Monday, February 16, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Feb 16 2015

911 Birthday

9-1-1 is the emergency telephone number for the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), one of eight N11 codes. This number is intended for use in emergency circumstances only, and to use it for any other purpose (including non-emergency situations and prank calls) can be a crime.

In the earliest days of telephone technology, prior to the development of the rotary dial telephone, all telephone calls were operator-assisted. To place a call, the caller was required to pick up the telephone receiver and wait for the telephone operator to answer, they would then ask to be connected to the number they wished to call, the operator would make the required connection manually, by means of a switchboard. In an emergency, the caller might simply say "Get me the police", "I want to report a fire", or "I need an ambulance/doctor". Until dial service came into use, one could not place calls without operator assistance.

The first known experiment with a national emergency telephone number occurred in the United Kingdom in 1937, using the number 999. The first city in North America to use a central emergency number (in 1959) was the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, which instituted the change at the urging of Stephen Juba, mayor of Winnipeg at the time. Winnipeg initially used 999 as the emergency number, but switched numbers when 9-1-1 was proposed by the United States. In the United States, the push for the development of a nationwide American emergency telephone number came in 1957 when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that a single number be used for reporting fires. In 1967, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended the creation of a single number that could be used nationwide for reporting emergencies. The burden then fell on the Federal Communications Commission, which then met with AT&T in November, 1967 in order to come up with a solution.

In 1968, a solution was agreed upon. AT&T chose to implement the concept, but with its unique emergency number, 9-1-1, which was brief, easy to remember, dialed easily, and worked well with the phone systems in place at the time.

Just 35 days after AT&T's announcement, on February 16, 1968, the first-ever 9-1-1 call was placed by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, from Haleyville City Hall, to U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill, at the city's police station. Bevill reportedly answered the phone with "Hello". At the City Hall with Fite was Haleyville mayor James Whitt; at the police station with Bevill were Gallagher and Alabama Public Service Commission director Eugene "Bull" Connor. Fitzgerald was at the ATC central office serving Haleyville, and actually observed the call pass through the switching gear as the mechanical equipment clunked out "9-1-1". The phone used to answer the first 9-1-1 call, a bright red model, is now in a museum in Haleyville, while a duplicate phone is still in use at the police station.

In 1968, 9-1-1 became the national emergency number for the United States. Calling this single number provided a caller access to police, fire and ambulance services, through what would become known as a common Public-safety answering point (PSAP). The number itself, however, did not become widely known until the 1970s, and many municipalities did not have 9-1-1 service until well into the 1980s.[citation needed] Conversion to 9-1-1 in Canada began in 1972 and now virtually all areas, except for some rural areas,[which?] are using 9-1-1. Each year, Canadians make 12 million calls to 9-1-1 (as of 2008).

On September 15, 2010, AT&T announced that State of Tennessee has approved a service to support a Text to 9-1-1 trial statewide, where AT&T would be able to allow its users to send text messages to 9-1-1 Public-safety answering points (PSAPs).

The former British colonies of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, despite being part of the North American Numbering Plan, use 999, as in the United Kingdom. Most British Overseas Territories using the North American Numbering Plan, like Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands use 911.

Do a Grouch a Favor Day

Have you done a grouch a favor today? If not then it’s likely that no one told you it was Do a Grouch a Favor Day, as doing a grouch a favor is what the day is all about. We all know a grouch at some point in our lives, and it is very likely that we've had phases of being grouchy ourselves. Sometimes another person doing us a favor is the last time, but other days a favor from someone, be they a close friend or a random stranger, is exactly what we need to break us out of our slump. Of course, there may not be any redemption for the grouchy neighbor who hates your dog, and your mailbox, and the way your lawn mower sounds, and the color of your house and…. Well, you get the point. Even if you have that person for a neighbor, doing them a well meaning favor would not go amiss on Do a Grouch a Favor Day.

This day might have been the brainchild of Big Bird, in an attempt to pull Oscar the Grouch out of his continual grumbling spirit, or it may have been the secret initiative of a grump who secretly wants people to do nice things for them, despite their prickly exterior. Whatever, the ‘grump’ has been a stereotype character since stereotype characters were invented. Even ancient Greek plays feature a grump character archetype to amuse those of us who have a sense of humor and are not resigned to a grouchy fate.

