Monday, August 24, 2015

Holidays and Observances for August 24 2015

Can Opener Day

Today I found out the can opener wasn’t invented until 48 years after the invention of the can.

In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte was having problems with his supply lines. Specifically, they were too long for the food preservation methods at the time, making it difficult to adequately supply his troops with needed food. Thus, he offered a 12,000 franc prize for anyone who invented a preservation method that would allow his army’s food to remain unspoiled during its long journey to the troops’ stomachs.

In 1810, Nicholas Appert won the prize for his method of keeping food fresh by sterilization.  Although he didn’t understand exactly why it worked, Appert found that food stayed fresh for long periods of time if you could seal it tightly in a container, in his case a glass jar, and then heat it up. Later that year an inventor, Peter Durand, received a patent from King George III for the world’s first can made of iron and tin. Combined with Appert’s sterilization method, long term canned food preservation became possible.

While the method for keeping food fresh was now there, Napoleon’s troops had difficulty actually getting at the food. The early cans were far too thick for any dedicated can opener. As the Donner Party taught us though, hungry men will find a way to eat. So as you might imagine, early cans were opened by brute force. The age old “smash it with a hammer and chisel” technique was commonplace.  Not the best method in the world for keeping one’s food un-mashed, but nevertheless got the job done.

These early cans could only be produced at a rate of about 6 per hour, though, even with the most skilled workers, so they weren’t widely adopted by the masses in the beginning. Fast forward a few decades and, in 1846, Henry Evans invented a die method for making a can from a single motion. This increased production to about 60 cans per hour, a drastic improvement over previous methods. One year later, Allen Taylor patented his machine stamped method of producing tin cans. As these methods were perfected, allowing for thinner and more rapidly produced cans, cans began to be more widely used and, because of how thin they were becoming, it became possible to produce a dedicated and practical tool for opening them.

The first such tool popped up in 1858, almost a half century after the can was invented, when Ezra Warner patented the first dedicated can opener. This design became known as a “bayonet and sickle” type can opener. It worked by puncturing the can with the bayonet portion, and then the sickle portion would remove the lid. The opener left extremely rough edges and so never really caught on, long-term.

Another early design, in 1866,  was made by J. Osterhoudt.  His patented design combined the opener and the can in one.  Specifically, it was a tin can that came with its own key opener. This is similar to the kind you still see sardines packed in today.

The can opener that most of us still use today was invented in 1870 by William Lyman. His original design had a simple wheel that rolled around the rim of the can, cutting it open as it went. The Star Can Company made the final design change to this beloved method by adding serrated edges to the wheel.  The first electric version of this design wasn’t produced for over a half century later, in December of 1931.

The Napoleonic Wars didn’t just help spark the invention of a better food preservation method, but also of the modern day pencil.  During this time, France wasn’t able to import pencils from Great Britain, which had the only supply of pure solid graphite in the world.  Nicholas Jacques Conté, who was an officer in the army, discovered that if you mix graphite powder with clay, you can then form this mixture into sticks and fire this substance in a kiln.  You also can vary the clay/graphite ratio to achieve different levels of hardness and darkness.  For the first time, this allowed for the making of high quality pencils without the need for Britain’s pure graphite sticks.  This also is more or less exactly how pencil cores are made to this day.

International Day Against Intolerance, Discrimination and Violence Based on Musical Preferences, Lifestyle and Dress Code

Back in 2007, Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend were attacked and beaten in Rossendale, Lancashire. Sophie subsequently died from her injuries at the age of 20. The motive for the attack? Sophie and her boyfriend were goths.

I remember the news of this attack breaking, and being shocked at the senselessness of it all. That senselessness has lead to August 24, the anniversary of Sophie’s death, being commemorated as the International Day Against Intolerance, Discrimination and Violence Based on Musical Preferences, Lifestyle and Dress Code. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but in a world where the Sophie Lancaster Foundation is necessary, the day is worth remembering.

