Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 17 2014

International Talk with a Fake British Accent Day

Yeah, baby, yeah. It's international talk with a fake British accent day
Dick van Dyke and Austin Powers have a lot to answer for. Two New York expats have designated December 17 International talk with a fake British accent day.

Louise Gale and myself founded Big Apple Brits, an expat community in New York City (NYC). We're both British born - Gale is English and I'm Scottish.
“When I moved from Surrey in October 2004, I hardly knew a soul and it took me over six months to find the NYC British expat group and make friends locally. I eventually took over the small but active meet-up group in 2006, four years after it had first been created” says Gale. “It seemed natural after it had done so much for me to socialise into the city and I wanted to ensure that others continued to get the same support.”
I had started the Scottish meet-up in 2007 and a chance meeting led to an entrepreneurial conversation between the two of us.
We realised that there was a powerful need for an online presence for our expat initiative. And so in April 2009 Big Apple Brits (BAB) was born. The site has attracted 700 new members in its first six months and has big plans.
Not everyone can make it to events, so providing support and other expat-related news on the site really helps Brits feel connected.
“I love hearing stories about friendships that were formed by the group” says Gale.“There has been a wedding and even a baby born as a result of a couple meeting through our group, and this really makes me smile.”
The Big Apple Brits website also provides forums, blogs, photos, videos, newsfeeds and a business directory for expats who want to find British food and services in the city. There’s even an internet radio and podcast area and plans for BABTV.

BAB targets anglophiles and is holding its first International talk with a fake British accent day on December 17th in NYC. Begun as a virtual global event on Facebook, BAB have organised a face-to-face NYC event at Slatterys midtown pub, 8 East 36th Street, to celebrate the British accent and bring anglophiles together.

Everyone (even the Brits) is invited to adopt a fake accent for the event and may find themselves tested on the day by fiendish tongue twisters. You could mimic other famous "fakers", such as Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins or Austin Powers. “Fakers” will be recorded for posterity and members will get a chance to listen, vote, comment and discuss their efforts online.

How to Speak in a British Accent:
  • When you say "at all" pronounce it like "a tall" but with a British accent.
  • RP is not called Queen's English for nothing, hear for yourself how HM Queen Elizabeth II speaks. A good thing would be to hear her at the State Opening of Parliament where she always delivers a very long speech, the perfect time to observe the way she speaks.
  • Don't learn more than one accent at a time. Since Estuary English sounds very different from a "Geordie" accent, you'll get confused very easily.
  • There are hundreds of different accents within the United Kingdom, so categorizing them all as a British accent is rather incorrect; wherever you go, you will find an unbelievable variety of different pronunciations.
  • Be creative. Have fun with it. Take your new knowledge and explore. Test your British accent on your friends! They'll tell you if it's good or not!
  • Many places have different mannerisms and word usages. Look up a British dictionary online for more British terms. Bear in mind that beyond the obvious tap/faucet, pavement/sidewalk distinctions, locals would find you at best an endearing source of amusement and at worst patronizing if you tried to adopt their local words and mannerisms yourself.
  • As well as accent, watch out for slang words, such as lads or blokes for boys and men, birds or lasses (in the north of England and in Scotland) for women. Loo for the toilet, but bathroom for a room you clean yourself in.
  • As with any accent, listening to and imitating a native speaker is the best and fastest way to learn. Remember that when you were young you learned a language by listening and then repeating the words while imitating the accent.
  • It is easier to learn accents by listening to people. A formal British accent can be heard on BBC news, where it can frequently be heard. Formal British speech is more deliberate and articulated than American, but as with newscasters everywhere, this effect is deliberately exaggerated for TV and radio broadcast.
  • If you're visiting England, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are some of the last strongholds of the traditional RP and "Queen's English" accent. However, more and more students there now speak with accents from around Britain and the world, and the natives of the cities and surrounding areas speak with their own (often very distinctive) local accents. They'd probably be offended if you assumed they spoke with a "stereotypical British accent"; don't fall into the common trap of thinking an Oxfordshire or Cambridgeshire accent is the same as an RP accent.
  • Pronounce everything clearly and articulate every word properly, making sure there are spaces between your words.
  • Perfect your British accent using the standard course used in many schools around the world 'Learn the British accent- FAST!' which is even available online now.
  • Take a trip to the United Kingdom and really listen to how they speak.
  • As a child, your ability for the ear to process different frequencies of sound is greater, enabling you to distinguish and reproduce the sounds of the languages that surround you. To effectively learn a new accent, you must expand the ability of your ear by listening over and over to examples of the accent.
  • Once you learn the techniques and listen to Brit speakers, try reading parts of books while reading in the dialect. It's fun and makes for good practice.
  • If you want to hear a more up-to-date version of this accent, watch some episodes of the TV series Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses. People do still speak like this, especially working-class people in east London and parts of Essex and Kent, although it's much more noticeable with older people.
  • Remember: The accents of Julie Andrews or Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter), who speak RP, are quite different from those of Jamie Oliver and Simon Cowell (Estuary English—probably the most widespread everyday accent in Southern England, somewhere between Cockney and RP) or Billy Connolly (Glasgow).
  • Always use British English words if they are different to US English. The British tend to be protective about the differences. In particular, use "rubbish" and "tap", not "trash" and "faucet". Also, it's good (but not essential) to say "schedule" with "sh_", not "sk_" but you must learn how to say "specialty" with 5 syllables, not three as it is spelled differently in Britain (spe-ci-al-i-ty).
  • As you expand the ability of the ear, speaking becomes an automatism. When the ear can "hear" a sound, the mouth has a better chance of producing it.
  • Another way to practice an English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish accent would be to watch and follow a specific news spokesman on any British news channel and repeat their speech. Watching half an hour a day would greatly improve your speech patterns in just a couple of weeks.
  • When you know someone British ask them to say phrases for you so you can listen and try to learn.
  • Think about your audience. If you wish to genuinely fool people into thinking you're British, you want to think about regions, and work much harder than if you want to get a general picture across for a school play.
  • You may have heard a Cockney accent (east end of London). This accent is increasingly more unusual in the 21st century but if you were try to imitate one, notice that they almost sing words and they almost replace vowels and remove letters, e.g. the a in "change", would be an "i" sound. Films based on books by Dickens as well as ones such as "My Fair Lady" may have examples of this accent.
  • There are lots of English accents, like London, Cornwall, "Queens English", Yorkshire, Birmingham and West Bromwich, and Lancashire.
Warnings! Don't be over confident that you do a good British accent. It is rare to find an imitation that sounds genuine to the native ear. Don't think that you'll get it right quickly. It is likely that any true British person will know that you're faking it straight away, but it might pass for a real accent to non-Brits. Don't narrow your mouth too much when you say words with "A" as shark or chance. The result may sound South African.