Depending on the nature of the grumps in your life it might be possible that observing Do a Grouch a Favor Day will be no chore for you at all. However, even if the grouch in the cubicle next to yours is insufferably nasty, do a Grouch a Favor Day is still an excellent opportunity to surprise them with a favor of some description, whether it be an outstanding act of kindness or just a smile and kind response to one of their cynical comments. Even the foulest mood can be improved by a kind word or action, and whether you feel like it or not going out of your way to do a favor for a grouchy person is the theme of Do a Grouch a Favor Day. Allow me to wax Nike and say “Just do it”? Maybe the grouchy neighbor across the street is not really a terrible human being and is in fact just lonely. A smile and wave might just cause the glare to fall off their face and be replaced by a reciprocated smile, even if just for a moment.

If you're unwilling to reach out to a grouch, or simply do not know a grouch (lucky you) than Do a Grouch a Favor Day may be just the excuse you needed to flop onto the couch and turn on your favorite Sesame Street episode (we know you have one) and enjoy the shenanigans of the Grouch. Alternatively, if you can stomach Christmas films without becoming grouchy yourself, than classics such as A Christmas Carol, or The Grinch who Stole Christmas, might prove to be right up your alley.

Kyoto Protocol Day

On this date in 2005, the Kyoto Protocol officially commenced. An international scheme that set participating countries binding goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% of the 1990 levels by 2012. A total of 37 industrialised countries participated, and now in 2013, the protocol is continuing, though slightly changed. Countries now aim to reduce their emissions by at least 18% of the 1990 levels by 2020. Australia, I'm happy to report, is one of these countries. 

While there does exist heavy criticism for the Kyoto Protocol – “Pro-business people say it is harmful to business and the world economy. Environmentalists say it will do little to arrest global warming and more radical solutions are need to make a significant change. By some calculations even if the United States signed the protocol, the effects would only be to delay warming by six years as of 2100″.

To the people who say trying to hard to save the environment will destroy the economy – it’s all very well and good to have a strong economy…but without a world for those rich people to live on, you've accomplished very little. 

Radical measures do need to be taken, true, but we can all take little measures of our own at home. It’s corny and overused, but true, we can all make a difference. Even if that difference is getting up from your computer now and turning off all lights and appliances you aren't using right now (putting them on standby isn't good enough – turn that thing right off at the wall). You help save the world and your electricity bill magically decreases.

Even if global warming turns out to be a huge scientific embarrassment by being totally out of our control, it doesn't hurt to try and help. After all, the contributors to global warming often all contribute to other environmental problems. Yes, we're burning fossil fuels by driving our cars. We're also creating more roads with growing population and taking up more space, consuming more metal to make more cars etc. If we eat less meat not only will be reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farting livestock (no seriously, this is actually a huge problem) but we will also be destroying less of the natural environment to the creation of farms. Air pollution is a very real health hazard, regardless of whether global warming is real or not. Even if you don’t believe what science currently advocates, you don't really have an excuse to keep every electrical appliance you own running more often than an Olympic athlete. 

National Almond Day

Good for your heart. Good for your waistline. Good for your skin. What can’t almonds do? With a history that dates back to ancient times, it’s no wonder this miraculous little tree fruit is so widely used and revered. It’s also no wonder that this ultimate super food has its very own day of honor.

So whether you enjoy them plain or roasted, paired with chocolate or fish, or perhaps as the ultimate aid for dry skin be sure to celebrate National Almond Day February 16.

Those almonds you pop as a midday snack travelled a long, roundabout way before settling in California where about 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are now grown. Originally from central and southwest Asia, almonds became a staple food there that helped sustain the long journeys of nomadic tribes. 

Wild stands of almond trees grew near trade routes such as the Silk Road that connected central China with the Mediterranean. Easy access allowed for the spread of the wild almond groves because almonds took route in the ground on which they fell. Evidence of this occurs even today in central California, where wild species of almond trees can be seen growing in ditches and roadways.

Nearly every ancient civilization used almonds. By 4,000 B.C. people were cultivating almond trees, which blossomed well in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. 