While labels can sometimes be used positively – consolidating a community, perhaps, or drawing together those with an affinity to each other – they’re also a curse. Too much of our worth can come from labels, superficial tags that can’t possibly represent the whole person, and at some point that can become dangerous. The teenagers who attacked Sophie and her boyfriend were living under a label, culture and mindset that saw ‘moshers’ as The Other, aliens to be attacked rather than fellow humans with different preferences in fashion. And while it’s horrifying that musical taste should become a life-and-death issue, it’s sadly unsurprising when we’ve been spending years killing each other over race, religion, gender, sexuality… Too often we base our labels around what we’re against rather than what we’re for, and when we do, bad things inevitably happen.

(Of course, this affects public policy too. In the wake of the UK riots a couple of weeks ago, politicians were quick to blame things on criminality, dismissing such issues as poverty and a breakdown in authority. Maybe there’s some truth in that, but it’s still a them-and-us mentality.)

So maybe there’s an opportunity today; to listen to a genre of music we’ve never bothered with before, to chat with someone outside our clique, to rise above our labels and comfort zones. Because no-one should die because of what’s on their iPod.

International Strange Music Day

International Strange Music Day was started by Julliard graduate and professional musician, Patrick Grant, who also serves as founder and artistic director of Strange Music Inc., an organization dedicated to releasing recordings and presenting compelling new work. The purpose of Strange Music Day is to "listen to a CD you never heard before, just for the hell of it".

Patrick Grant (born 1963) is an American composer living and working in New York City. His works are a synthesis of classical, popular, and world musical styles that have found place in concert halls, film, theater, dance, and visual media over three continents. Over the last three decades, his music has moved from post-punk and classically bent post-minimal styles, through Balinese-inspired gamelan and microtonality, to ambient, electronic soundscapes involving many layers of acoustic and electronically amplified instruments. Throughout its evolution, his music has consistently contained a "...a driving and rather harsh energy redolent of rock, as well as a clean sense of melodicism...intricate cross-rhythms rarely let up..." Known as a producer and co-producer of live musical events, he has presented many concerts of his own and other composers, including a 2013 Guinness World Record-breaking performance of 175 electronic keyboards in NYC. He is the creator of International Strange Music Day (August 24) and the pioneer of the electric guitar procession Tilted Axes.

This holiday was originated on August 24th, 1998, when it's founder flew a "Strange Music" banner during his inaugural concert at the Knitting Factory in New York City. Since then, a number of small organizations around the world, a growing number of radio stations as well as a large number of summer school programs have adopted this holiday.

National Knife Day

Knife Day or National Knife Day is a designated day for all kind of knives and their use. It is the time to appreciate their effectiveness and the roles they play in our lives. Knife Day is celebrated on August 24 every year.

There are no validated sources for Knife Day’s origin. It is not a verified holiday, yet, it is a good time for everybody to learn and appreciate the importance of a knife.

A knife (plural knives) is a tool with a cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with most having a handle. Some types of knives are used as utensils, including knives used at the dining table (e.g., butter knives and steak knives) and knives used in the kitchen (e.g., paring knife, bread knife, cleaver). Many types of knives are used as tools, such as the utility knife carried by soldiers, the pocket knife carried by hikers and the hunting knife used by hunters. Knives are also used as a traditional or religious implement, such as the kirpan. Some types of knives are used as weapons, such as the daggers used by commandos or the switchblades used by 1950s-era criminal gang members. Some types of knives are used as sports equipment (e.g., throwing knives).

Knife-like tools were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools. Originally made of rock, bone, flint, and obsidian, knives have evolved in construction as technology has, with blades being made from bronze, copper, iron, steel, ceramics, and titanium. Many cultures have their unique version of the knife. Due to its role as humankind's first tool, certain cultures have attached spiritual and religious significance to the knife.

Most modern-day knives follow either a fixed-blade or a folding construction style, with blade patterns and styles as varied as their makers and countries of origin. The word knife possibly descends from an old Norse word knifr for blade.

National Peach Pie Day

Remember the à la mode - August 24 is National Peach Pie Day!

Celebrate this juicy summer stone fruit by mounding up piles of peaches and a little bit of sugar inside a buttery, flaky crust. One bite and you'll feel the breeze in your hair as you sit in the swing on your grandmother's porch.

