Tuesday, February 11, 2020

As we continue to pile the celebrations into our daily time-wallet like so many receipts and sandwich punch-cards, we feel our chronological seams strain near to burst. Fortunately, we’re more than six weeks into this. We’re professionals at this point.

National Home Warranty Day

This storied and classic celebration was invented in… 2016. By a warranty company. So does this mean I’m doing their corporate bidding? Ugh.

This day is purportedly for reminding us about the value of having warranty protection on our major appliances and stuff. Truthfully, it’s about this company *selling* warranties after that reminder.

Look, as a guy with the fix-it skills of your average 2-year-old panda, I can certainly appreciate the value in having an expensive purchase covered by a warranty. My new stove has an extra year of warranty on it because if anything broke on it I’d have no idea what to do, apart from frowning at it with my arms crossed (see my engine skills in yesterday’s video).

But acknowledging a warranty may have value is a pretty weak-ass celebration. A warranty is an acknowledgement by the consumer that yes, this item you’re purchasing might end up being a piece of junk in the next 90 days to three years, so you’d better pay some more money just in case. It’s a fizzling raspberry of pessimism that squashes the spirit of a purchase. Buying a warranty is a gamble: you’re literally betting that this new tablet you bought will die between 1-3 years down the road.

And as with any gambling venture, the odds are stacked in favor of the house. I used to sell warranties, and there was always a sweet commission on them. The only warranty I felt 100% happy with was the old Radio Shack headphones warranty. Show your receipt and you get a one-for-one swap on your non-functioning headphones for 3 years. As someone who damaged a lot of little fragile wires in his Walkman cans back in the day, this was an easy sell, and a very safe bet.

Until, like most people, I lost my receipt.

National Clean Out Your Computer Day

There are so many necessary ways to clean out your computer. Let’s look at a few of them:

  • Hit up your downloads folder and sift through all the detritus your PC has inhaled from outside sources. You’ll find executable install files for programs you may or may not have used, email attachments (sometimes in the form of the same spreadsheet you somehow downloaded six times), and weird little image files that landed there from who knows where.
  • Your documents folder should be storing all your creations, but you might find you don’t need them all. I’ve got some Word files that contain stuff like “CHAPTER ONE: THE THICKENING OF THE EVIL GELATIN” and nothing else. If it isn’t going to be used for something some day (and that one might be), toss it.
  • Your temp files and browser history. Bonus: it gets rid of your porn history so no one will find it in the event of your death, or if your computer gets stolen. Downside: you’ll find you’ve forgotten most of your passwords to log in to anything, so that will take some time and patience you may or may not have.
  • Empty the recycle bin. It feels good. Just do it.

Tu BiShvat

We made a vow to avoid most religious holidays, as we don’t want to pass off an inauthentic and potentially offensive act as a celebration. Tu BiShvat is not so much a sacred Jewish holiday, as it is an ecological one. Trees play an important role in the Old Testament, so this day, also known as Rosh HaShanah La’llanot (“new year of the trees”) is kind of a big deal.

An old custom on this date is to indulge in a feast of fruits. This has evolved into a Tu BiShvat seder, which is still practiced by a lot of Jews. This involves eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order, amid blessing recitals. Another big tradition is to plant trees on this day.

Since we refuse to fake prayers (see above0, and planting anything in February isn’t within the realm of possibility up here in the tundra, you’ll have to settle for a pic of a secular Jew kissing a tree, and thinking happy, pro-environment thoughts.

National Flannel Day

We can thank the Welsh for inventing flannel back in the 1500s, and we can thank the city of Seattle for bringing about its resurgence in the 1990s. Up here where the sun spends much of the year mocking us from its chilly perch in the sky, flannel is always in style. It’s soft, it’s warm, and the look is a comfortable balance between neutral and interesting.

