Thursday, April 30, 2020

Five weeks of lockdown, and who among us is feeling the tremors as their sanity rattles to palpable levels? In this house, Jodie’s getting the itch, I’m still gliding smoothly, but it’s our #3 canine research assistant, Liberty, who appears to be full-throatedly losing her grip. Tuesday night she performed an astounding athletic maneuver to obtain a chewing bone off the counter, snarled at her two compatriots for making a play for it, then spent most of yesterday morning barking at nothing. She’s never had a job, yet she’s the one who needs a break from all this sitting around. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of us. Meanwhile we’ve got all this to contend with:

Denim Day / Sexual Assault Awareness Month

After 35 days of sweatpants – yes, even to venture out to the store, because who cares anymore? – it was time to dress up all fancy in my jeans. Denim Day is not a celebration of the cotton warp-faced fabric, nor is it a tribute to Mr. Strauss’ contributions to biker, greaser and hippie culture. We wore denim with a more serious message yesterday.

In the 90s an Italian court overturned a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans, which they felt would have probably required her assistance in removing. So clearly she wanted it. The following day, every Italian woman in parliament showed up to work wearing jeans in solidarity of the victim, and as a protest against this bullshit decision. This was picked up by the group Peace Over Violence, and Denim Day has been celebrated for the last 21 years as a result.

You can register on their website ( and get all sorts of materials if you’re looking to blast out the Denim Day message… of course I’m reading about all this too late, and you’re all reading this the day after it happened, so that won’t help. But keep this one in mind for next year; it deserves our attention on a repeat basis. Sexual assault is a scourge on our society, one I hope they will someday deal with via castration using rusty pocket knives. Until then, we should show our support for the victims and shout it out loud that this shit needs to stop. Happy denim, everyone.

National Shrimp Scampi Day

So here’s the confusing set-up to this day. A scampi is legally (in the UK) defined as a nephrops norvegicus, or a Norwegian lobster. Also known as a Dublin Bay prawn. So it’s a lobster that’s also a prawn. Sometimes monkfish, which aren’t even crustaceans, are sold as scampi. Yet, shrimp scampi is made with shrimp. Or prawns. You see, the term ‘prawn’ can be used to describe large shrimp, or the scampi variety of lobster. Confused yet? Fuck it, let’s eat.

If you’re served ‘scampi’, you’re eating a lobster. If you’re eating it yesterday, you’re misinterpreting the meaning of this celebration, as we are here to commemorate the Italian-American dish made with shrimp. According to an article in the New York Times, Italian-American chefs simply substituted the much more abundant shrimp for the scampi lobsters they’d use back home. The traditional dish involved sautéing them with white wine, garlic butter and olive oil, but variations ended up adding breadcrumbs and tomatoes.

So it’s an interpretational dish, not one with a strict set of guidelines. We made ours with the aforementioned ingredients and served it over pasta. It was delicious, though we did find ourselves wondering how much more interesting the dish might be if made with the lobster type of scampi. Since they don’t get their own special National day this year, we may never know. But this stuff was terrific.

National Zipper Day

A number of patents led to the zipper we all know and love today. For whatever reason, Swedish-American engineer Gideon Sundback’s 1913 patent (which occurred on April 29) is the one chosen for National Zipper Day. It wasn’t the first such fastener, and Sundback himself created a better one, more comparable to the modern zipper, in 1917. Whatever.

Elias Howe was the man who first came up with something resembling a zipper. You might remember him from having invented the lockstitch sewing machine. You might not. Don’t feel bad; he didn’t know who you were either. A bunch of years later a guy fortunate enough to have been named Whitcomb Judson came up with his own device, which was marketed at the same 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that premiered the pledge of allegiance, the brownie, Juicy Fruit, Quaker Oats, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix, the moving walkway, the Ferris Wheel, the automatic dishwasher, the electric car, and aerosol spray. Whitcomb’s invention, which was more like a complicated hook-and-eye fastener, didn’t do well.

The B.F. Goodrich company started using Sundback’s 1917-model fastener on a new line of rubber boots in 1923, and they came up with the term ‘zipper’ to describe it. The name stuck.

To pay tribute to this day, we were already wearing zippers on our jeans. We also zipped a bunch of other household zippers up and down, because that’s how we do things. Zipper day? We zip. It was a simple expression of mirth, but it did the trick.

World Wish Day

The Make-a-Wish foundation is one of the greatest charities on the planet. Think about it: as great as it is for other charities to donate money toward researching and such, this one has a remarkably straightforward means of spreading good. If a kid is sick – like, really sick with something horrific – that kid gets to make a wish, and this charity does everything they can to make it happen. Celebrities line up to help out. Disney invites scads of kids and their families to their parks for this. And some of the wishes are downright weird.

One kid got a baseball park built in his backyard. Another kid got to provide a voice in World of Warcraft.  A group of kids in West Virginia set sail for an island off the coast where they rescued Gilligan – literally Bob Denver in his old costume, granting these kids’ wishes to be heroes. Another kid caught the attention of LucasArts, and as per his wish they created a game starring him, skateboarding around and shooting evil cancer cells. In short, this charity is the absolute best.

It all started with a 7-year-old named Chris Greicius, who got to live a day as a cop, including a swearing-in ceremony, a custom-made uniform, and a ride in the police copter. That was back in 1980, and his tale inspired the Make-A-Wish folks to create their cause. John Cena has granted over 650 wishes. Justin Bieber has granted over 250, none of them being the wish of so many of us that he would just go away. The charity grants 30,000 wishes every year – one every 17 minutes. Today is the day to support the cause any way you can. This one, much like the Denim Day cause, is very close to our hearts.

Stop Food Waste Day

The official Stop Food Waste Day site implores us to become Food Waste Warriors and stop the waste of food. They offer some rather compelling statistics.

One third of all food produced around the world gets lost or wasted. 45% of fruits, veggies and root crops get wasted. 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions every year comes from food waste. If you take just 25% of all the food wasted around the world, it could feed all 795 million undernourished humans.

The mission of this particular cause is to slice the amount of wasted food in half by 2030. They are working with a number of regional groups, with celebrity chefs, and anyone else who will join in to make the effort.

We do our best not to waste food. We consider it an achievement when garbage day rolls around and nothing gets moved from our fridge to the trash. Unfortunately we were much better about that in 2019 than in 2020 – this project has occasionally had us producing more food than we can reasonably eat. But we do pretty well. We “celebrated” this yesterday by having leftovers for lunch (that prime rib roast from Monday was so fucking great), and we will be bringing awareness of this cause forward. We have no excuse to waste food. Except when we have a pineapple upside down cake, chocolate covered cashews, jelly beans and cherry cheesecake all in the same week. The cake tragically didn’t make it all the way to the final bite.

But we will strive to do better. It’s worth the effort.

Viral Video Day

There are not a lot of sources (one, actually) for this celebration. It appears to have been a creation from the mind of writer Jace Shoemaker-Galloway, who gave us Keep Off The Grass Day on the 21st. She’s a writer who has devoted much of her energies to obscure and unheard-of holidays, so I’ll absolutely consider her a colleague. Viral videos have been a phenomenon of the 21st century, catching the public zeitgeist for a significant few seconds before drifting out of the limelight to make room for the next one.

One of the first ever viral videos would come from the beginning of the video age itself, when a marijuana advocate named Keith Stroup came across the 1936 US propaganda film Reefer Madness and spread it around. Something more akin to today’s viral videos can be seen in a long-before-Youtube episode of Seinfeld, when people marvelled over Elaine’s erratic dance moves. Remember the dancing baby back in 1995? It was a gif, but that was as extensive as viral videos could get in the days of dial-up.