Peach pie can also be a point of contention between people, by way of regional differences. Do you require the sweet snap of cinnamon in your peach pie, or is it a cardinal sin not to include cardamom? Can you only make it in the summer with fresh peaches or do you sneak them out of the freezer or a can?

Whatever your peachy differences, it's hard not to love fried peach pies. Perfectly packed up in a pocket of crispy-fried love, this little snack can easily become part of your breakfast, lunch or dinner.

It may have you thinking differently about that lovely lattice-top you were thinking of making, but whatever you decide, we're sure it'll be peaches and cream.

National Waffle Day

National Waffle Day is celebrated on August 24 in the United States. There is an International Waffle Day which falls on March 25. National Waffle Day shares August 24 with National Peach Pie Day. Traditionally, waffles are made up of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. The eggs are usually separated, with the whites being beaten until they are stiff. The egg whites are folded into the batter after the remaining ingredients are blended. The mixture is poured into circles and cooked on a griddle or a waffle iron.

Waffles are commonly topped with cinnamon, chocolate chips, whipped cream, maple syrup and an assortment of fruit, including bananas, blueberries and strawberries.

The origins of National Waffle Day begin back in 1869, when a man named Cornelius Swarthout from Troy, New York obtained the first U.S. patent for a waffle iron. The device was essentially a griddle with a cover so people could easily flip it over. This helped cook the waffle evenly on both sides. Swarthout's waffle iron worked in conjunction with the coal stoves of the time.

Waffles have roots as far back as the ancient Greeks, but were first introduced to the United States by pilgrims in 1620. In 1735, the modern spelling of "waffle" was seen in English print for the first time. 1869 saw the first U.S. patent of a waffle iron by Swarthout. Frank Dorsa would make his Eggo Frozen Waffles available in grocery stores in 1953. The mid-1960's would give rise to the Belgian waffle, made famous by restaurateur Maurice Vermersch.

Restaurants commonly offer special discounts on waffles during National Waffle Day. Additionally, people cook waffles at home for friends and family. The food holiday is an occasion to celebrate the history, taste and culture of waffles. The are no nationally recognized events organized for National Waffle Day.

Pluto Demoted Day

August 24, 2006 was a sad day for Pluto. Formerly known as a planet, Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet that day. August 24 is now recognized as Pluto Demoted Day. Use the day as an opportunity to learn about Pluto, its new status and its connection to central Illinois.

Although Pluto is no longer a planet, there are still many interesting facts to learn about it. Pluto was discovered in 1930. Until 2006, it was classified as the ninth planet in our solar system. Pluto cannot be seen without the use of a telescope, and not much is known about what it is like. In 2005, NASA sent New Horizons, an unmanned spacecraft, to Pluto, but it will not approach Pluto until 2015. The dwarf planet has a tilted orbit, and at times in its orbit, it is closer to the sun than Neptune and Uranus. It takes Pluto 249 years to make one trip around the sun.

These days, Pluto is regarded as a dwarf planet. To qualify as a dwarf planet, an object must be fairly round and orbit the sun. Unlike a planet, a dwarf planet has not cleared the area around its orbital path. Also, it is not a satellite, also known as a moon. The decision that cost Pluto its planetary status also outlined three categories of solar system objects: planets, dwarf planets and small solar system bodies.

Although Pluto is no longer considered a planet, its discovery was still significant, and Illinoisans have a connection to that discovery. Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto, was born and raised in Streator, Ill. in the early 1900's. He did not find Pluto until 1930, long after he'd left the area, but it was in Illinois that he first became interested in astronomy. In an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Tombaugh explained that he became quite interested in geography during his elementary school years in Streator, and that interest led him to wonder what the geography of other planets was like. In addition, his uncle who lived nearby had a telescope, and with that telescope, young Clyde was able to observe Saturn's rings, the moon's craters and the moons of Jupiter. Illinois residents can appreciate that Tombaugh's time in Illinois had an influence on the discovery of Pluto.

On August 24, take a minute to remember Pluto, even if it is just a dwarf planet. And while you're at it, remind your children that the things they learn in their childhood have the power to take them awfully far in life. If you pursue your interests and gain as much knowledge as you can, you never know what amazing things you might discover.