Flannel used to be made from wool (“carded wool” to be specific, which is wool whose ID has been checked at the bar), but can now be made from cotton or synthetic fibers. Another variety is the hemp-like vegetable flannel, which is made from Scots pine fiber. The flannel shirt in the photo (which is one of only two I own) is made from cotton, and it’s just cozy enough to have my jacket be an option accessory as I stood outside yesterday, waiting for our new dog’s digestive system to fire off its next finale.

A great fabric to celebrate when the temperature refuses to stretch must past freezing.

National Umbrella Day

In many locales around the globe (or upon the level plane, if you’re one of those flat-earth nuttos), yesterday was a fine day to celebrate National Umbrella Day. I’ll throw a wave at my kid who lives in Vancouver, if only just to see if she notices. If she doesn’t, it means she doesn’t read these articles and I can say whatever I want about her.

But back to the humble umbrella, or “humbrella”. Humankind has always sought to ward off the rain from their scalps. It could be a panti made from feathers and gold, used by an Aztec general, or the first collapsible models – used by Sargon of Akkad in 2130 BC. Some form of umbrella has always kept the paint dry on history from time to time.

If you call it a ‘brolly’, then you’re probably from the UK, Australia, or some place where the slang drips thicker than most. If you call it a ‘gamp’ then you should stop using antiquated British terminology. Americans went weird with their umbrella slang, referring to them as ‘bumbershoots’ back in the 19th century. That’s the one I’d like to bring back. I’d feel more confident boarding my morning bus if I was tucking a bumbershoot under my arm.

Oatmeal Monday

We already honoured National Oatmeal Month in January, and Oatmeal gets its own National Day on October 29. This one carries a slightly different tune, however. This used to be an actual holiday in Scottish Universities. Back in the day (this particular day landing somewhere in the 1600s), students ate on the cheap. They couldn’t afford such flamboyant luxuries as the students of today, like ramen noodles and Kraft Dinner. Nope, it was mostly oatmeal.

It became a regular tradition for the universities to grant long weekends so kids could head home or head to the city to replenish their supplies. By 1896 the University of Edinburgh was doing just one such holiday: Meal Monday (a.k.a. Oatmeal Monday), on the second Monday in February.

Meal Monday died out some time late last century. But Jodie still enjoyed a bowl of the hot stuff as a tribute to those impoverished students of yore.

National Cream Cheese Brownies Day

Using this recipe, my beloved mother concocted the above batch of cream cheese brownies so that we could toast this day properly – by which I mean we could enjoy a couple brownies then race them to one of our workplaces to allow our colleagues to ingest the calories.

Cream cheese brownies are just like regular brownies, but the top layer is a swirl of cheesecake. The end result is a creamier, more lactose-intensive experience. The flavour was out of this world. You’re welcome, co-workers.

We will not, under penalty of exhaustion-collapse, get to everything on our list today. But here’s what we’ll be picking from:

  • National Make A Friend Day. Someone will be getting a friend request on social media, since I don’t trust humans in person anymore. Why?
  • Extraterrestrial Culture Day. That’s right. I know some of you are aliens walking among us, just waiting for the chance to rip your face-masks off and devour us.
  • National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day. I think we need more National Don’t Do Things days. Really cuts down on time.
  • National White T-Shirt Day. We will double-check that this is not a white-nationalist celebration (no politics allowed here, but white nationalism is just fucking stupid), and we’ll wear our white shirts.
  • National Shut-In Visitation Day. We don’t know a lot of shut-ins. We could visit some stranger who doesn’t leave their home, but that would be weird for everyone.
  • National Peppermint Patty Day. Perfect. We’re back to delicious sweets.
  • National Inventor’s Day. I’m pretty sure we already speculated on possible great inventions for National Technology Day on January 6, so unless we can actually devise a new invention tomorrow we might have to leave this one.
  • Get Out Your Guitar Day / National Guitar Day. Neither of us play guitar, but at least one of us will tonight.
  • Satisfied Staying Single Day. We’ll look at some of the reasons people should remain single. As a married couple of 20+ years, I’d bet we have plenty of ideas for this.
  • Grandmother Achievement Day. We’ll brag about our grandmas.

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