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January 22 is National Hot Sauce Day

national hot sauce day

Today is National Hot Sauce Day. It celebrates the birthday in 1865 of Wilbur Scoville, who created a method to determine a pepper’s spiciness that is still in use today.

Scoville, an American chemist, devised the system in 1912. It measures the concentration of capsaicin, the active component that gives chilies their spicy taste, using Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Ratings range from 0 for a bell pepper to 16,000,000 for pure capsaicin.

Capsaicin content, which causes a burning sensation when it comes in contact with any tissue, is measured by dissolving a pepper in alcohol to extract its capsaicin oil, then diluting the oil in sugar water.

If a panel of five testers detects any spiciness, the mixture is diluted again until three of the five cannot discern any hotness. Heat level is measured by how many dilutions are necessary. Every instance increases the SHU, since hotter chilies must be weakened many times for no heat to be detected.

In 2013, The Guinness World Record for hottest chili pepper went to the Carolina Reaper, a cross between a ghost pepper and a red habanero created by Ed Currie of the aptly named PuckerButt Pepper Company. The Reaper’s official heat level is 1,569,300 SHU but ranges up to 2,200,000. (By comparison, Tabasco sauce has a level 0f 2,500 to 5,000.)

The Reaper was bested in 2017 by Dragon’s Breath, which clocked in at 2,480,000 SHU. Currie surged back with Pepper X, a Frankenstein’s monster at 3,180,000 SHU. Unlike Dragon’s Breath, which will only be used for medicinal purposes, Pepper X is available as a sauce dubbed The Last Dab.

Studies have shown that heat levels evoke the same pain response in spice lovers and haters and everyone in between. So why do so many of us like it? Could it predict other risk-taking behaviors? Check out this TED Ed lesson for answers.

Happy National Hot Sauce Day!

Copyright 2020 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 14 is national lowercase day

National Lowercase Day alphabetWhile English majors past, present, and future may grind their teeth in frustration, freewheeling texters will love today’s holiday: national lowercase day! This is the day to turn your back on the rules of capitalization if you were ever facing them at all.

This fun, unofficial holiday has no clear author or point of origin. We could only trace it back to 2011.

Fun fact: Poet E.E. Cummings often wrote and signed his name in lowercase; he also omitted the punctuation. e e cummings was a rebel, bending the language to his own liking.

Fun fact: While trying to find an example of the use of lowercase letters, I remembered the poet E.E. Cummings’ apparent penchant for using lowercase initials. After cursory research that appeared to confirm this, I wrote the now-stricken sentences. My thanks go to John Cowan for pointing out my error. I have no desire to add more misinformation to the internet. Author Norman Friedman writes here about Cummings’ widow’s reaction to his book being published without “E.E.” properly capitalized.

If shunning capitalization is not your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to know it is also National Dessert Day!

Tomorrow, we return to normalcy. If you’re looking for more information about capitalization and just about everything else, you can’t go wrong with The Chicago Manual of Style.

Happy national lowercase day!

Copyright © 2019 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day

bubble wrap appreciation dayBubble Wrap Appreciation Day, also known as BWAD, is celebrated on the last Monday in January. It was created in 2001 by Jim Webster of Spirit 95.1 FM in Bloomington, IN. In the past, the radio station has sponsored sports, sculpture and fashion design contests.

Sealed Air Corporation’s Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors awarded top honors in 2010 to 13-year-old. Matthew Huber for his invention of Petri bubbles, a cheap and easy alternative to Petri dishes for use after earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, and any disaster where access to medical services is desperately needed.

In 2014, Harvard University chemists published a paper stating that “the gas-filled compartments in the packing material commonly called ‘bubble wrap’ can be repurposed in resource-limited regions as containers to store liquid samples, and to perform bioanalyses.” Huber is probably looking at grad schools by now. Give him a call.

bubble wrap appreciation day

The invention of Bubble Wrap began as a failed experiment and became a triumph of the imagination. In 1957, engineers Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding created three-dimensional wallpaper by trapping air between two shower curtains. (Imagine how our interiors might look had their plan succeeded.)

After an unsuccessful effort to repurpose it as greenhouse insulation, Chavannes and Fielding realized that their terrible wallpaper would make excellent packaging material. At that time, the paper products used for packaging didn’t cushion heavy or delicate objects.

They raised $9,000 to fund a developmental production line and incorporated Sealed Air Corporation in 1960. IBM was their first customer, using Bubble Wrap to protect its 1401 business computer’s fragile vacuum tubes during shipping. Customers all over the world have entrusted it with their valuables ever since.

The company continues to innovate, improving its products and creating new ones. In 2015, Sealed
Air announced the creation of NewAir I.B. Extreme (cue air guitar), designed to ship flat, reducing bulk and lowering transportation costs. One truckload is equivalent to 40 truckloads of traditional Bubble Wrap. Customers will then inflate sheets as needed with a custom air pump.

The stuff looks like traditional Bubble Wrap but don’t be fooled: it will not pop, no matter how hard you press, poke, punch, squeeze, sit or stomp on it. Believe me, we’ve tried. We miss that pleasantly startling noise that induces a fight-or-flight response in anyone within earshot. While we can’t replicate the sensation, we can help keep the memory alive with this:

If you no longer use Adobe FlashPlayer, which is going the way of the dodo, don’t worry. Googling “virtual bubble wrap” returns 9,460,000 results sure to keep you amused in perpetuity, or until you get bored, whichever comes first.

Happy Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day!

Copyright © 2019 Worldwide Weird Holidays

December 14 is Monkey Day

Monkey Day was started in 2000 when Michigan State University art student Casey Sorrow scribbled “Monkey Day” on a friend’s calendar. When the day (December 14) arrived, Sorrow and his buddies were inspired to don costumes, mimic baboon cries and otherwise imitate a bunch of monkeys.monkey day

That day a tradition was born. What may have begun as a salute to evolution, an antidote to December’s traditional holidays, an excuse to dress up and act like fools, or all of the above has become a popular holiday throughout the world.

Why? “Everybody loves monkeys,” Sorrow explains. “Monkeys are great — they make people smile. There are no bad monkeys.”

Monkey Day is especially appreciated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Activists organize auctions and educational events to draw public attention to issues concerning animal rights and protection of monkeys. Individuals are encouraged to celebrate by hosting costume parties and competitions.

Humans have long been fascinated with simians and entertained by TV and movie fare such as King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Curious George, Donkey Kong, Grape Ape, Magilla Gorilla and the overlords in Planet of the Apes. Read about other fictive and real-world examples including Koko, Ham, Lucy, Bubbles and Nim Chimpsky on ape-o-naut.org’s Famous Monkeys Through History.)

monkey day

We know what you’re thinking: Monkeys aren’t apes. Why do apes show up on Monkey Day? The site’s creators explain:

Because they are not a single coherent group, monkeys do not have any particular traits that they all share and are not shared with the remaining group of simians, the apes, we here at the Monkey Day website feel it wouldn’t be proper to exclude all primates from the joy of Monkey Day just because they swing on a different branch of the evolutionary tree. So, yes, occasionally you may see non-monkey simians invading and celebrating Monkey Day.

Why are we so drawn to simians in general? “Probably because we come from monkeys,” says artist and Monkey Day celebrant Carl Oxley III. “Plus, they’re funny as hell.”

Today, why not act like a monkey, dress like a monkey and encourage your friends to do so, too? Monkey Day will be more fun than a barrel of, well, you know.

monkey day

Happy Monkey Day!

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays