Tuesday, March 10, 2020

When common sense presents as a flailing arm of mismatched reason, and it appears as though the cosmos had forgotten to number the dots we are meant to connect in order to deduce the mysteries of the planets, it must surely be another Monday. This one came bearing gifts though:

National Crabmeat Day

The mighty decapod crustaceans who have gifted the world (albeit involuntarily) with magically sweet claw-meat get their due today. Not as a celebration of their lives, but rather of the bounty they deposit in our dips, our bisques and rangoons. Crabs are visually among the most unappetizing of seafood options – in fact, Jodie once used one to elicit a violent shriek of terror from our daughter during a dinner at the Keg. They’re armored sea-spiders with a strange, lateral way of moving. But damn if they aren’t delicious.

Imitation crab is much more popular in this landlocked town, and while imitation anything sounds like an unacceptable compromise, at least with imitation crab you’re still eating actual fish meat. Pollock, usually. But it’s pollock with fillers, like egg whites or wheat, and with a splash of artificial crab flavour and red food colouring to the exterior. Factor all that in, and it’s hard not to crave the real stuff.

Yesterday’s evening feast consisted of actual crabmeat, which was offensively expensive. We would have been better off buying the frozen crab legs at Costco, then cooking and harvesting the meat for this meal. But the real test is in the flavour, and the flavour was magnificent. And no food colouring was needed.

National Meatball Day

Ah, Paula Deen – she of excessive butter use and occasional mild to moderate racism. It was her recipe which drew me to the Food Network page, as I was looking for a specific kind of meatball. In particular, one made from crabmeat. It would have been nonsensical to prepare sausage-and-beef meatballs (which we adore), then to serve them with crab. So, we got economical. And the result was fantastic, even if most of the meat failed to remain in their ball shape. We even made our own homemade tartar sauce, which is more than we did for National Tartar Sauce Day a couple weeks back.

Meatballs are among the oldest stars of international cuisine, from Qin dynasty China (in the 200’s BC) to the records of ancient Rome, meat has been rolled into spheres and prepared for consumption. In Albania, they’ll roll some feta cheese in there. In the Abruzzo section of Italy, the meatballs are marble-size. In Sweden they serve their meatballs with lingonberry jam, often in furniture stores. It seems the further south you venture in Europe, the more frequently you find lamb as an ingredient. Over in China, the favoured ingredient is pork.

Then you’ve got the Brits. They make use of offal – the parts of the animal no one really wants to eat. They’ll often use pork liver and pork heart, then wrap it in bacon and cook it up, serving it with peas. It doesn’t sound too horrible, until you learn they call them faggots. That’s right, faggots and peas are an actual British menu item. Sometimes they’ll use testicles instead of liver and heart. I think the lesson here is to skip the meatballs in England, especially the act of ordering them.

We’ll stick with the crabmeat variety for this week. Big thumbs-up.

National Get Over It Day

Fifteen years ago, some guy in Atlanta by the name of Jeff Goldblatt was having trouble getting over an ex. He struggled with the pain of heartbreak, then decided to launch this day, placed snugly at the halfway point between Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day, with the intent of encouraging everyone to get over that which has been stressing them out or dragging them down.

So what cerebral anchor has been dragging along the sea-floor of our minds? How could we clip that chain and sail onward? I opted to go topical. The media has been bombarding us with doom prophecies lately, offering up real-time websites tracking this new killer virus, and warning us that touching our faces could mean instant death, like those melting people at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Our Costco was literally sold out of toilet paper this weekend, and from what I’ve read, the symptoms involve fever, coughing and breathing issues – not crapping uncontrollably.

I’m over the fear. This sounds horrible, and I’ll take hand-washing precautions and do what I can to be safe, but I survived Swine Flu a few years ago, and if I get this I’m still young and strong enough that my odds are pretty good. I’ll take 3-4 weeks off (paid leave, thankfully) and ride the hellish journey wherever it takes me. Jodie had a similar thought – succumbing to this weird and excessive panic seems more foolish every day. That said, if one of us comes down with it, we may invest in a hazmat suit for the other. I’ve wanted one anyway for some Breaking Bad cosplay, so this could be a win-win.

Don’t go through life afraid. Take precautions, use common sense, but don’t live in fear. Get over it. No time like the present (or, more accurately, yesterday by the time you read this).

Panic Day

I suppose we could have used this day to panic over the Corona virus, but we can’t have our celebrations cancel one another out. That’s going to make things too confusing, and with so many hundreds of celebrations flying past our radar, confusing is something we cannot afford.

Panic Day – not to be mixed up with International Panic Day, which rolls around in June – is actually meant in the same spirit as Get Over It Day. We should use this day to identify that which spirals us into a feverish panic, then try to minimize the likelihood of that occurring, through an adjustment of perspective, or through taking steps to keep the nastiness at bay.

According to one website, you can celebrate this day by feigning a massive panic attack at work, or when out with friends. This sounds stunningly stupid, and minimizes the real threats panic attacks and anxiety attacks can pose, both physically and mentally. No, as much faith as I have in humour as a tonic for so many ailments rattling around inside our skulls, I’m not going to cheapen the realities of living with anxiety.