One of the first waves of viral videos came as a result of Saturday Night Live, and the success of their Lonely-Island-produced digital shorts, like “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick In a Box.” Now the barometer for a video considering viral will vary from person to person, but it’s generally believed to mean at least five million views in just a few days’ time.

For this day we posted our own contender for a viral video, though the act of getting it there will depend on the world. Rosa, our #2 canine research assistant, was politely asking me to cease writing my article and instead to lavish her with attention and/or foodstuffs. Have a look, and if you like it, send it to five million of your closest friends and let’s see if we can light the internet on fire.

If not, I’ll have to grab a broom handle and pretend to fight a lightsaber battle, and trust me you don’t want to see that.

We are now one third of the way through this madness, and the fun just keeps on rolling!

  • National Bubble Tea Day. Not sure any bubble tea places are open. Are they considered essential? Not likely, but we’ll see.
  • National Bugs Bunny Day. This is what I’ll be watching over lunch.
  • National Honesty Day. Can we make it through the day without lying? Given that we pretty much only converse with each other, probably.
  • National Oatmeal Cookie Day. Our team baker (hi, Mom!) has prepared what she describes as “incredible” cookies for us.
  • National Prepare-A-Thon Day. This will include some behind-the-scenes on how we prepare for this project, and why we end up so often completely unprepared for this project.
  • National Poem In Your Pocket Day. We will carry a poem in our pocket. Easy!
  • National Hairstylist Appreciation Day. This one comes naturally. We miss our hairstylists, and we’ll show you precisely why.
  • International Jazz Day. Listen to a bunch of jazz. This one I’m looking forward to.
  • National Raisin Day. Neither of us are big fans, but we picked up some yogurt-coated raisins that look really tasty.
  • Walpurgis Night. This is often celebrated with bonfires, so we may need one of those.
  • National Mr. Potato Head Day. We don’t have one anymore, but we’ll look into the history of this little Don Rickles-voiced dude.
  • National Spank-Out Day. A day not to spank. I guess we can change up our routine for this one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The new monotony: 20 feet from comfy bed, 10 feet from private bathroom, 0 feet from excited dogs, wrassling over a stuffed winged dragon. This is my workplace now. The syrupy funk from Baby Huey & The Babysitters is cranked to window-rattling levels. The sunlight sits on my eyeballs with nary a fluorescent tube in sight. An extra cup of coffee is served in my favourite mug with no additional expense. Clothing? Purely optional. And my work still gets done, probably more attentively than if I was melting to the floor of my grey-beige cubicle. Also, I get to do all this:

National Blueberry Pie Day

With the last couple slices of our cherry cheesecake still tempting us from the fridge, and the end-bits of the pineapple upside-down cake having to be tossed out due to mold, we were certainly not needing another dessert celebration. But here we are, just two days before Oatmeal Cookie Day, downing blueberry pie. Nothing fancy, just a quick pick-up from the grocery store, but it did the job.

The blueberry is a magnificent fruit. For one thing, it’s one of the only blue foods out there, not counting artificially dyed candies and drinks. It is native to North America, so it’s one of the foods that caught fire in popularity when the colonizers showed up. Prior to that they have been a part of Native peoples’ cuisines for centuries. When they’re tart, they’re terrific. When they’re sweet they’re amazing. The blueberry – or ‘bloob’, as our daughter calls them – is a thing of beauty.

And in pie form it’s right up there with cherry and apple for us. An almond crumb topping fits in brilliantly atop blueberry pie, but we had to make due with what we could get: the little personal pies from the Safeway bakery. We aren’t bakers, and our team baker (hi, Mom!) cannot be over-taxed. We need to keep her fresh. Who knows what May will bring? Not I – my wall calendars need to be updated for May/June. So it’s all a delicious mystery.

National Great Poetry Reading Day / Poetry Month

Great poetry is simply music without need for a melody. If you’ve found the poems that pour into your soul like mana-rich honey, the ones that you re-read over and over again because the beauty of the words tickles your insides every time, then you are lucky. Most people tend to let poetry slip from their lives once they no longer have English classes forcing them to learn about it. Who needs poetry? We have song lyrics. We have rap, which is spoken, so even closer to reading poetry out loud. We have so many things we can consider after contemplating the specific hues of roses and violets, so long as they rhyme with “blue”.

Poetry feeds the soul in a way nothing else can touch. Great poetry takes the language we all take for granted and twists it into something unexpected. It can take simple thoughts and present them in a way we want to experience on repeat, just so our minds can dine on the exquisiteness once more. It can take complex thoughts and distill them to their purest expression, delivering an emotional reaction with just a handful of words.

We had dinner once with a family who took turns reading poetry aloud before every evening meal. Think about that: where some families take a pre-repast pause to thank the creator to which they subscribe, these folks simply injected a moment of beautiful language and emotion into the air. We loved it – not enough to adopt the tradition ourselves (we aren’t nearly that hip), but enough to never forget it.

As mentioned last week, Sir Patrick Stewart is posting daily videos on social media in which he reads one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Hearing that authoritative and mighty voice deliver some of the most astounding verse ever put to paper is a magnificent way to spend a couple minutes of your quarantined day. Yesterday we picked a few poems – by ee cummings, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Barret Browning, among others – and soaked in their beauty. Great poetry will never die, because it will never fail to stir the mind that opens itself to it. Grab some and read!

National Superhero Day

It should come as no surprise that this celebration was launched by the folks at Marvel Comics. This was back in 1995 when they were desperate to keep people interested in comics, or to branch their appeal to a wider audience. Then came the wave of the cinematic universe that firmly planted comic book lore into the meaty guts of our popular culture. So is there any need for a National Superhero Day anymore? I’m going to take the position of fuck yes.

Let’s face it, most of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU to those who don’t work with Multipoint Control Units or at Marine Corps University, are okay films at best. The special effects are usually pretty great, but the stories can have a tendency to lean on formulas. This is why unusual experiments like Logan, The Dark Knight and Joker tend to stand out. But the magic in superheroes stretches far beyond what we see in the movies, and the stories in print can be much more complex and nuanced.

Superhero stories are often underdog stories – awkward or down-trodden folks who rise up and save the world – in part through their powers, and in part through their humanity. It’s easy to dismiss the MCU movies as box office money-makers – they are. The best cinematic character stories are still showing up elsewhere for the most part. But don’t dismiss the genre entirely. With Disney+ prepping a multitude of Marvel shows this year I suspect they are going to experiment with all sorts of story-telling ideas. And as Daredevil and The Punisher showed us on Netflix, expanding superhero stories to tell in-depth TV-season-long epics can be wonderful. Most importantly, they can give us the character exploration we haven’t seen before. Except in the actual comic books.

Hopefully you paid tribute to your favourites yesterday. If not, make yourself comfortable (we should all be pros at that by now) and watch something today. I kept things weird by watching an episode of the 80s Spider-Man cartoon. It didn’t really hold up, but whatever – even as fluff, it’s still fun fluff. Fun fact: the first few episodes didn’t have the theme song nailed down yet, and the entire show was scored with some poorly-selected, horn-heavy disco grooves. Neat.

National South Dakota Day

It wouldn’t be a day without more food celebrations. This one was technically celebrated on Sunday, but it’s such a flimsy premise – all of these state days were created by National Day Calendar, one of our sources for this project – we’re okay with it being bumped. We don’t know much about the Mount Rushmore State except that Mount Rushmore is in it. Even the state’s alternate title offers no additional information. So let’s see what we can learn.

The state is split by the Missouri River. The east side of the state has the cities and people and fertile growin’ soil, while the west side is full of ranchers. Mount Rushmore is in the west, as are a number of Native reservations. For Beatles fans, the Black Hills are in the west, so that’s where Rocky Raccoon is from. The state contains North America’s “pole of inaccessibility”, meaning the spot furthest from all three coasts. Tornadoes, ice storms and blizzards are part of the South Dakotan experience. The state’s largest city is Sioux Falls, with a population of around 153,000. Pierre, the state’s capital, has a population of about 13,000 people, so roughly about the size of Lacombe, Alberta. That’s the capital.

