Friday, January 9, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Jan 9 2015

Balloon Ascension Day

Balloon Ascension Day takes place on January 9th , it is an international date for celebrating balloons of all kinds. The date was designated Balloon Ascension Day, after Jean Pierre Blanchard became the first man to successfully ascend in a balloon on the North American Continent. The original Balloon Ascension Day happened on Jan 9th, 1793, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Blanchard landing in Woodbury, New Jersey. This event helped to spread the fascination with ballooning that the majority of Western society shared at the time. This fascination with ballooning led to the designation of a day solely to celebrate Ballooning.

While, at the time of it’s inception, Balloon Ascension Day was only meant for the large, hydrogen-filled, silk balloons of the time; it has since expanded to include all manner of balloons. The day is now for the recognition of every time of balloon, from small, helium-filled party balloons, to the massive, hot air balloons that have become commercially successful in modern times.

Balloons have had an interesting history, from a testament to the ingenuity of the human race, to an example of the disastrous effects human ambition can have through the Hindenburg disaster. Since the Hindenburg disaster and the sharp decrease in balloon popularity, ballooning has made a slight recovery and is now used in the commercial tourism sector.

On Jan 9th, each year, people around the world try to celebrate the day in whatever balloon related way they can, rekindling the spirit of the 18th century’s ‘balloonatics’ . While the day is not a huge success and no major hot air balloon festivals are held on the day, the occasion can be seen as more of a celebration for those who have a special fondness for watching or taking part in balloons ascending into the sky, the day commemorates North America’s, soon to flourish, love affair with balloons and flight.

Jan 9th, 1793 was a day of wonder and amazement for the on-lookers in Philadelphia. Over 4800 people gathered around the takeoff spot, including the President, George Washington and future Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe. Blanchard was ascending for his forty-fifth time and had the utmost confidence in his methods and materials, Blanchard had voyaged across the English Channel in 1785 and viewed this ascend as an easy way to get his name in the record books as first to ascend in North America. Blanchard was successful in his attempt and, after taking air samples, descended into the countryside near Woodbury, New Jersey. Blanchard was greeted by several farmers upon his landing. The farmers were confused and frightened by the Frenchman until he presented a document, detailing the nature of Blanchard’s flight and making it clear that he posed no harm, the document was signed by George Washington himself. The farmers were able to return Blanchard and his balloon or ‘aerostat’ as it was called in that time, to Philadelphia.

Blanchard had made history and created the basis for Balloon Ascension day. While ballooning has certainly lost popularity and prestige as the most advanced man-made flying machine, Balloon Ascension Day promises to keep Blanchard’s important achievement in memory and serves to recognize the wonder and simplicity of flight through ballooning.

National Apricot Day

Since National Apricot Day is celebrated every year on January 9th in the United States, this fruit (apricot) is given a lot of importance and honored. As many people would know that apricot is rich in many qualities like (vitamin A) beta-carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, fiber, iron and other nutrients. Beta-carotene which is an anti-oxidant helps in curing many diseases.

Apricot has been cultivated in China since 4000 years. California is known to be one of the biggest producers of apricots in the United States. Almost 95% of this fruit is sold in a year. This fruit needs a temperate climate for its growth. June and July are considered to be the best months for their growth. January is not an appropriate month for its growth. During the remaining months, apricot is collected in bulk and people make many dishes out of it. These dishes are important to celebrate the National Apricot Day.

Though many people are confused about when the National Apricot Day is celebrated, Apricot has an old history connected to it. Apricot was first introduced in 1720 in the US in Virginia. This fruit is described as a small fruit that has a velvety texture and it is sweet. The fruit is quite similar to plum and peach.

Apricot can be eaten as a fresh fruit or in a dried form. Dried apricot is very rich in calories and sugar as compared to fresh apricots. Since apricot is a sweet fruit, it is very often used in making spreads, desserts and jam. This fruit can also be served as a main course or side dishes.