Yesterday I took stock of one of the triggers for my anxiety, and that’s social media. I love sharing our perpetual party and interacting with our fellow revelers, however I also have an unhealthy habit of meandering down comments sections pertaining to politics, climate science and even culture, and engaging with strangers whose views I find to be questionable or even loathsome. This has driven my spirit to a pureed mess in the past, and so I have vowed in the spirit of Panic Day (or, I suppose, the spirit which I have ascribed to Panic Day) to abstain from all non-fun interactions on all social media platforms for the remainder of March. No talking politics, no commenting on some repressed male oil worker who feels threatened by a 17-year-old climate activist, and even a shut-down on engaging with people who ignorantly proclaim their cultural tastes as fact. SNL *is* still funny, dammit.

I am optimistic this will result in a reduction of panic and anxiety. Time will tell. For now, take the advice so indelicately scribbled upon the exterior of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: don’t panic.

Napping Day

At my place of work, though we collectively navigate through pitiful morale, arbitrary rule changes, and an elected body that consists primarily of self-serving douche-sacks (sorry, I forgot, no politics here… but isn’t that kind of the case everywhere?), we do have some perks. One of those allows us to toil an extra few minutes every day in order to receive a single day off every four weeks. It’s not much, but those little days are usually pure bliss. Yesterday was one such day.

There isn’t much more to say. For some celebrations, the tribute truly unravels as I learn more about a subject, and explore its most interesting tendrils as they wrap around a chunk of my day. But this is napping day. Humans have always napped – this dates back even further than forming meat into balls for dinner. What more can I learn about napping?

Well, for those who can flick off their consciousness light switch, they can schedule power naps of 20 or so minutes. They can gain the effects of a stimulant nap, by consuming caffeine just before dozing off so as to be awoken when the effects of the power nap are at their strongest. I’m not able to shut it down quite as quickly, so a nap will last as long as it will last, and sometimes I miss the window and have to simply stay awake. But not yesterday. I was not about to let this one slide. This was a true celebration.

Fill Our Staplers Day

Not a lot to report for this one either. On the first Monday after daylight savings time either robs us of an hour or gifts us with a replacement, we are reminded to check our oft-neglected staplers at work and top them up. It’s a good way to ensure you are less likely to find yourself clunking air against paper when you need a staple, but hardly the root of a brilliant celebration.

Jodie had filled her stapler on Friday – as a teacher, twice a year is insufficient. But she made sure it was topped up yesterday, just as I did this morning when I made my way into work. This is more a helpful reminder than anything resembling a celebration, but who cares – it’s on the list, and we did our part.

National Sleep Awareness Week

This involved paying attention to our brains, and making adjustments as needed. We had a shortened overnight last Saturday, and some people feel the effects of Daylight Savings Time’s onset for the week to come. It seems silly – like suffering from jetlag after a flight that only bumped you one time zone over. But Jodie awoke yesterday, not only feeling the strain of the chest infection she almost certainly caught from me, but also fighting the effects of that sacrificed hour.

I aimed to remedy this for her promptly, by doing everything in my power to ensure she was ready for an early night’s sleep. She seems doggedly determined not to take a day off (and thusly to infect as many of her coworkers and students as possible), but there is no reason she should endure this torment whilst sleep-deprived. My mission was accomplished – she was out before 10:30 last night.

I needed no such self-care. My day off allowed me to sleep in, and I feel like any lingering effects from Saturday night have been washed away. But if you’re still struggling, sacrifice one evening to allow yourself an early drift-off. You’ll thank yourself later.

National Barbie Day

On this day – well, we’re a day late here, so on yesterday’s day – 61 years ago, Mattel’s first Barbie doll hit store shelves and changed the world of toys forever. Ruth Handler was the brains behind this invention. She had two kids (named Barbara and Kenneth, so you can see the connection here), and found that the only dolls being marketed for her daughter were infants. If boys could guide their GI Joes through battlefields and simulate whatever their weird perceptions of adulthood might be, why wasn’t there something for girls?

Well, there was – in Europe anyway. The Lilli doll was based on a comic strip character, a strong blonde woman who was empowered and inspiring – perfect for the American audience of future feminists. Ruth brought a few of the dolls home from her European trip, had them redesigned and Barbie was born. The first models were available in blonde and brunette, and wore a black and white striped swimsuit.

A lawsuit followed (Mattel didn’t alter the Lilli doll much), but Barbie’s footprint in culture was inevitable. It took 12 years for Barbie’s eyes to face forward instead of sideways in a demure, lateral look. That wasn’t the end of the controversy – her body shape presented a dangerous “ideal”, at 5’9”, measuring 36-18-33, and clocking in at 35 pounds underweight for a woman of that height. Mattel has heard the criticism and offered new body shapes, skin colours and professions. It’s this wisdom of adaptation that will keep Barbie relevant.

But we can let that crappy Aqua song go – Barbie deserves better.

The party won’t stop today, because this damn party won’t stop all year. Here’s what we’ve got:

  • National Mario Day. Our plan was to play some Mario Kart, but Abbey absconded with our Wii last year. So I’ll look for an online emulator.
  • National Pack Your Lunch Day. Easy enough – we do this every day.
  • National Blueberry Popover Day. We will be looking into this treat, but not enjoying it. It requires more skill than I possess, and even my mom backed out of this one.
  • National Landline Day. I’ll make a call from one landline to another, something we do remarkably infrequently.
  • International Bagpipe Day. A playlist of excruciating proportions. This celebration had better be brief.
  • Organize Your Home Office Day. We’ve already had to make adjustments to ensure our new puppy doesn’t eat everything at floor level in our new office, but this will benefit us all the way up to the ceiling.