Monday, November 17, 2014

Holidays and Observances for November 17 2014

Homemade Bread Day


Homemade Bread Day takes place on November 17th. Bread is a staple food prepared by baking a dough of flour and water. It is popular around the world and is one of the world's oldest foods. Fresh bread is prized for its taste, aroma, quality, appearance and texture. Retaining its freshness is important to keep it appetizing. Bread that has stiffened or dried past its prime is said to be stale. 

Doughs are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed, fried, or baked on an unoiled frying pan. It may be leavened or unleavened. Salt, fat and leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda are common ingredients, though bread may contain other ingredients, such as milk, egg, sugar, spice, fruit, vegetables, nuts or seeds. 

Bread, in all its various forms, is the most widely consumed food in the world. Not only is it an important source of carbohydrates, it’s also portable and compact, which helps to explain why it has been an integral part of our diet for thousands of years. In fact, recent scholarship suggests humans started baking bread at least 30,000 years ago.

Prehistoric man had already been making gruel from water and grains, so it was a small jump to starting cooking this mixture into a solid by frying it on stones. A 2010 study by the National Academy of Sciences discovered traces of starch (likely from the roots of cattails and ferns) in prehistoric mortar and pestle-like rocks. The roots would have been peeled and dried before they were ground into flour and mixed with water. Finally, the paste would be cooked on heated rocks.

But how did humanity get from this prehistoric flatbread to a fluffy, grocery store loaf? There were three primary innovations that created “modern” bread.

1. Leavening
Leavening is what makes bread rise into a light and fluffy loaf. Bread without leavening is a known as flatbread, and is the most closely related to mankind’s first breads. Examples include Middle Eastern pita, Indian naan and Central American tortillas.

The most common leavening for bread is yeast. Yeast floats around in the air, looking for a nice place to make a home—like a starchy bowl of flour and water. The first leavened bread was likely the result of some passing yeast making a home in a bowl of gruel. The yeast began eating the sugars present in grain, and excreting CO2, producing bubbles that resulted in lighter, airier bread. Commercial yeast production dates back to the skilled bread makers of Ancient Egypt around 300 B.C.

2. Refined Flour
The earliest bread grains would have been ground by hand with rocks. This would have resulted in coarse, whole grain bread—the descendants of which are dark, rustic breads from Europe, like pumpernickel. The Mesopotamians refined this process around 800 B.C., using two flat, circular stones, stacked on top one another to grind the grain. These stones were continuously rotated by draft animals or slaves. This “milling”—which was the genesis for how we create flour today–created smooth, finely ground flour that quickly became prized as a status symbol. The desire for the whitest, most refined bread continued through the modern era, and later advancements included the sifting of flour to remove the bran and the germ and the bleaching of the flour itself.

3. Mechanized Slicing. 
For hundreds of years, the finest white breads were sold in whole loaves to be cut at home—like a French baguette or Italian ciabatta. The New York Public Library’s “Lunch” exhibit notes: “Nineteenth and early 20th-century cookbooks and magazines gave highly specific advice about lunchtime sandwich making. For ladies and children, the bread was supposed to be sliced very thinly and the crusts removed. For workers, thick slices with crusts were deemed more appropriate.”

But in 1917, itinerant jeweler Otto Rohwedder created the first mechanized bread slicer. Initially, many companies were convinced that housewives wouldn’t be interested, and his bread-slicing machine wasn’t installed in a factory until 1928. However, within two years, 90% of store-bought bread was factory sliced.

Progress led us to what was supposed to be the ideal loaf of bread: white, ultra-fluffy and pre-cut into even slices. This perfect bread was dubbed “American.” By this standard, Wonderbread should have been the last loaf of bread we ever needed. But modern science has uncovered the nutritional benefit of whole grains, and more and more consumers prefer the toothsome texture and nutty taste of a rustic loaf.

If you feel inspired to replicate a prehistoric recipe like I was, I’ll warn you that Bob’s Red Mill does not make a “Cattail/Fern Blend Flour”—yet. Settle for a “10 Grain Breakfast Cereal” full of ancient grains, like millet, coarsely ground.

Then, visit your local home improvement store, and poke around the slate tiling. You may be able to nab a few pieces of broken tile for free. Or, if you live somewhere they are easily accessible, simply walk outside and pick up a flat rock.

Now, you need to build a big fire. (That’s what I did at the Old Stone House of Brooklyn, a historic site that’s surrounded by children’s park.)

