650 million bottles of ketchup a year world-wide, which shakes out to roughly two single serving packets to every person on the planet.

While ketchup is universally known to be a catch-call condiment that goes well with almost everything, health professionals stress moderation because of its sodium and high fructose corn syrup content. A registered dietician for Parentables lists some healthy alternatives to what she considers “a junk food”, largely due to the portion sizes in which it’s often used. Mustard, low-fat Ranch dressing, hummus, low-fat mayo, salsa, and yogurt-based sauces like tiziki are all lower in sugar and salt than ketchup, and as a result are a better choice for your regular spreads and schmears.

But just for today, on its own holiday, shake the bottle and then squeeze it onto whatever you’d like. Don’t worry, we won’t tell.

World Environment Day

World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.

In support of the UN designation of 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), WED this year will adopt SIDS in the broader context of climate change as its theme. Our objectives are to help build momentum towards the Third International Conference on SIDS in September and encourage a greater understanding of the importance of SIDS and of the urgency to help protect the islands in the face of growing risks and vulnerabilities, particularly as a result of climate change. We believe WED will be an excellent opportunity to raise a call for solidarity with the islands.
"Planet Earth is our shared island, let us join forces to protect it."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the launch of the 2014 International Year of Small Islands and Developing States
WED is the opportunity for everyone to realize not only the responsibility to care for the Earth and to become agents of change. 

WED 2013 generated global coverage and publicity with about 200,000 blog posts and more than 26,000 articles published on WED between 1 and 10 June 2013 alone. Our videos on WED were viewed by close to 120 million people on digital screens in Times Square in New York, Piccadilly in London, and at Live Windows (Benetton stores) in Milan, London, Munich, Barcelona and Almaty. On social media, among Twitter’s reported 200 million active users, WED was among the top 10 most talked about topics in at least 15 countries on 5 June,  with an estimated 47.6 million impressions on the Day itself.

Festival of Popular Delusions Day

We missed the festivities!  June 5th was Festival of Popular Delusions day.  It is the day before D-Day, which means that it was the last day that the Germans thought that they would rule the earth for 1000 years.  They had some sort of delusion, and the next day they didn't have it anymore.  Here’s a description:
June 5th is Festival Of Popular Delusions Day. To understand the holiday, you must be familiar with D-Day. If you've been living under a rock, new to the planet, or suffering from delusions of your own, let me remind you: D-Day was June 6, 1944 — the day of the Normandy invasion which cracked the Nazi grip on the planet.
In Germany on June 5th, 1945 (the year after D-Day– yet one day before the anniversary of D-Day), the Festival Of Popular Delusions Day began. This day marks the Nazi’s plan for world domination — the Popular Delusion of the day — right before its fall. A reminder that delusions and delusional leaders can be dangerous. They too can be ‘cracked’ and reality will force them to fall to an invasion of reality.

It’s a day for ourselves to perform a reality check not only on ourselves as individuals, but take a look at the popular ideas of the day. Are we living with delusions? Among delusionary leaders? If so, we should be making our own plans to shatter the delusional holds upon us. Today we celebrate Popular Delusions Day with some serious thought to the matter.

So what do you think?  Is Festival of Popular Delusions day worth keeping around and taking seriously?  Or should we keep treating it as an inferior holiday?