Can I come up with a good list of cool people from South Dakota? Well I can damn well try. We’ve got January Jones from Helga, Cheryl Ladd from Huron, Mamie Van Doren from Rowena, Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, born in Eureka, Shawn Colvin from Vermillion, Keith Olsen (he produced the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and Foreigner’s Double Vision) born in Sioux Falls, and Tom Brokaw from Webster. That’s it. That’s all I could find, apart from a few sports figures.

We made Lamb Chislic, which is a great little dish of cubed meat fried in oil. It was no prime rib roast, but we had that for lunch leftovers yesterday, so all in all it was a fine gustatory day.

Clean Comedy Day

Possibly because they needed a break from freaking out over which bathroom people were using, the Tennessee legislature passed unanimously a resolution to make April 28, 2015, Clean Comedy Day. This was to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Comedy Barn Theater, which was built with the mission to provide clean comedy an entire family could enjoy. Having been raised by the words of George Carlin and Richard Pryor, I’m not entirely sure I’m on board with this, but sure. Let’s celebrate some clean comedy.

We all – and by “we all” I am referring to us middle-age folks – grew up on clean comedy. Network TV wouldn’t let things get very racy, especially not in the two decades between Archie Bunker and Peter Griffin. When Seinfeld did an episode about masturbation (without daring to utter the word) it was delightfully raunchy. Howard Stern, who built his reputation on shocking through sex talk and perceived obscenity, kept his show almost completely free of obscenities while he was on terrestrial radio, and that was all the way through 2005.

I’d stop short of saying that great comedy shouldn’t need swears or adult themes – there is plenty of brilliant comedy from Carlin, Pryor, Chris Rock, Sam Kinison and others that get their punch from being blue. But then you have Seinfeld, who doesn’t swear in his act. You’ve got Jim Gaffigan, Weird Al, and so many others who find laughs without crossing that line. And the best comics can usually mine material from both sides.

I get not exposing kids to the most egregious of racy material. But for the rest of us, we should find funny wherever it lies, clean or no. To celebrate yesterday we enjoyed some network TV comedy fare and a bit of swear-and-sex-free standup. Because sometimes that’s just how it’s done.

Kiss Your Mate Day

No idea where this came from, but it’s another holiday encouraging you to give a smooch to someone you care about. Or, if you’re British or Australian, I suppose this will allow you to kiss all of your friends. However you want to celebrate it, just respect the quarantine and have fun!

Today the stars point us to an assortment of new and exciting goofery:

  • Denim Day. We have worn nothing but sweatpants on our lower extremities for over a month. Today that will change.
  • National Shrimp Scampi Day. No need to wonder what we’ll be eating for supper.
  • International Zipper Day. This could have involved doing zipper merges on city roads or riding the Zipper at our nearby amusement park, but instead we’ll just play with the zippers on all the clothing in our closet. Weeeeeeee!!!!!
  • Viral Video Day. I guess we’ll drown a few minutes in whatever is trending these days.
  • World Wish Day. The Make-A-Wish people deserve a plug today; they do incredible work.
  • Stop Food Waste Day. We’ll do our best.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The culmination of untold trillions of poor decisions and flukes of nature sees us careening together on this wobbly rock, destined for whatever will be revealed by the next few trillion. Propelled by the flippers of good fortune, bouncing off the bumpers of what the hopeful among us call fate, we steer clear of the gutters and point ourselves toward the multi-ball of magnificence. And so we welcome another Monday, bathed in mirth and steeped in revelry. Does it get better than this?

National Prime Rib Day

As every butcher knows, there are nine “primal” cuts of beef. The rib is the only one that anatomically describes the bovine section from whence it originates, and it is one of the most coveted. It’s better known as a standing rib roast, as the customary way to prepare it is to “stand” it on the bones so that the meat doesn’t touch the pan. We made ours yesterday smothered in rosemary, garlic, onion powder and olive oil, with little chunks of garlic stuffed inside the meat. To say it was phenomenal would be to state the obvious.

This cut is not known as ‘prime’ because it follows the USDA designation of Prime Beef. We don’t even have the USDA up here. It refers to the primal rib section, or the specific portion of the ribcage where the meat comes from. The marbling is always impressive, which means plenty o’ fat to keep the meat tender. Slice off some of the meat from the prime rib (before cooking) and you’ve got a ribeye steak. Both are delicious cuts, but the prime rib has more bones and fat so you might get a bit more flavour from it.

The aim for a rib roast – at least our aim for a rib roast – is to achieve that perfect rare-to-medium-rare level. It’s a delicate procedure, and one that takes some practice. But it’s worth it. That said, if you’re a vegetarian and are thoroughly repulsed by how we began this article, we understand. We make no apologies for our carnivorism, but we certainly get it if you want to skip past this one and get to something a little less murder-ish. Such as:

National Little Pampered Dog Day

This celebration comes to us courtesy of Little Pampered Dog magazine, published by Lourdes and Bella (she’d be the dog) Welhaven. It’s also a podcast and a blog, all dedicated to creating spoiled, entitled dogs. And given all they do for us, shouldn’t they be spoiled and entitled?

Yes, we over-indulge our dogs. We feed them people food (only the stuff we’ve researched to confirm won’t be bad for them of course). They get scritches and belly-rubs whenever they ask. They sleep in our bed – this one is understandably contentious, and it plows through any hopes of a healthy sex life like a semi truck into a fruit stand, but this is how it is. And lately our dogs hardly ever… wait, what was I going to say? I was distracted by Rosa whining at me because she needed attention. I have no idea where I was going with that sentence, because of course I complied. Such is my life, and why most of my greatest writing doesn’t make it to the final draft.

Some people opt for doing their dogs’ nails, taking them to the spa, and various other first-world luxuries that most humans can’t afford for themselves. I get it – dogs are family and most of us owners feel an innate urge to bring them joy as a thank-you for the joy they bring us. I can’t approach this day with a caustic eye and a sarcastic lilt – if you want to pamper your dog with heaps of love, treats, and bountiful outings, I say do it. You will never go wrong bringing joy to your dog.

National Babe Ruth Day

On this day in 1947, Happy Chandler (not a running gag on Friends, but the commissioner of baseball at the time) proclaimed the day to be Babe Ruth Day across the league. Babe had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, and in about 16 months he’d be dead from it. But that day in April was all about celebrating his life – he was the biggest star in baseball’s history at a time when there were no stars from other sports, apart from a handful of Olympians.

The thing about Babe Ruth is that he wasn’t just the best at his game. He was a character unlike anything we have seen in sports in the modern era. Sure, Dennis Rodman might have been more whacko, but the Babe was a consecutive string of legends.

In the 1918 World Series, he pitched 29 and two-thirds consecutive scoreless innings, a Series record which would stand until long after his death. He was the first player to hit home runs in all eight stadiums in his league. Then he was sold to the Yankees, it launched a curse on the Boston Red Sox that lasted into this millennium. It took him two months in New York to set the record for most home runs in a single month (11). He broke it one month later. He broke the record for most career home runs with his 138th in early 1921. He would end up stretching that record to almost 600. He hit the first home run at the new Yankee Stadium in 1923, earning its reputation as the House that Ruth Built.

Of course, the Babe’s most fantastical legends came from off the field. He liked to eat, and there are stories that he had quite the appetite for alcohol as well. In early 1925 he was 260 pounds, and that wasn’t 260 pounds of mighty muscle. Remember, John Goodman played him in a film, back when John Goodman was a very large man. He was hospitalized from eating too many hot dogs and drinking too much soda that year – though it may have actually been from booze. In 1926 he promised to hit a home run for sick little Johnny Sylvester, and followed through. In 1932 he may or may not have pointed at centerfield just before hitting the ball over the fence there. He got into loud altercations with other players, and made headlines on a consistent basis.