Hebrew literature from 2,000 B.C. mentions almonds. Early references from Turkey, Romania and the Baltic peninsula also cite references to the nut. The Bible makes numerous references to almonds as an object of value and symbol of hope. In Genesis 43:11, for example, a famine in Canaan prompts Jacob to ask his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain. He told them, "Take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds."

King Tut took several handfuls of almonds to his grave in 1352 B.C., to nourish him on his journey into the afterlife. Persians and Arabs made a milk of almond meal and water, which they valued both as a refreshing drink and as an ingredient in other foods.

All around the Mediterranean, hillside almond culture became well established with some areas developing important industries based on the nut, including France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. Except for Spain, which is the second-largest almond producer after California, these countries are comparatively small players in the international trade in almonds.

It’s said Moses crafted pure gold lamps in the shape of almonds, Persian rug makers wove their image into rugs and Van Gogh devoted many paintings to their likeness. Since at least biblical times, it’s believed the almond has been revered in art, music and literature as emblems of beauty, hope and rebirth.

 The shape of the almond seed is prominent in religious art of the Renaissance and earlier. The distinctive oval of the kernel forms a halo around religious figures in paintings, stained glass windows, frescoes, friezes, and in many other art forms to signify spiritual energy or to serve as a protective shield. Widely used by Italian artists, the halo was referred to as a mandorla, the Italian word for almond.

Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic and social significance. The Bible's Book of Numbers tells the story of Aaron's rod that blossomed and bore almonds, giving the almond the symbolism of divine approval.

The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. Today, North Americans give guests at weddings a bag of sugared almonds, representing children, happiness, romance, good health and fortune. In Sweden, cinnamon-flavored rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is a Christmas custom. Find it, and good fortune is yours for a year.

Consumption of almonds in India is believed to be good for the brain, while the Chinese consider it a symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.

In 1840, attempts to grow almonds in America were met with little success. The thinking went that if peaches, which are genetically similar to almonds, could grow in southern states then they could grow almonds successfully in Texas, New Mexico and Georgia. But growers soon discovered that the early blooming almond regularly fell to late frosts in those areas or to diseases of high humidity.

In the 1850s, plantings near Sacramento, Monterey and Los Angeles showed promise and a new industry was born for California growers. Today, the state of California is the biggest producer of the world’s supply of almonds. 

Packed with vitamin E, magnesium and fibre, almonds are one of the most heart-healthy foods on the market. In fact, the FDA issued a qualified health claim in 2003 that states: "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

A one-ounce, 160-calorie handful of almonds is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium. That quantity also provides 12 per cent of your daily protein allowance. Plus, almonds offer potassium, calcium and iron. Some say they’re good at preventing osteoporosis as one ounce or about 20 almonds contain as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk.

It’s also believed that eating almonds regulates your blood pressure because they're high in potassium and low in sodium. They also help in keeping your cholesterol levels in check.

If this sounds too good to be true, here’s one more claim: some say they aid in cancer fighting thanks to their vitamin E and other protective nutrients such as calcium and magnesium.

Almonds are the perfect snack for anyone fighting the battle of the bulge. Their protein, fibre and healthy monounsaturated fat contribute to that fuller feeling and work hard at keeping you satisfied when hunger pangs loom. Try munching on a handful as a mid-morning or midday snack. Or consider eating a few about 30 minutes before dinner. You will feel more sated and won’t eat as much.

Also consider drinking unsweetened almond milk for faster weight loss.

Consider almond oil or almond milk for your skincare regime. It moisturizes and leaves your skin smooth and soft. The oil helps relieve itching and dryness and it can ease inflammation and rashes. It also helps relieve dry and chapped lips. Almond oil contains Vitamins A and E that help the production of collagen, which can make the skin look smoother and tighter. The moisturizing Vitamins B1 and B6 are found in the oil as well. Almond oil can also lighten dark spots on the skin.

You can prepare a mixture of almond oil, honey, and lemon juice, and apply this as a face mask once a week. You can soak almonds for a few hours, grind them, and use this paste with milk or rose water as an excellent face scrub.

Whether you're using almond milk, paste, flour, butter, oil, or meal, it’s obvious that foodies love the little nut. Almonds offer a delicate flavour yet a rather pronounced texture to foods, especially if toasted.