Let the flames die down until you have a bed of glowing, hot coals. Set the slate tiles on top of the coals, and wait about 10 minutes. Combine three cups of grain with about a cup of water and mix into a thick, workable paste. Form the dough into one-inch thick patties, and place them on the stones. After five minutes, flip them with a piece of bark—and you’ll be amazed to see the grain is browning on the heated rock. They may stick, so I recommend greasing your cooking rocks before hand.

In about 10 minutes, you’ll have a pile of hot, crispy cakes. The outside is crunchy and tastes like popcorn, the inside is moist and dense. I fed one to one of the children in the park, who described it as “pretty good,” though it’s possible she was just being nice.

International Students Day


The 17th of November is the International Students' Day, an international observance of student activism. The date commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the killing of Jan Opletal and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the execution of nine student leaders, over 1200 students sent to concentration camps, and the closing of all Czech universities and colleges.

The day was first marked in 1941 in London by the International Students' Council (which had many refugee members) in accord with the Allies, and the tradition has been kept up by the successor International Union of Students, which has been pressing with National Unions of Students in Europe and other groups to make the day an official United Nations observance.

The Athens Polytechnic uprising against the Greek military junta of 1973 came to a climax on November 17, with a violent crackdown and a tank crushing the gates of the university. The Day of the Greek Students is today among the official student holidays in Greece.The 1989 Prague demonstrations for International Students Day helped spark the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day is today marked among both the official holidays in the Czech Republic (since 2000, thanks to the efforts of the Czech Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions) and the holidays in Slovakia.

During late 1939 the Nazi occupants of the Czechoslovakia (at that time it was called the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), in Prague, suppressed a demonstration held by students of the Medical Faculty of the Charles University. The demonstration was held to commemorate the creation of an independent Czechoslovak Republic.

This demonstration resulted in Jan Opletal's death. 15th November is the date when he was meant to be transported from Prague back to his home in Moravia. His funeral procession consisted of thousands of students, who turned this event to yet another anti – Nazi demonstration. This however resulted in drastic measures being taken by the Nazi's. All Czech higher education institutions were closed down; more then 1200 students were taken and sent to concentration camps; and the most hideous crime of all: nine students / professors were executed without trial on the 17th of November. Due to this the date of 17th November has been chosen to be the International Students' Day.

In November 1973 students of the Athens Polytechnic went on strike. They were protesting against the Regime of Colonels that was in power at the time. Their struggle began on the 14th of November. After barricading themselves and constructing a radio station from the equipment that they found in the laboratories they started broadcasting to the entire city of Athens. Their broadcasts were pro – democratic, against the junta that was in power. They were soon joined by thousands of their compatriots. However they did not achieve their objectives. In the early hours of 17th November an AMX 30 tank crashed through the blocked gate of the Polytechnic. What followed after was captured on a film by a hidden Dutch journalist: passing of a tank through the main entrance of the polytechnic as well as the transmission of a student, coming from the radio, pleading the attackers not to fight the protesters. According to the contested official investigation, no students were killed at the Polytechnic, however several were injured severely, and their injuries left a permanent mark on them. The records of the trials held after the fall of the junta do document the civilian deaths. It is possible that the official numbers are inaccurate. But this issue has not been brought to a conclusion, yet.

In 1989 independent student leaders together with the Socialist Union of Youth (SSM/SZM) organised a mass demonstration to commemorate the International Students Day. This 50th Anniversary event gave students an opportunity to voice their displeasures with the communist party of Czechoslovakia. What began as a peaceful commemorative event turned into a violent one, by the nightfall, with many participants being brutally beaten by riot police, red barrettes and other members of the law enforcement agencies. There were about 15 000 people taking part in this demonstration. The only person to be left lying down where the beatings took place was an alleged body of a student who in actual fact was an undercover agent. The rumour of a fellow student who passed away due to the police brutality triggered events that most probably the secret police were not envisaging. That same night, students together with actors from theatres agreed to go on strike. The following events that took place brought about the downfall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

As it can be seen, students have always been on the forefront of the movement of change. Always when the country was in crisis students took the opportunity to demonstrate their opinions, even the one that went against the current regime's values and beliefs. Unfortunately these actions took place only when there was crisis, or unbearable suppression of human rights. What about today? Students need to have their voices and opinions heard! They have an obligation if not towards themselves, towards the others who will follow them, to teach them what the previous generations have left us. 

National Baklava Day


Not to be confused with balaclava - November 17 is National Baklava Day!

Just the sight of mouth-wateringly sweet, crispy squares of this pastry are sure to get your taste buds going - and demanding to be satisfied!