The world will never know anyone quite like the Babe, and our diversification of celebrity will likely never elevate a single person to such a level of cultural significance in any given sport. Today was Babe Ruth Day in 1947, and it should be every year.

National Devil Dog Day

A day devoted to the Drake’s Devil Dog, a dessert treat found mostly in the American northeast, and to a lesser extent down the eastern coast. Up here in the western Canadian tundra, we’ve never seen this food. Our closest equivalent would be the Jos Louis, the Ring Ding or the Yodel. Basically we’re talking about a chocolate cake with a white creamy filling. The Devil Dog specifically looks like the non-frozen equivalent of an ice cream sandwich.

The actual birthday of this snack is in June, so why it showed up today we can only speculate. I’m guessing someone was craving one, and decided to create a good excuse to indulge by commemorating an official day. The treats are 94 years old this year, so we can call them one of the most successful and enduring American junk foods on the shelves.

McKee Foods now owns the Drake’s brand, and they’re the ones putting out devil dogs for consumption. They also own the Little Debbie brand, so if you’re looking for some preservative-rich, high-calorie, low-health treats with which to contaminate your innards, these are the folks who will help you out. The Devil Dog is the one to enjoy today – and why not indulge? A lot of people seem to be over-indulging during this lockdown, and this seems as good a way to do it as any. Have one for us, as we can only dream of them.

National Tell a Story Day

Libraries – none of which are presently open in this part of the world – make use of this day for read-out-loud activities for kids, and to encourage people to get lost in the possibilities of telling and hearing stories. Since we’re not able to go read something out loud to strangers’ children at a library, we’ll tell a little story here.

Here’s the story of why I’m hesitant to harass celebrities for their autographs. Once upon a time, let’s say in December of 1985, my parents and I were enjoying lunch at a deli in Las Vegas. Suddenly my parents noticed that Jerry Lewis was sitting just a few tables away. They sent me to get an autograph. To be clear, I had no idea who Jerry Lewis was, except for the bizarre impression of the Nutty Professor Joe Piscopo had done on a prime time special. I got the autograph from a rather put-out star I didn’t know, and my parents escaped the embarrassment.

Skip ahead to 1989. I’m staying in LA with my dad at a great little hotel which was frequented by celebrities. A few months later he’d be there when McCartney would book the entire top floor for his tour. When we were there, the passing star was Natalie Merchant. I love Natalie Merchant’s music now, but I had almost no idea who she was at the time. She was the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, that was all I knew. And I wasn’t even remotely a fan. Still, my dad dragged me to the rooftop pool for a photo op. I remember she turned to me and asked if I knew who she was. I mumbled the name of her band, as clearly I did not, and my dad snapped the awkward pic. Neither of us left the frame feeling particularly good about ourselves.

When I met Ben Folds about 8 years ago, I thanked him for his beautiful music (and it was at a meet-n-greet after a show, not over lunch). When I met filmmaker Kevin Smith I told him I didn’t want an autograph, I only wanted to thank him for inspiring me to do stupid crazy projects like this one. He gave me a warm hug. If you’ve never been hugged by Kevin Smith, you are missing out. I have learned that I want no photos, no scribbles, and nothing to do with celebrities unless I truly appreciate their work and I’m getting the opportunity to tell them so. All these years later, I threw out that Jerry Lewis scribble, tossed the Natalie Merchant photo, and learned my lesson. Jodie even snapped a pic of the hug.

Next I’ll see if Jodie wants to contribute her own story, ideally the one about when a bird fell through the sunroof of her Mini Cooper and scarred her for life. It’s a much better story.

Matanzas Mule Day

Flash back to 1898, 122 years ago today. Well, yesterday. The Spanish-American War was breaking out. Why? I don’t know – we were never taught a thing about it in school, and they have yet to turn it into a riveting film or TV series. The Spanish folks and the American folks didn’t care for one another, let’s leave it at that.

Okay, short version: The USS Maine was blown up in Havana’s harbor, possibly because of the Spanish, possibly not. The US then stepped in as Cuba was fighting for freedom, and they took over a bunch of Spanish assets in the Caribbean. Spain wasn’t happy about this, and a ten-week war broke out, the end result of which was Spanish surrender, and the US acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

One of the first naval maneuvers of the war involved an attack by US ships on the Cuban town of Matanzas. There were explosions sufficient to whet Michael Bay’s appetite, yet there was only one casualty. A mule. A single mule paid the price as thousands of dollars worth of American incendiary devices blew up all over town. So today we celebrate that mule’s memory – probably the most interesting tale to have come from that war. Hopefully the one they turn into a movie.

World Tapir Day

If you’re like me, and I have every reason in the world to assume that you are exactly like me, you have probably never seen a tapir in the flesh, apart from maybe in a zoo. There are four types who wander the wilds of Central and South America, as well as Southeast Asia. They’re related to horses, zebras, donkeys, and yes, probably in a long and convoluted way to the Matanzas Mule.

These creatures are about two meters long, or six feet for those of us who still picture things better that way. They have neat little noses which can move in all directions, making it kind of goofy to watch them eat. Females have one pair of mammary glands, and males have long penises to their body size. How long? That will take more research, which I am more than happy to do. Here you go: 19 inches. Remember, these creatures are about as long as a human male is tall, so 19 inches is an impressive average. The term “hung like a tapir” should really catch on because it is quite a statement.

Moving on. The tapirs have few natural predators, and they have really thick skin on their backs to protect them. They can also scamper along pretty quickly, which makes them really solid adapters to their environment. It should surprise no one then that their primary natural foe is the human, who has hunted them into absolute vulnerability (one species is vulnerable, the other three are endangered) for their meat and their hides. We have also taken over a lot of their environment.

You haven’t seen many show up in movies, though the prehistoric humans in Africa in 2001: A Space Odyssey were seen cavorting with tapirs. There is no evidence that tapirs ever existed in Africa, but let’s cut Kubrick some slack. They added to the ambience of the sequence. They are really cool little critters. Just take a closer look at that snout!

World Design Day

The International Council of Design (yes, there is an International Council or International Association of pretty much everything) has designated this day to be World Design Day. This year’s theme is Be Professional! This means a focus on how those in the business have a responsibility on a global and humanitarian scale. I might have titled it Think Global! or You’re More Important Than You Realize! but that’s just me.

Graphic design surrounds everything we do, whether it be the fonts we prefer (Windsor all the way!), the logos we stare at blankly, the webpages we live on, and the ads we try to avoid paying attention to on those webpages. It’s important to give some love to the quality design out there, and to shun the mediocre efforts with as little of our attention as possible.

The activities for World Design Day are tailored to those in the industry. It wouldn’t make much sense for Jodie and I to discuss aspects of advocacy in design work, or to create a conference on design ethics. So instead we checked out some award-winning designs from last year on this site, and let the professionals figure out their own ethics. Fortunately, graphic design can generally be done from home, so hopefully that industry isn’t getting beaten up too badly right now. Some of this work is mind-meltingly brilliant.

Today our menu is lighter, which is great. That will leave me lots of time to read poetry. Why?

  • National Great Poetry Reading Day. Lots of great poetry out there. We’ll read some.
  • National Blueberry Pie Day. Hopefully we’ll be able to find one of these to devour.
  • National South Dakota Day. We missed this on Sunday. We shan’t miss it again.
  • National Superhero Day. Hopefully one of us will get bitten by a radioactive spider at some point today.
  • Clean Comedy Day. There is such a thing. Hey, have you ever heard the one about the aristocrats?
  • National Kiss Your Mate Day. With pleasure!