On the National Apricot Day people celebrate it by making different types of apricot dishes. The apricot chicken recipe is a popular dish that is made on this day. Whenever you want to have a fat substitute dish that may have to be made with oil, then a pureed apricot can serve your purpose.

Since apricot contains beta-carotene, therefore when eaten it gets transformed into vitamin A. Apricot is very beneficial for the skin, hair, glands and gums. It also protects the eyes and helps strengthen bones and teeth.Vitamin A is very good as it helps to strengthen the immunity in the body. According to many researchers, apricot is the best source of beta-carotene which has a healing power. Apricot is also rich in anti-oxidants, therefore when this is combined with lycopene and vitamin C it protects the body against stroke, cancer and heart disease. Three apricots contain about 30% beta-carotene.

One can also have canned apricots as they are sweet and rich in vitamins. They also have an additional flavor to a good diet. Apricots are available throughout the season as they are stored; therefore many people make delicious dishes out of it. The National Apricot Day is therefore celebrated by making different dishes and making people aware of the importance of this fruit.

National Cassoulet Day

January 9, marks "National Cassoulet Day," a day dedicated entirely to the traditional meaty casserole and its many, many expressions. Hosted by Benoit, this now-annual event will be recognized for the first time by Chase's Calendar of Events and marked by a week-long celebration with over 30 of New York City's top restaurants offering takes on the French dish.

Perhaps there is no dish in the Southwest France more iconic, cherished, and controversial than the cassoulet. The name cassoulet comes from the word cassole, referring to the traditional, conical clay pot in which it is cooked (and which the potters of the village of Issel perfected).

Cassoulet was originally a food of peasants--a simple assemblage of what ingredients were available: white beans with pork, sausage, duck confit, gizzards, cooked together for a long time. And although it is essentially a humble stew of beans and meat, cassoulet is the cause of much drama and debate. Andre Daguin, a famous chef of Gascony says, “Cassoulet is not really a recipe, it’s a way to argue among neighboring villages of Gascony.” Much like chili cook-offs in Texas, cassoulet cooking competitions are held, not only in France, but now even in the United States.

The dish has developed an almost mythological importance to the people of Gascony and Languedoc. Legend has it that cassoulet was first created during the Hundred Years War. The story goes that as the British laid siege to Castelnaudary, its people gathered up what ingredients they had left for a large stew to nourish and bolster their defenders. The meal was so hearty and fortifying that the soldiers handily dispelled the invaders, saving the city from occupation. While likely not the true account of the origin of cassoulet, this story establishes the importance of the dish as the symbolic defender of French culture.

The origin of cassoulet is probably the result of more global interactions than the Castelnaudary legend would suggest. Some credit the Arabs for inspiring the dish. In the 12th century they introduced a mutton stew—perhaps the precursor to cassoulet. After Columbus’s voyage the white bean from the Americas was introduced to France and subsequently, Catherine de Medici, queen of France, facilitated the importation of the white bean, which started to be cultivated extensively throughout southwest France.

Since its composition is based originally on availability, cassoulet varies from town to town in Southwest France. In Castelnaudary, cassoulet is prepared with duck confit, pork shoulder and sausage. In Carcassonne a cassoulet will typically have mutton, and the Toulouse version has duck confit, Toulouse sausage, and is breaded on top. In Auch, only duck or goose meat is used, and crumbs are never added on top. Even the type of bean is a point of debate. In the southern areas, it must be the Coco, or Tarbais bean, a large and somewhat flat white bean that grows at the foot of the Pyrénées Mountains. A little further north they use flageolet beans. But everyone agrees that, come spring, the last and best cassoulet of the season is made with freshly picked fava beans.

The sanctity of cassoulet is taken so seriously that there is even a brotherhood--the Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet – that defends the glory and quality of cassoulet in Castelnaudary, in part by conducting surprise taste tests of the cassoulets offered by local chefs. And there is an Academie Universelle du Cassoulet, whose members promote the cassoulet and its significant cultural heritage (they even have a theme song).