From spiced or sweetened almonds for snacking, as a crust on chicken or fish, in cookies, cakes and granola bars, marzipan, torrone, on salads, in cereal or yogurt, on green beans or coating a cheese ball, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. 

Those on gluten-free diets love almonds because they’re a great substitute for bread crumbs and some flours.

There are about 25 major almond varieties produced in California orchards. They are categorized into five broad classifications based on distinguishing characteristics such as size and shape. The majority of almond production in California falls into the following three major classifications: Nonpareil, California, and Mission.

Presidents' Day

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

The story of Presidents’ Day date begins in 1800. Following President George Washington’s death in 1799, his February 22 birthday became a perennial day of remembrance. At the time, Washington was venerated as the most important figure in American history, and events like the 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 were cause for national celebration.

While Washington’s Birthday was an unofficial observance for most of the 1800s, it was not until the late 1870s that it became a federal holiday. Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas was the first to propose the measure, and in 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law. The holiday initially only applied to the District of Columbia, but in 1885 it was expanded to the whole country. At the time, Washington’s Birthday joined four other nationally recognized federal bank holidays—Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving—and was the first to celebrate the life of an individual American. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, signed into law in 1983, would be the second.

The shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day began in the late 1960s when Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Championed by Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, this law sought to shift the celebration of several federal holidays from specific dates to a series of predetermined Mondays. The proposed change was seen by many as a novel way to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers, and it was believed that ensuring holidays always fell on the same weekday would reduce employee absenteeism. While some argued that shifting holidays from their original dates would cheapen their meaning, the bill also had widespread support from both the private sector and labor unions and was seen as a surefire way to bolster retail sales.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act also included a provision to combine the celebration of Washington’s Birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s, which fell on the proximate date of February 12. Lincoln’s Birthday had long been a state holiday in places like Illinois, and many supported joining the two days as a way of giving equal recognition to two of America’s most famous statesmen.

McClory was among the measure’s major proponents, and he even floated the idea of renaming the holiday “President’s Day.” This proved to be a point of contention for lawmakers from George Washington’s home state of Virginia, and the proposal was eventually dropped. Nevertheless, the main piece of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1968 and officially took effect in 1971 following an executive order from President Richard Nixon. Washington’s Birthday was then shifted from the fixed date of February 22 to the third Monday of February. Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day were also moved from their traditionally designated dates. (As a result of widespread criticism, in 1980 Veterans’ Day was returned to its original November 11 date.)

While Nixon’s order plainly called the newly placed holiday Washington’s Birthday, it was not long before the shift to Presidents’ Day began. The move away from February 22 led many to believe that the new date was intended to honor both Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as it now fell between their two birthdays. Marketers soon jumped at the opportunity to play up the three-day weekend with sales, and “Presidents’ Day” bargains were advertised at stores around the country.

By the mid-1980s Washington’s Birthday was known to many Americans as Presidents’ Day. This shift had solidified in the early 2000s, by which time as many as half the 50 states had changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars. Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents’ Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).

Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some lawmakers have objected to this view, arguing that grouping George Washington and Abraham Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacies. Congressional measures to restore Washington and Lincoln’s individual birthdays were proposed during the early 2000s, but all failed to gain much attention. For its part, the federal government has held fast to the original incarnation of the holiday as a celebration of the country’s first president. The third Monday in February is still listed on official calendars as Washington’s Birthday.

Like Independence Day, Presidents’ Day is traditionally viewed as a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance. In its original incarnation as Washington’s Birthday, the holiday gained special meaning during the difficulties of the Great Depression, when portraits of George Washington often graced the front pages of newspapers and magazines every February 22. In 1932 the date was used to reinstate the Purple Heart, a military decoration originally created by George Washington to honor soldiers killed or wounded while serving in the armed forces. Patriotic groups and the Boy Scouts of America also held celebrations on the day, and in 1938 some 5,000 people attended mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in honor of Washington.

In its modern form, Presidents’ Day is used by many patriotic and historical groups as a date for staging celebrations, reenactments and other events. A number of states also require that their public schools spend the days leading up to Presidents’ Day teaching students about the accomplishments of the presidents, often with a focus on the lives of Washington and Lincoln.