Monday, April 27, 2020

To paraphrase a song lyric from Chicago, does anybody really know what day it is? Does anybody really care? Well, we do, as we continue to be welcome and willing slaves to our calendar, without which we would be tracking our sunrises in blurs and the ticking of the clock as a metronome which had lulled us into a hypnotic state some four or five weeks ago. Fortunately things still remain fresh and exciting in these parts. For example:

National Audubon Day

Unfortunately this day did not see us racing without speed limits, like on that German road. Instead this pays tribute to the Audubon Society, a bird study organization that was founded in 1905. John James Audubon, the guy who inspired those ornithologists to come together and found a society in his name, was born on this day in 1785. So happy 235th to John.

John came to America in 1803 as a draft-dodger, hoping to get out of serving in the Napoleonic Wars for France. His dad had hoped John could cash in on the lead boom and make a fortune mining lead for bullets. John had other ideas. He and his wife Lucy sought to document America’s bird population and raise awareness about all the winged creatures most Yanks took for granted. He was a talented painter, and his work became the definitive record of the time. And a rather pretty definitive record it was.

The Audubon Society has fought to ban DDT, they have launched a massive media campaign against whaling, they acknowledge great efforts in conservation, and they were bringing environmental issues to the forefront of conversation long before it became trendy to do so. They have created nature TV specials, and their efforts to protect wildlife and the planet beneath it have been fantastic.

We decided to honour the day with a quick bird-watching trip. We had ventured into our river valley in early January for National Bird Day, accompanied by a seasoned guide who showed us all sorts of aviary winter splendor. Yesterday we were on our own in our own neighbourhood, checking out some of the creatures who were dormant and/or absent a few months ago. It got us out of the house, which was great. Unfortunately we mostly saw pigeons, as our neighbour across the street has been putting out specifically pigeon-friendly food for months. The photo above is an embellishment (we had many dogs with us, and pics were tough to snap).

National Pretzel Day

How we would have loved to bite into a fresh, fluffy bread-ish pretzel, ideally whilst walking through Central Park and intermingling with numerous other people enjoying a day off. But we’re nowhere near Central Park, nowhere near a position to intermingle with strangers, and let’s face it, most of those street pretzels in New York are stale and unpleasant. With the nearby mall kiosks closed, we had to settle for the old standby, the store-bought junk-food pretzel.

Some say the pretzel was invented by European monks. The dough was folded over that way to resemble arms folded in prayer. Some say they were created to symbolize the human sacrifice made to the Celtic goddess Sirona. A far less interesting explanation is that the three sections of the pretzel represent the Holy Trinity. It could just be that the shape allowed them to be conveniently hung up on sticks. I’ll opt for the human sacrifice story, but that’s just because I like my culinary history to be a little blood-soaked.

Pretzels have been around for at least 800 years, and they have been intertwined with Christianity for much of that time. A simple flour-and-water pretzel is acceptable Lent food. The snacks then became associated with Easter. Now they pop up all over popular culture. George W. Bush almost choked on one in 2002. The pretzel became a popular swing dance move in the 1920. The sling bikini, which was popular in the early 90s, was inspired by the pretzel design. And the characters on Seinfeld took their turns pointing out how thirsty pretzels had made them in a couple episodes of the show.

We simply bought and ate some pretzels. It wasn’t a glorious tribute, but pretzels are not flamboyant snacks. The fluffy bread ones can venture into numerous dips, with a variety of toppings adorning their crowns, but the Rold Gold snacks we enjoyed needed no further embellishment. Why mess with a great thing?

Hug An Australian Day

Back to the Roys, those goofy Pennsylvanians who created 80+ holidays from thin (or possibly thick if they were in one of those coal-mining towns) air. Hug an Australian. What a cute idea for a holiday that could easily get you punched in a Brisbane bar if you take it too literally.

Actually, the Aussies have a big reason to celebrate today. This is when they celebrate ANZAC Day, a day we opted not to add to our list here because it would have been potentially hollow and/or disrespectful. ANZAC Day honours the brave folks who have fought for Australia and New Zealand in wars past, and it was no doubt observed with more than one solemn hug exchanged between friends and family members (in quarantine, I assume). So in the end, Australians got their hugs.

We know a few Australians, but had none within reach yesterday. But we send out heaps of hugs to the land down under, as they’re on this wild ride with the rest of us. If you’re lucky enough to be quarantined with an Australian, please give them a hug from us. But maybe ask them first.

National Static Cling Day

Wow, what a treat. A day that was almost certainly made up by one blogger (whose page no longer works properly), in order to create some horrible-looking crafts for kids at home. I wish I could share this with you – the page popped up briefly then crashed every time. The crafts included a balloon coated in crushed-up Styrofoam, so as to resemble a balloon coated in crushed-up Styrofoam, and a series of balloons stuck to the wall in the shape of a frowny face. These are crafts to undertake with your kids once all other options for your quarantine hours have been used up. These are desperation crafts.

The photo I used for this celebration comes from the Wikipedia page for static cling. It works as well as any other I could come up with. We celebrated this day, not by experiencing static cling but by avoiding it. We did laundry. We used dryer sheets. We avoided static cling. We already acknowledged static electricity day back in January (by trying to zap as many of our co-workers as we could – it was fun!), and this day doesn’t leave a lot of options.

Hopefully if you did laundry yesterday you were as successful as we were in avoiding the scourge of cling.

World Pinhole Photography Day

A pinhole camera is a camera without a lens, just a tiny aperture to allow light in. This technology has its roots before the advent of the camera, with early experiments of light poking through a tiny hole to project an image from the other side. This was known as camera obscura, and those experiments go back beyond 500BC. Pinhole projection was a key step in the progress to moving pictures. This isn’t so much a style of photograph but rather a step in the evolution of the form.

If you’ve got an old 35mm camera sitting around – ideally a broken one – you can turn it into a pinhole camera by yanking off the lens and replacing it with a pinhole. Best to use some high-speed film for this, as your control over the final image will be reduced. We used a pinhole mechanism during the last solar eclipse to project images of the obscured sun onto our sidewalk.

The image produced by these cameras are reversed and mirrored. You aren’t going to build a pinhole camera to accurately capture the world around you; it is, however, a valid artistic form. We spent a chunk of yesterday perusing a number of fascinating pinhole photos online, including the above from Peter Wiklund. If you are so inclined (and burdened with an abundance of free time, as many people are nowadays), you can find easy instructions online to build your own pinhole camera. Who knows? You may discover a new art form for skills you didn’t know you had. That would be a downright shimmering silver lining to come out of this spring’s historical weirdness.

Go Diaper Free Week

This is the week to toilet-train your little ones. Ours are in their 20s and have been trained for at least a decade each, so we don’t have to do anything to celebrate. That said, neither of us will wear a diaper for the entire week! Woohoo!