Originally the cassoulet was cooked in the hearth, or a bread baker’s oven, using residual heat. The low heat allowed the beans to break down and all the flavor and fat of the meat to melt into the beans.This can be replicated in the modern kitchen and the process will take only a few hours. Some think cooking a cassoulet is intimidating, but in fact it is quite simple. When making a cassoulet use as many confit meats as possible, which will impart the most flavor, but use only unsmoked bacon, like ventrèche. Don’t hesitate to cut open the upper crust to check if the cassoulet is drying out too much inside as it cooks. If so, add some liquid, like stock or demi-glace. The idea is to form a crusty top on the cassoulet, while maintaining a moist center, so breaking the film that forms as the beans cook is a good thing. Some cookbooks claim that it must be broken seven times to get the perfect cassoulet, but even breaking it and allowing it to reform twice will create a crusty and delicious finish on top (no crumbs needed).

This rich, heavy bean dish is best enjoyed in cold weather, with a group of family or friends. Part of the magic of a cassoulet is the conviviality that seems always to surround it at the table. Nobody makes just a little cassoulet, so it will generally feed a crowd. The satisfying flavors are complemented by the wines of the Southwest region. A deep-red Madiran is considered the ideal wine to drink with cassoulet, as they both resonate with the same essence of terroir—“sense of place.” One needs little else than a thick slice of country-style bread to accompany cassoulet. And plenty of the aforementioned Madiran wine.

As Julia Child, the original American who went to Paris and brought back a culinary revolution, memorably said, “Cassoulet, that best of bean feasts, is everyday fare for a peasant but ambrosia for a gastronome, though its ideal consumer is a 300-pound blocking back who has been splitting firewood nonstop for the last twelve hours on a subzero day in Manitoba.”

Of special note: cassoulet tastes even better a day or two old. Some kind of alchemy occurs when cassoulet rests in the refrigerator and is reheated, so don’t feel bad if you can’t eat the whole thing at one sitting. Enjoy the deepening flavors for days to come. 

National Static Electricity Day

National Static Electricity Day is celebrated on January 9th. Many people would not understand what static electricity really is and how it works. In the US, in the month of January every day is dedicated for a particular cause or an event, therefore January 9th is dedicated as the National Static Electricity Day.

Many of us would have experienced, when we suddenly touch any metal, we experience a sudden static or shock. Sometimes as soon as we take off our hat, our hair stands straight. This especially happens in winters. Therefore, the sudden shock and the hair standing out is a result of static electricity. To know a little more about it we should be aware of a few things around us.

As we all know that everything that surrounds us is made of atom. According to scientists there are 115 pieces of atoms; therefore everything is made of atoms.

Atoms consist of protons, neutrons and electrons and all these three are different from each other. All these have their own characteristics. Out of these, one of the properties is known as an electrical charge. Electrons have a (-) “negative’’ charge and (+) protons have a “positive” charge, while neutrons do not have a charge, they are just neutral. So in an atom when the number of electrons and protons are equal, the atom does not have any charge, its neutral.

Positive and negative chargers are different. As they say that opposites attract, which is true. Two things that have one positive and the other negative charge will attract.

As kids you would have tried this activity. Cut small pieces of paper, take a plastic ruler and rub it on your head. As you move the plastic ruler over the small pieces of paper, you will notice that they get attracted to the plastic ruler. This is known as static force which attracts atoms from the paper to stick to the ruler. Since we know that objects that have the same charge move away from each other. Like two negative or two positive chargers put together will repel from each other.

So, now we know that when we take off our hat, it brushes against the hair. Therefore, the electrons present on your hair move to the hat. As explained earlier, object with the same charge repel from each other, therefore your hair tries to move away from each other. As a result of this it stands straight which is a result of it moving far away from each other. Hence static electricity causes the hair to be this way.