If the name just sounds like some sort of car part or winter weather apparel item to you, prepare to have your mind blown. Layers and layers of flavorful chopped nuts, honey, cloves and citrus are lovingly placed between thin, buttery sheets of fickle phyllo dough.

Building this tasty creation may take a while - you wouldn't believe how many sheets of phyllo pastry you'll need - but it is worth every bite. But we warn you, this is one rich treat, and the large pan required for baking is enough to feed an army of baklava enthusiasts.

Many groups claim Baklava as their own. However, a check of the history of baklava yields surprising results. It is widely believed that it is of Assyrian origin.

Around approximately the 8th century B.C., Assyrians baked thin layers of dough with nuts, poured honey over it, and enjoyed this sumptuous treat.

Baklava was baked only on special occasions, usually by the rich who could afford such a luxury. A poor man used to exclaim, "I am not rich enough to eat Baklava in my house." Things have changed over the years. Now, you can order baklava anytime and you do not have to be a millionaire to enjoy the great taste.

Ancient Romans and other cultures threw walnuts instead of rice at weddings because they believed walnuts held aphrodisiac powers. They also used in in fertility rites. On a side note, chick peas (garbanzos) are also viewed as an aphrodisiac for men. Chick peas are the main ingredient in hoummous (hummus) bi tahini. Pine nuts have also been viewed as an aphrodisiac for over 2000 years. Whether these three foods help you or not, they are a very tasty part of the ingredients we use to make our Lebanese food.

The history of Baklava changed with the history of the land. The Near and Middle East saw many civilizations come and go. Baklava and the recipe had spread to the Near East, Armenia, and Turkey. With the advent of the Grecian Empire, it spread westward to Greece. Phyllo dough is named after the greek word for "leaf", being "as thin as a leaf". The thickness (or for that matter, the thinness) of Phyllo gives baklava is delicious crispy taste.

So, when you eat a piece of baklava, you may want to think of Greece. However, the history of baklava reveals it came from farther East... Even so, various countries offer tasty variations and have loyal followings. 

The history of Baklava - as colorful as the History of the lands of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Start early on your holiday baking and give baklava a try. If you'd like to go with the traditional route (because you have no idea how it will turn out), start with this baklava made with wildflower honey. Want to challenge your idea of this pastry? Dare to make chocolate baklava.

Just know that when you're trying to sneak a square in between meals, baklava's crispy, sticky layers aren't very forgiving when they end up in your lap ... or all over your face.

National Take A Hike Day


Take a Hike Day is celebrated on November 17th of each year. We were unable to uncover the origins of Take a Hike Day though we believe it was established to encourage people to get out there and “Take a Hike”.

Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking have been confirmed in studies. The word hiking is understood in all English-speaking countries, but there are differences in usage.

In the United States and United Kingdom, hiking refers to cross-country walking of a longer duration than a simple walk and usually over terrain where hiking boots are required.  Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which many others are based. Many beautiful places can only be reached overland by hiking, and enthusiasts regard hiking as the best way to see nature.

Benefits of Hiking
Whether it’s a solo walk in the park, a hike along your favorite trail or leisurely stroll with the family around the neighborhood, this annual “holiday” provides the perfect excuse to head for the great outdoors and get some fresh air. Not only will you see the sights and breathe fresh air, hiking is good for your body and mind, too!

Did you know hiking can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower the risk of some forms of cancer, decrease cholesterol levels, reduce depression and stress? Hiking can also help prevent diabetes, improve arthritis and bone health and tone up that body. Plus, hiking is free of charge and almost anyone can do it!

Hiking Safety Tips
While hiking has many benefits, it’s important to dress appropriately for conditions before heading out the door. Check out the trail before you leave. Bring plenty of food and water, sunscreen, first aid kit, GPS or cell phone and a compass. And to be on the safe side, don’t forget to tell friends or loved ones where you will be hiking, your route and what time you plan on returning. Experts suggest if you are 35 or older, have various health issues or have been inactive, be sure to check with your doctor before you take a hike.

In honor of Take a Hike Day, all you need to do is take the first step. Just put one foot in front of the other and you are on your way!

National Unfriend Day


Saturday, November 17th is the fifth annual “National Unfriend Day,” or “NUD” for short. It’s that magical time of the year when you do a little fall cleaning – but instead of donating your old clothes to the Salvation Army, you chuck your annoying Facebook friends from your online life.

Last year, Kimmel developed a point system for letting people know who they should unfriend. For instance, posting a photo of a sunset is an 8-point deduction. If the person ever uses the word “amazeballs,” it’s a 40-point penalty.