Back at work, and back to more weird celebrations. Note that we missed National South Dakota Day yesterday, mainly due to our accidentally removing the meat from the freezer a bit too late to make it for dinner. It will be celebrated properly on Tuesday. Why not today? Well, for starters:

  • National Prime Rib Day. An absolute must. We got a fantastic-looking roast, some garlic and rosemary, and a couple of hearty appetites for this one.
  • National Babe Ruth Day. Not his birthday, but a commemoration of the day he was honoured at Yankee Stadium. We’ll give some Babe love today.
  • National Devil Dog Day. We don’t have these in stores nearby, so we may have to miss this one. If you can get hold of a devil dog (like a Twinkie but chocolate), eat it!
  • National Tell A Story Day. So many stories. Which ones to tell?
  • National Drug Take Back Day. Remember how we cleaned our medicine cabinet last week? Today is the day for taking expired meds back to the pharmacy.
  • National Little Pampered Dog Day. We have three of these, even if one can no longer fit the definition of ‘little’.
  • Matanzas Mule Day. A what kind of mule? I don’t know. Let’s find out!
  • Morse Code Day. We learned our names in Morse Code on January 11. Today we’ll learn some more.
  • World Tapir Day. Another animal to be praised today.
  • World Design Day. A day to appreciate some of the greatness in graphic design.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Yesterday my fingers strained with each typed letter, having already put in a week’s worth of work, then spending my Saturday ridding our back yard of a winter’s worth of feces. That’s 2.5 dogs’ droppings (Libby joined us in February) over 5.5 months of snow, minus what they deposited at daycare or on our walks. Coupled with the leaves and arbor detritus that gravity pulled down after our last big rake ‘n clean in the fall, it totalled ten large garbage bags from our back yard. Our yard isn’t that big. Those dogs just poop a lot. It left us little time or inclination, but we did celebrate all this:

National Hug A Plumber Day

I almost left this one off the list, but honestly we celebrated it as much as humanly possible. Actually inviting a plumber in – which we really need to do, since our water pressure has inexplicably deteriorated to the point where if a toilet is flushed no other taps will dispense water for 30-45 seconds – was not allowed. Hugging the relative stranger who might have shown up would have been way across the line.

So Jodie hugged me. I am the closest thing our household has to a plumber. I have replaced faucet screens. I have replaced the chains and rubber flap thingies in our toilets. I have poured drain-cleaner down our drains. Jodie has snaked up a bunch of her hair a few times, but I think I’m still ahead. Either way, we hugged each other and that would have to do.

An honest, capable plumber is a treasure. If you know one, do not take him or her for granted. Plumbers have been among the most valued professions for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire. The word ‘plumbum’ is Latin for ‘lead’, so plumbers were the folks who dealt with the lead drainpipes. Back in medieval times anyone who worked with lead was considered a plumber, even if they worked on rooftops or in manufacturing pipes. Actually the profession was known as being a ‘plumbarius’ which sounds more dramatic.

If you live with one, hug your plumbarius. They are worth far more than their weight in gold… or lead.

National Kiss of Hope Day

The purpose of this celebration is pretty clear: tell your loved ones you love them. I mean, I guess that can be difficult for some, but we don’t need to delve into all that – Jodie and I told both our kids we loved them yesterday. We also dug a little deeper and found a more profound meaning for this little chunk of our calendar.

The Kiss of Hope Foundation was founded by Bill Gobin in 2015, and it aims to help out families and individuals in need. We felt that this was a more important way to honour the day, especially given the weirdness of the world right now. I tracked down this page, which lists a bunch of COVID-friendly volunteer opportunities people can take part in. These include driving food to people who need it, grocery shopping for Meals On Wheels, knitting for people, baking for people, or even just reaching out to seniors who are probably going out of their minds with boredom. After all, few seniors are wanting to pass the time in quarantine by playing Grand Theft Auto V or surfing Pornhub all day.

We flagged a few of these for the upcoming weeks. We don’t have quite the free time most folks do right now, given that we’re both still working full time, but we have the resources and the ability to help some folks out. Also, getting out of the house and doing some good might make this lockdown a bit more tolerable. Who else is in?

National Sense of Smell Day

The Sense of Smell Institute, a subsidiary of the Fragrance Foundation, created this holiday. For some reason I keep re-reading that sentence and it just sounds stranger and stranger. But I didn’t make any of it up. The Fragrance Foundation features professional development programs for up-and-comers in the perfume industry. They spread information and awareness about how the industry works, and through a channel that may or may not exist anymore (their site appears to be 404’ed), they created this day.

The aim is to appreciate one’s sense of smell, and to smell stuff that inspires the olfactory in some way. We did a lot of smelling yesterday – as I mentioned, we cleared roughly 30-35 tons of poop from our backyard so there was that. But we also indulged in some great scents.

First there were the doughnuts. We made our Saturday excursion to Destination Doughnuts (an absolutely essential local service) and grabbed a couple for last night’s Saturday Night Live broadcast. Then we went for lattes at Credo – there is almost nothing on the planet with a more intoxicatingly perfect smell than coffee. After that it was a voyage over the river to Da-De-O, our favourite hangout in the city, now open for pickup. We grabbed a couple of po’boys (one pictured above), and the smell of our impending lunch haunted the inside of our vehicle as we cruised through a car wash.

In the evening great smells were also on the menu. I made a tasty dinner of hoisin pork meatballs. We stuffed our noses in some freshly-laundered linen. I downed a growler of Da-De-O’s signature chili-spice lager, brewed by the brilliant local brewsmiths at Alley Kat Brewing. We ate our magnificent doughnuts. I enjoyed a bowl full of Pink and Black Kush. Everything produced an enticing odour, and each of those odours was appreciated.

Especially the doughnuts.

Independent Bookstore Day

That little slice of magnificence, tucked into one of Edmonton’s oldest heritage buildings, is our greatest local bookstore. There used to be two titans of this industry, Audrey’s and Greenwood’s. Unfortunately we lost the latter many years back, but Audrey’s still stands up to the national chains, to the simplicity of online amazonery, and continues to purvey its books in a setting so charming and cozy you’d almost expect Meg Ryan to emerge as the owner.

Upon diving into this portion of the article I see that, according to the official website, Independent Bookstore Day has been postponed to August 29. This is so that the day doesn’t get left behind in COVID fever, which I get. I’ll flag the day in August, and maybe we can celebrate it twice. But Audrey’s is still doing curb-side pick-up, and they will even deliver free within the city for orders over $50.

Neither Jodie nor myself are in need of new books at the moment (she’s big into audio books, and I’ve got a stack of paper ones here that I need to get through), but Audrey’s also sells some gorgeous jigsaw puzzles. Given that we are middle-age, empty-nester homebodies, we obviously enjoy building jigsaw puzzles. So we flagged a couple to pick up on payday next week. Amazon doesn’t need our help. Chapters/Indigo doesn’t need our help. The indie stores, they’re the ones who deserve our support. I don’t like speaking in hashtags, but dammit, #shoplocal.

International Dance Day

Perhaps we should have observed this day prior to undertaking the massive yard project. By 4:30 yesterday we were both taking inventory of the parts of our bodies that didn’t hurt, because that took less time. We both aimed for maximum horizontality after all that work, as much as could be found when we still had to walk dogs, cook dinner, and somehow dance.

We had hoped to take a dance class, or do something outside our comfort zone for this day. This is another UNESCO holiday, created in 1982 to encourage everyone to get their groove on around the planet. There are usually events, festivals, and possibly even those dance-offs like they had back in the 1950s, resulting in bobby-soxers and lettermen-sweater guys passing out from exhaustion. It doesn’t matter – none of that went down this year.

Every year there is a host city chosen for this day. From what I can see on the day’s official site, there was nothing put together at all for this year. No announcement of cancellation, no indication of which city was supposed to host 2020’s events, just a lot of generic info about the organization, about the day, and about previous years’ activities. Oh well, we can dance if we want to. We can leave our friends behind. Because our friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well…

I didn’t get sidetracked down that little road without hats by accident. Last night whilst enjoying my Pink ‘n Black Kush in the garage I did a little jig to the tunes of the Saturday Night Safety Dance show on SiriusXM’s First Wave station. It’s a nightclub-style dance-mix of 80s tunes, and it most certainly included the titular “Safety Dance” from 1982, as well as a lengthy remix of Madness’s “Our House”. It was as much as I could move after over-doing it with the yard work. Perhaps we’ll have more in us on September 19 for National Dance Day. Boogie on.

Bob Wills Day

This day, which is usually spread over a three-day period in Turkey, Texas, has also been bumped to later this year. But since our celebration of this day will essentially be our learning about this day, we’ll just do it now. A trip to Turkey, Texas isn’t any more likely to be in our cards in October than it is now. So who the hell is Bob Wills?