In the same way, when you are walking across a rug, there are electrons that pass on from the rug on to you. You now have a negative static charge and a few extra electrons on your body. When you touch a metal, the metal which is a conductor makes the electrons leap from you to the metal, causing a static shock.

Therefore, the National Static Electricity day is dedicated by knowing how it works and trying out different experiments.

Word Nerd Day

January 9th is Word Nerd Day. And if you go and research it, you'll most likely find - as I did - that though lots of folks list it as a holiday on their blogs and what-have-you, there isn't one single site that explains its existence, or origin, or anything. It seems that somebody just up and submitted it to Chase's Calendar of Events, and the good people there decided it was a great addition to their list of festivities, and voila!a holiday is born.

Whether it has a long and storied history (uh-uh) or a rather unspectacular back story (yup) makes no nevermind to me. What Word Nerd Day does do, is give me the excuse to talk about words. Not that I need one. But having a questionably valid excuse to do so is better than having no excuse at all.

So, where did this word, "nerd" come from? The earliest documented appearance of "nerd" in print came from none other than that most venerable Sage of Silliness: Dr. Seuss. I'll prove it. Go and dig out your beloved-and-quite-possibly-well-worn-copy of his 1950 book, If I Ran the Zoo. Flip to page 47, and you will see these words:
And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-TrooAnd bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo,a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!
You'll also see this:

But there isn't any other lexical explanation. The Sage of Silliness leaves the reader to his or her own devices there. It seems that, in the book, it was more of a name for a particular species of animal-person-thing, akin to "bear," or "alligator," rather than a description of a certain type of individual.

Then, the October 8, 1951 issue of Newsweek wrote of its popular use as a synonym for "a drip" or "a square" in Detroit, Michigan. By the early 1960's, "nerd" was in common use nationwide in the United States, and had even hopped the pond to Scotland, where the Glasgow, Scotland Sunday Mail included the word in its regular column "ABC for Squares," defining "nerd" as "a square -- any explanation needed?"

Now, let's jump ahead to today, where - while "nerd" still clings to its initial geeky meaning - it has also morphed into somewhat of a badge of honor; one who is accomplished in and/or obsessed by whatever field the word is attached to, such as: computer nerd, science nerd, gamer nerd, art nerd, comic book nerd, music nerd, or my personal favorite...word nerd.

Blogger and novelist Wolf Gnards offers his definition of "word nerd" on his writing blog:
A Word Nerd is anyone who loves the written language and isn't afraid to admit it: be it literary classics or this month's Spider-Man comic.
Which brings us back to Word Nerd Day. And so, to celebrate those folks who love all things wordy or literary or bookish in any way, here are a few Websites You May Want to Wander To:
  • Word Nerd - Bethany Warner's blog, whose slogan is: "No pocket protectors here; just don't break the spines on books." She she blogs about books and writing and such, and refers to herself in her postings as "Word Nerd."
  • The Word Nerds - A site dedicated to "words, language, and why we say the things we do." Though the site ceased publishing weekly podcasts in April 2009, it still has an active forum that keeps the wordy ways and discussions alive.
  • Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing - Mignon Fogarty is your host for this most useful website. If you have any questions about using the English language in any way, chances are you can find the answers you need right there, or in her book. And, Grammar Girl is on Twitter.
  • Martha Brockenbrough - Author of books for kids and adults alike, she is a humor columnist, blogger, and one who can find the "funny" in the often staid world of grammar. You can find Martha on Twitter, as well.
  • - An online dictionary - launched in June 2009 - that is anything but ordinary. It is a database of (at last count) over 4 billion words gathered from such varied sources as multiple dictionaries, websites, books, magazines and newspapers. CEO Erin McKean points out that this site will give you not only definitions in text, but also relevant Flickr images, Twitter search matches, and user-contributed tags and comments. The site invites users to submit words, too. And, wordnik Tweets with the best of them.
Happy, happy Word Nerd Day, fellow word-lovers! May your day be deliciously lexical!