This time, he’s cutting to the chase and letting you know the specific types of friends you should ax. These include the “proud parent,” “the Instagrammer,” and the “Overly-political poster.”

So, you should start taking a closer look at the type of posts that appear in your news feed. That way, come November 17th, it will be that much easier to rid yourself of those minor Facebook annoyances that you begrudgingly put up with every day.

As Jimmy Kimmel so elegantly put it, “half of the people in the country are on Facebook, and many of those people have hundreds if not thousands of ‘friends’ – and I find this unacceptable. No one has thousands of friends.”

Be brave and take out the garbage this Saturday.

Petroleum Day


Petroleum is a key part of 21st Century life and Petroleum Day is a chance to celebrate all the things this resource provides. Petroleum and its by-products are used to make engine fuel, cosmetics, plastics, road surfaces, white goods and much more. However, this resource is a finite one, so Petroleum Day gives people the opportunity to focus on ways of conserving petroleum and using it wisely.

Celebrations can range from raising awareness of petroleum and its uses to trying to live a day without petroleum based products in order to appreciate its value. This means not only leaving the car at home, but avoiding mechanised transport, plastics and even frozen foods that may have petroleum wax packaging. Try holding a petroleum party; whether everyone brings a petroleum based item or you try and manage without it, Petroleum Day is a chance to appreciate this valuable and versatile natural resource.

Petroleum, in one form or another, has been used since ancient times, and is now important across society, including in economy, politics and technology. The rise in importance was due to the invention of the internal combustion engine, the rise incommercial aviation, and the importance of petroleum to industrial organic chemistry, particularly the synthesis of plastics, fertilizers, solvents, adhesives and pesticides.

More than 4000 years ago, according to Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, asphalt was used in the construction of the walls and towers of Babylon; there were oil pits near Ardericca (near Babylon), and a pitch spring on Zacynthus. Great quantities of it were found on the banks of the river Issus, one of the tributaries of the Euphrates. Ancient Persian tablets indicate the medicinal and lighting uses of petroleum in the upper levels of their society. By 347 AD, oil was produced from bamboo-drilled wells in China. Early British explorers to Myanmar documented a flourishing oil extraction industry based in Yenangyaungthat, in 1795, had hundreds of hand-dug wells under production. The mythological origins of the oil fields at Yenangyaung, and its hereditary monopoly control by 24 families, indicate very ancient origins.

In 1847, the process to distill kerosene from petroleum was invented by James Young. He noticed a natural petroleum in the Riddings colliery at Alfreton, Derbyshire from which he distilled a light thin oil suitable for use as lamp oil, at the same time obtaining a thicker oil suitable for lubricating machinery. In 1848 Young set up a small business refining the crude oil.

Young eventually succeeded, by distilling cannel coal at a low heat, in creating a fluid resembling petroleum, which when treated in the same way as the seep oil gave similar products. Young found that by slow distillation he could obtain a number of useful liquids from it, one of which he named "paraffine oil" because at low temperatures it congealed into a substance resembling paraffin wax.

The production of these oils and solid paraffin wax from coal formed the subject of his patent dated 17 October 1850. In 1850 Young & Meldrum and Edward William Binney entered into partnership under the title of E.W. Binney & Co. at Bathgate in West Lothian and E. Meldrum & Co. at Glasgow; their works at Bathgate were completed in 1851 and became the first truly commercial oil-works in the world with the first modern oil refinery, using oil extracted from locally-mined torbanite, shale, and bituminous coal to manufacture naphtha and lubricating oils; paraffin for fuel use and solid paraffin were not sold until 1856.

Another early refinery was built by Ignacy Łukasiewicz, providing a cheaper alternative to whale oil. The demand for petroleum as a fuel for lighting in North America and around the world quickly grew. Edwin Drake's 1859 well near Titusville, Pennsylvania, is popularly considered the first modern well. Drake's well is probably singled out because it was drilled, not dug; because it used a steam engine; because there was a company associated with it; and because it touched off a major boom. However, there was considerable activity before Drake in various parts of the world in the mid-19th century. A group directed by Major Alexeyev of the Bakinskii Corps of Mining Engineers hand-drilled a well in the Baku region in 1848. There were engine-drilled wells in West Virginia in the same year as Drake's well. An early commercial well was hand dug in Poland in 1853, and another in nearby Romania in 1857. At around the same time the world's first, small, oil refinery was opened at Jasłoin Poland, with a larger one opened at Ploiești in Romania shortly after. Romania is the first country in the world to have had its annual crude oil output officially recorded in international statistics: 275 tonnes for 1857.