Bob was a master of western swing music. Merle Haggard said he was the best damn fiddle player in the world. Anyone you might love from what we call vintage country (from the era that overlapped with the early era of classic rock) looked up to Bob. Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, etc. These artists kept Bob’s music alive with tributes and by singing his praises. Even Fats Domino built his rhythm section based on Bob’s.

The guy had stage presence. He charmed the crowd. He stretched the borders of the music genre he was helping to create by working with folks like Bessie Smith and Emmett Miller. He added a trumpet and even a saxophone to his band, and brought in some drums to round everything out. Back in the 30s, as Bob was carving out the landscape, this just wasn’t being done in this style. He and his band, the Texas Playboys, also had a film career, years before Sinatra or Elvis would cross that threshold.

When he showed up to play the Grand Ole Opry in 1944, the Opry refused to allow his drummer on the stage. Drums (and horns!) were not considered appropriate for country music. A battle ensued, leading to a compromise that would place Bob’s drummer behind a curtain for the performance. At the last minute, Bob moved the drums in front of the curtain and made his stand. What could the Opry do? He was a star.

The great strides in country music have been fewer and further between than in rock music, as a basic form is still generally at the heart of the genre. But Bob Wills was the Hendrix and Beatles of his time, spewing out hits, and writing, arranging and performing in ways no one else had thought of. With Bob’s birthday in March, I have no idea why this day is celebrated at the end of April. But no time is a bad time for a 3-day celebration of a great artist’s work.

International Marconi Day

Guglielmo (pronounced Googly-Elmo) Marconi turned 146 yesterday. If you aren’t familiar with the name, you should be.

Gugli (as I call him for short) was working on developing a wireless telegraph system back in the 1890s. He tried using light, using electric conduction, even using electromagnetic induction, whatever that is. Then along came Heinrich Hertz and his ‘Hertzian’ waves, better known now as radio waves. By the summer of 1895 he was able to project his radio signals over a half mile, and he believed that was the extent of the technology. Then he started raising up his antenna and grounding his transmitter and receiver. Suddenly he was broadcasting over hills, up to two miles away.

By 1902 Gugli was working aboard ships, recording how well he could hear Morse code signals being broadcast from shore as he got further away. He noticed the signals travelled further at night than during the day. At this point the technology was pushing broadcasts over 1500 miles across open water. In December of that year a transmission from his station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, became the first to cross the Atlantic.

A couple of Marconi’s employees, along with some of his equipment, were aboard the Titanic on its doomed voyage. It was that radio that was able to signal for help; it could safely be argued that every person whose life was saved that night owes it all to our buddy Gugli. He gave us all radio, an invention that has changed the world more than most any other over the last century. And most of it he did in his 20s. Pretty damn impressive.

Happy birthday, Gugli.

National Telephone Day

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared May 12 to be National Telephone Day, and I can’t for the life of me find where or why it was bumped back to April. I looked over the history of the telephone and did find one notable occurrence on an April 25: in 1935 the world saw the first phone call around the world, using wire and radio. I guess that ties us in with Marconi, which is kind of convenient, but that’s probably not it. It will remain a mystery.

In our lifetimes we have seen the phone elevated from clunky wired tech to our new pocket everything. We both grew up with phones bolted to the wall, trailing long coiled cords around corners and across rooms. We marvelled when cordless phones became a thing, walking to the edges of our yards to experience the freedom of no longer being tethered to the wall. Then came caller ID, which was magical. Then call-waiting, which was an exercise in rudeness.

When I worked at Radio Shack in the 90s (shortly after my stint as a submarine captain, as we learned two weeks back), I sold cellular phones. The Motorola flip-phone was the pinnacle of the tech back then. We could not have imagined that in just one decade we’d all be using our phones to replace our cameras, our daily organizers (not that I had one), our video game systems, our PCs, our music systems, our TVs, our encyclopedia sets, etc, etc. We celebrated National Telephone Day yesterday by using our phones (how could we ever not?), and by appreciating just how awesome they are. Happy phone day, everyone.

Can Sunday possibly exceed Saturday? No, I had a lot of great beer yesterday. But we’ve still got all this:

  • National Audubon Day. We’ll go check out some birds once more. No joining a seasoned bird-watcher though. We’re on our own.
  • National Help A Horse Day. We were going to visit horses, but alas that won’t be in the cards. I was hoping we could help one by brushing its hair or rotating its hooves or something.
  • National Pretzel Day. Pretzels!
  • Hug An Australian Day. Lots of hugging days this weekend, which does not align with current COVID restrictions. So virtual hugs to our Aussie friends.
  • National South Dakota Day. Apparently something called lamb chislic is a South Dakota thing. It’s meat on a stick, so we are up for trying it.
  • Alien Day. Not a day for contemplating extra-terrestrials, but literally a day for the movie Alien. If we can find it, we’ll watch it.
  • National Static Cling Day. It’s laundry day, so we will acknowledge static cling and attempt to avoid it.
  • World Pinhole Photography Day. Always good to learn a little about an artform we don’t know very well.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

And as the sun stretched its sinewy limbs into the weekend, we enjoyed a pleasantly light Friday schedule. There was not a lot staring us down from our calendar today – in fact, this was the first day since March 24 when we only had two items listed. Fortunately, a bit more digging gave us some new stuff to add to the revelry. Unfortunately, that included this:

New Kids on the Block Day

This is a day in which you are encouraged to visit any neighbours who are new to your community, and to welcome them in a kind and gregarious way. Bring them a basket of goodies. Let them know they moved into a welcoming place, full of… oh shit no. It’s not about that at all.

On this day 31 years ago, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (led by Michael Dukakis) declared it to be New Kids on the Block Day. The band members all come from Dorchester, so that would be why. They were also tearing up the charts in 1989. I was given a bootleg cassette of Hangin’ Tough at the time, and I listened to it a couple of times. Then, about a week later I discovered the Beatles in a big way and I left all this crap behind.

NKOTB was created by impresario Maurice Starr, who was looking for a white-kid equivalent to his other hit group, New Edition. He recruited Donnie Wahlberg (yeah, the guy in Blue Bloods on CBS), who put the group together. Donnie’s younger brother (Marky) Mark was in the group for a while, but he left right away, possibly due to his stint in prison for a hate-crime. I wish I was making that up.

Look, the New Kids were a phenomenon. There were no boy bands quite like them beforehand, and an entire genre of pop music afterwards. So… good for them. I’m celebrating this day by giving Hangin’ Tough another listen. I’ll be honest, it’s painful. The production slathered onto R&B music in the 80s was excessive, and none of these songs are particularly well-written in any way. But this is the vow we have made, to celebrate all these weird holidays. So I’ll take the bullet for the team and let Jodie continue her nap undisturbed. In short, I’ll hang tough.

National Arbor Day

To be perfectly clear, this is an American holiday. The Canadian equivalent is celebrated on various days in May, since Canadian trees in April are barely awake. That said, I will give praise to Arbor Day and to trees in general today, if only to drown out yet another garbage pop-ballad from the New Kids with the tapping of my keys on the keyboard.

Arbor Day was first birthed in Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1872. Newspaperman J. Sterling Morgan challenged people around the country to plant more trees. The day is still a holiday in Nebraska – like, a real holiday, not one of our arbitrary ones – on the last Friday of April. The day became official in 1972, a century after Mr. and Mrs. Morgan’s bold challenge. On that day, roughly one million new trees were thrown into the soil just in Nebraska.

The Canadian version also stretches back to the 1800s, and we can thank Ontario Premier (then the Minister of Education) Sir George W. Ross for this one. Calgary celebrates theirs on the first Thursday of May, and I’m sure Edmonton does something right around that time as well. I remember we used to get little evergreen saplings in a Styrofoam cup to take home and plant. Every year I’d plant mine, then forget about it until it died. In retrospect, it’s wise I avoided having kids until later. Also, I was like 10.