Vesuvius Day

Vesuvius Day is celebrated on August 24th of each year. Mt. Vesuvius is an Italian volcano that erupted on August 24 A.D. 79 blanketing the towns and 1000s of residents of Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculaneum. Pompeii was buried 10′ deep, while Herculaneum was buried under 75′ of ash. This volcanic eruption is the first to be described in detail. The letter-writing Pliny the Younger was stationed about 18 mi. away in Misenum from which vantage point he could see the eruption and feel the preceding earthquakes. His uncle, the naturalist Pliny the Elder, was in charge of area warships, but he turned his fleet to rescuing residents and died.

Mt. Vesuvius had erupted before and continued to erupt about once a century until about A.D. 1037, at which point the volcano grew quiet for about 600 years. During this time, the area grew, and when the volcano erupted in 1631, it killed about 4000 people. During the rebuilding efforts, the ancient ruins of Pompeii were discovered on March 23, 1748. Today’s population around Mt. Vesuvius is about 3 million, which is potentially catastrophic in the area of such a dangerous “Plinian” volcano.

Prior to the eruption, there were earthquakes, including a substantial one in A.D. 62 that Pompeii was still recovering from in 79. There was another earthquake in 64, while Nero was performing in Naples. Earthquakes were seen as facts of life. However, in 79, springs and wells dried up, and in August, the earth cracked, the sea became turbulent, and the animals showed signs that something was coming. When the eruption of the 24th of August began, it looked like a pine tree in the sky, according to Pliny, spewing noxious fumes, ash, smoke, mud, stones, and flames.

Wayzgoose Day

The end of summer came early in old-time printing shops. By the third week in August candles were needed to light the final hours of the long working day. To mark this shift to winter working, it was usual for the master printer to give his journeymen a feast around St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August). This was the wayzgoose or way-goose.

Its earliest recorded use is this:
The Master Printer gives them a Way-goose; that is, he makes them a good Feast, and not only entertains them at his own House, but besides, gives them Money to spend at the Ale-house or Tavern at Night. ... These Way-gooses, are always kept about Bartholomew-tide. And till the Master-Printer have given this Way-goose, the Journey-men do not use to Work by Candle Light.
Mechanick Exercises, by Joseph Moxon, 1683.
A rather splendid ditty the following century retold the story behind the practice in rhyming couplets:
The season comes to light the tapers up,To gild the night, and drink the festive cup;Now darkness treads upon the heels of day,And earlier now dispatches him away. ... We sacrific’d the goose, and mirth pursu’d;As that delicious bird about this time,Call’d for the knife, and was in season prime. ...The masters hence their journeymen invite,
To dine abroad, or spend the merry night.

Lloyd’s Evening Post, 1750, quoted in Notes and Queries, 4 August 1866.
The name is baffling. In 1731, lexicographer Nathaniel Bailey argued, in the fifth edition of his Universal Etymological English Dictionary, that it came from wayz, meaning stubble, respelling the word wayzgoose to make the supposed derivation clearer. Though it continued to be spelled as way-goose by almost everybody except Bailey, nineteenth-century etymologists stuck the “z” in to make it fit Bailey’s story. A minor edifice of conjecture was built on his suggestion, which asserted that a goose fattened on harvest stubble was served as the crowning dish at the feast. A goose might indeed have been served, as the 1750 poem suggests, but there’s no known connection between the name and the fowl.

The term evolved to mean the annual summer dinner or outing held for the printers in a publishing house or newspaper office. Once the old connection with wintertime working by candlelight had been lost through advances in lighting methods and reductions in working hours, the event was often held in July instead.

It’s not a term that appears much in literature, though a satirical poem by Roy Campbell entitled The Wayzgoose was published in 1928 and a figurative example is known from a little earlier:
Carriages were chartered, an enormous quantity of eatables and drinkables provided, and away we went, a regular wayzgoose or bean-feast party.
The Cruise of the Cachalot, by Frank T Bullen, 1897.
It seemed at one point that with changes in printing technology and practice the term would die out, but events under this name are still held, sometimes as a deliberate reintroduction. It also turns up from time to time as a gently whimsical term for some anthology or book-related festivity.