The first commercial oil well in Canada became operational in 1858 at Oil Springs, Ontario (then Canada West). Businessman James Miller Williams dug several wells between 1855 and 1858 before discovering a rich reserve of oil four metres below ground. Williams extracted 1.5 million litres of crude oil by 1860, refining much of it into kerosene lamp oil. William's well became commercially viable a year before Drake's Pennsylvania operation and could be argued to be the first commercial oil well in North America. The discovery at Oil Springs touched off an oil boom which brought hundreds of speculators and workers to the area. Advances in drilling continued into 1862 when local driller Shaw reached a depth of 62 metres using the spring-pole drilling method. On January 16, 1862, after an explosion of natural gas Canada's first oil gusher came into production, shooting into the air at a recorded rate of 3,000 barrels per day. By the end of the 19th century the Russian Empire, particularly the Branobel company in Azerbaijan, had taken the lead in production.

Access to oil was and still is a major factor in several military conflicts of the twentieth century, including World War II, during which oil facilities were a major strategic asset and were extensively bombed. The German invasion of the Soviet Union included the goal to capture the Baku oilfields, as it would provide much needed oil-supplies for the German military which was suffering from blockades. Oil exploration in North America during the early 20th century later led to the US becoming the leading producer by mid-century. As petroleum production in the US peaked during the 1960s, however, the United States was surpassed by Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union.

Today, about 90 percent of vehicular fuel needs are met by oil. Petroleum also makes up 40 percent of total energy consumption in the United States, but is responsible for only 1 percent of electricity generation. Petroleum's worth as a portable, dense energy source powering the vast majority of vehicles and as the base of many industrial chemicals makes it one of the world's most important commodities. Viability of the oil commodity is controlled by several key parameters, number of vehicles in the world competing for fuel, quantity of oil exported to the world market (Export Land Model), Net Energy Gain (economically useful energy provided minus energy consumed), political stability of oil exporting nations and ability to defend oil supply lines.

The top three oil producing countries are Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States. About 80 percent of the world's readily accessible reserves are located in the Middle East, with 62.5 percent coming from the Arab 5: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait. A large portion of the world's total oil exists as unconventional sources, such as bitumen in Canada and extra heavy oil in Venezuela. While significant volumes of oil are extracted from oil sands, particularly in Canada, logistical and technical hurdles remain, as oil extraction requires large amounts of heat and water, making its net energy content quite low relative to conventional crude oil. Thus, Canada's oil sands are not expected to provide more than a few million barrels per day in the foreseeable future.

World Prematurity Day


In November 2014 we will celebrate the 4th worldwide awareness day for prematurity. In 2013 more than 60 countries worldwide celebrated the day and raised awareness for prematurity, newborn and maternal health. 1,4 billion people around the globe were reached. Last year, our art project SOCKS FOR LIFE  was a big success. Many organizations, societies, hospitals, private sector organisations, individuals and for the first time ever artists and their networks took part and gave preterm infants and their families a voice. Warmest thanks to all of you who joined in!

This year, we want to place the true little heroes into the centr of our activities for World Prematurity Day 2014. Behind every number, there is a personal story. A story of life, that has to be told and a little hero who is showing the world that life is worth fighting for.

Hundreds of associations, societies, professionals, private sector organizations and individuals have come together to mark the second ever World Prematurity Day on 17 November 2012 with events and activities in nearly 50 countries, bringing attention to the global challenge of premature birth. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and now the number two cause of child mortality globally—a major hurdle to reducing the number of children who die before their fifth birthday.

On 2 May 2012, the launch of Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth presented first-ever statistics on the growing global tragedy of preterm babies, bringing a new wave of support to this important issue (Link to Report on your right). Based on 2010 figures we now know that prematurity is the second-leading cause of death in children under the age of five, after pneumonia; that 15 million babies are born too soon every year, or before 37 completed weeks of gestation; and that 1.1 million preterm babies die every year.

Born Too Soon was a collaboration between nearly 50 international, regional and national organizations, led by the March of Dimes, PMNCH, Save the Children and the World Health Organization. The report set in motion a global movement to promote progress on preterm birth in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. At the time of the report's launch, 30 new and expanded commitments specific to prevention and care of preterm birth were also announced -- commitments which have now become part of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, joining more than 200 existing commitments in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort. (Link on the right.)

The first World Prematurity Day on 17 November 2011 was a collaboration among the March of Dimes, the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) representing parents in 20 European countries, Africa-based Little Big Souls International Foundation, and the National Premmie Foundation of Australia.