National Maple Syrup Day

We're tap dancing with delight - December 17 is National Maple Syrup Day!

This sweet-water sap shouldn't be stuck with just waffles and pancakes. Try it in a latte, mix it into a toasty winter cocktail or even add it to spaghetti, as Will Ferrell notoriously did in the holiday favorite “Elf.”

While there are written accounts of maple sugaring in North America dating back to 1557, the exact origins of sugaring are unknown. Without written documentation to guide scholars, the history is left to speculation about the discovery of maple syrup and sugar.

Early myths about maple are widespread through the Eastern Woodland Indians, including the Abenaki, Iroquois, and Micmac (Mi’kmaq). According to legend, the Creator had at first made life too easy for his People by filling the maple trees with a thick syrup that flowed year-round. One day, Glooskap, a mischievous young man, found a village of his People strangely silent – the cooking fires were dead, weeds had overtaken the gardens. Glooskap discovered the villagers laying in the woods, eyes closed, letting the syrup from the maple trees drip into their mouths. Glooskap brought fresh water from the lake and using his special power filled the trees with water until the syrup ran from them thin and fast. He then ordered his people up, telling them that the trees were no longer filled with the maple syrup, but only a watery sap. He told them they would have to hunt and fish and tend their gardens for sustenance. He promised that the sap would run again, but only during the winter when game is scarce, the lake is frozen, and crops do not grow.

History also remains silent on whether Native Americans boiled down the sap to maple sugar, or if these techniques were introduced by the French explorers and missionaries. But by the 1700s, Native Americans and European settlers alike were using iron and copper kettles to make syrup and sugar. In 1755, a young colonist was captured and "adopted" by a small group of natives in the region that is now Ohio. In 1799 he published his story in An Account of the Remarkable Occurrences in the Life and Travels of Col. James Smith, which includes a description of how the Native Americans made maple sugar:
Shortly after we came to this place the squaws began to make sugar. We had no large kettles with us this year, and they made the frost, in some measure, supply the place of fire, in making sugar. Their large bark vessels, for holding the stock-water, they made broad and shallow; and as the weather is very cold here, it frequently freezes at night in sugar time; and the ice they break and cast out of the vessels. I asked them if they were not throwing away the sugar? they said no; it was water they were casting away, sugar did not freeze, and there was scarcely any in that ice. They said I might try the experiment, and boil some of it, and see what I would get. I never did try it; but I observed that after several times freezing, the water that remained in the vessel, changed its colour and became brown and very sweet.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, maple sap was produced into maple sugar, a granular, solid block of maple that had a long shelf-life and could be easily transported. Maple sugar was promoted by the Quakers and abolitionists as an alternative to West Indian “slave-produced” cane sugar; Thomas Jefferson even started a maple plantation at Monticello in 1791.

It wasn’t until the Civil War that the maple syrup industry was born, with the introduction of the tin cans and the invention of metal spouts and evaporator pans. Most early producers were dairy farmers who made maple syrup and sugar during the off-season of the farm for their own use and for extra income.

Technology remain largely the same for the next century until the energy crisis of the 1970s forced maple syrup producers to change their labor-intensive process. With another surge of technological breakthoughs, tubing systems were perfected, taking the sap directly from the tree to the sugarhouse. Vacuum pumps were added to the tubing systems, pre-heaters were developed to "recycle" heat lost in the steam, and reverse-osmosis filters were designed to take a portion of the water out of the sap before it was boiled. And these technological advances continue today, ever moving the story of maple syrup forward.

Pore over the label carefully, though: Pure maple syrup is solely produced from North American maple trees. Last year, a Rhode Island man named Bernard Coleman was sentenced to two years probation for substituting cane sugar in a product he labeled as “maple syrup.”

Wright Brothers Day

Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight.

Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world's first airplane.

After exhaustively researching other engineers' efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina's Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers' systematic experimentations paid off--they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight.

In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds.

During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army's Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948.

The historic Wright brothers' aircraft of 1903 is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.