To commemorate the joys of arbor this year, I present our new little tree above. This one popped up on its own. There used to be a dead tree in this spot when we moved in, and it was yanked down in 2006. A seed must have found the right conditions last year, because this little dude just showed up. We decided to let it grow.

To be accurate, the conversation went something like this. ME: “Hey look, our little tree is getting bigger!” JODIE: “I hate pine trees.” ME: “Then we’ll call this one Hitler and you can hate it all you want.” So, I present to the world, our little Hitler. Ain’t he cute?

Day of Silence

I’ll say it straight away – we weren’t silent. I had two meetings, one by phone and one by webcam, and Jodie had to go into school to work with a colleague. Also, the dogs needed our conversational skills to know how groovy we think they are. We were silent for a portion of the afternoon though. Here’s what this day is about.

This day is actually rather important. Launched by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), this is a day to spread awareness about the bullying and harassment of the LGBTQ community. Students have been encouraged to spend the entire day in silence in order to represent the symbolic silencing of these bullied youth. It was first held at the University of Virginia in 1996, and it spread to over 100 campuses the next year.

There is a section of this day’s Wikipedia page devoted to the opposition this day has faced from various groups, but I’m not giving those assholes any attention. If you have a problem with standing up to LGBTQ bullying, you are literally the problem with society and you should immediately remove yourself from it.

I wonder if LGBTQ youth are having a remarkably easier time this year, what with bullies locked into quarantine, far away from the bullied. Cyberbullying is very much a thing these days of course, and I have no doubt that’s still going on. But maybe this hellish lockdown is a bit of a respite for some. Next year, I hope students jump on board this day. The young generation right now seems to be the most accepting and inclusive bunch of kids we’ve ever seen, but there’s a long way to go. In silent solidarity, everyone with common sense is standing with the LGBTQ community.

National Pigs In A Blanket Day

And from the serious and solemn into something completely different. And it just occurred to me that we almost cheated with this day by using 100% beef hotdogs. We would have been eating cows in a blanket. Not the same.

Fortunately we celebrated the spirit of the day, hog-anus and all, which is pretty much taking wieners, either of the cocktail variety or the more fully-realized full-size ones, and wrapping them in some sort of pastry. Yesterday we went with Pillsbury crescent rolls because we’ve used those a few times in recent celebrations, and they’re always fluffy and fantastic. This was dinner last night, and it was terrific.

In the UK, this dish actually consists of little sausages wrapped in bacon. The Brits use a much more awesome blanket, in other words. Here we call that a whistle-dog (with cheese, of course). Now there’s a food that needs its own day. They also serve their blanketed piggies with roast turkey dinner at Christmas. Very nice.

There are a number of other global varieties of this food. Israelis roll kosher hot dogs in a ketchup-covered sheet of puff pastry. This is inherently wrong however, as it implies that ketchup belongs on hot dogs. In China the ‘lap cheong bao’ is steamed instead of baked. In Denmark they’ve adopted the British version, which they call sausage in a blanket. The American version also shows up, but those are called sausage horns.

These were a fine feast – the crescent rolls are much tastier than a plain ol’ bun. The only down side was that, while we dipped them in mustard, we couldn’t load up the dog with all the fixin’s. That’s alright, it was still a delight. Also, I’m done writing now, so I can stop listening to this garbage 80s boy-band pop, so there’s another celebration right there.

Another wild Saturday to keep us entertained:

  • National Hug A Plumber Day. We don’t live with one, and we’ve still got quarantine rules here. So maybe I’ll do something really minor (plunge the toilet?) and get a hug for it.
  • National Kiss of Hope Day. A day for volunteering. We need to stay away from other people, but we can look into some ways we can volunteer from home.
  • National Sense of Smell Day. We will be appreciating everything we smell, from fresh coffee to beer to our doughnuts to our dog’s farts.
  • National Zucchini Bread Day. We won’t have any of this, as our team baker (hi, Mom!) didn’t want to make it. I can’t stand zucchini so I’m happy to skip this one.
  • Independent Bookstore Day. We will drive by our favourite in town. Can’t browse the shelves though.
  • National Dance Day. We do the dance of joy!
  • World Penguin Day. We were supposed to go visit penguins at our local mall today. Unfortunately (and this REALLY sucks) we can’t do that.
  • Bob Wills Day. We will learn who Bob Wills is, and why he has a day.
  • International Marconi Day. A day to celebrate the man who gave us radio. No, not Dick Clark, the other guy.
  • Eeyore’s Birthday. Happy birthday!
  • National Telephone Day. We’ll enjoy our telephones. Like we do every day, only more so.

Friday, April 24, 2020

The clicking fingernails of time upon the tabletop of these all-too-similar days have the potential to nudge one off that happier-than-thou cliff into utter madness. But what is madness? Is it accepting the new norms as tolerable, even gleeful? Is it raging against science and reason to bring your machine gun (and facemask, just in case) to a protest rally? Or is it celebrating hundreds of holidays, mostly from within the same four walls? Perhaps madness can be found down all three paths. Off we go then!

National Take A Chance Day

Our original notes for how to celebrate this day said “buy a lottery ticket or drink some expired milk”. Clearly even before the lockdown we knew how to live life on the edge of adventure. Unfortunately we had no expired milk laying about, nor did we feel that buying a lottery ticket would be an appropriate risk to take, especially as it would involve walking into a store and interacting with other humans. Instead we opted to take the chance of merely walking outdoors, down sidewalks which may contain pedestrian traffic.

Had I the foresight to scribble that into my notes last year, that would have been impressive. It wasn’t really a dice-roll to walk near other people a few months ago. What else could we do yesterday? Quit our jobs? No, yesterday was about taking a chance, not being a complete dumbass.

There is no origin story on record for this celebration. Just as we’ve been noticing a trend of generic celebrations to make you appreciate humour, or generic celebrations to make you appreciate the little things in life, this appears to be part of the strain of generic celebrations to encourage you to follow your dreams. We appreciate the sentiment, but we are living our dreams: Jodie to be a teacher, and me to work from home and wear sweatpants every single damn day. So instead, we’ll take our chance with COVID – albeit a very controlled and un-chance-y chance.

National Take Our Sons & Daughters To Work Day

Thank you, Gloria Steinem, for creating this little celebration for us. Along with the MS Foundation for Women, Ms. Steinem concocted Take Our Daughters to Work Day in 1993 as a means of empowering young women to get an early chance to experience the monotony and soul-crushing reality of having to work for a living. Ten years later sons were added to the celebration, so finally it seems like men are achieving some equality in our society. Thank goodness.

Seriously though, I was always hoping to do this one with my kids. Not that they’d have had any fun with me. Before working as an office drone in my grey-beige cubicle I was in a call centre environment, so in a different grey-beige cubicle. Jodie worked with students, playing games and being creative. I never stood a chance. Didn’t matter anyway – Edmonton Public Schools was not a big supporter of this day, and it never came up in our kids’ calendars. It really should be a thing for everyone though. Most kids only have a vague idea of what their parents do, or what anyone does in a full shift. They should be exposed to the possibilities of their parents’ careers. Alternately, if you thoroughly hate your job, you should score some pity points with your kid by showing them just how awful your days are.

Since I work from home, there isn’t much to show my kids that they haven’t already seen. Our computer is new, but it’s still a computer. They’re familiar with the technology. So I did a video chat with each kid, and showed them the office anyway. Given that they are both thousands of miles away this was the best we could do. It was great to see them, even just as an excuse to cross this party off the list.

Talk Like Shakespeare Day

What words through yonder article break? This is very midspring madness. Celebrations acquaint a man with strange bedfellows. Shall I tackle this feat? Shall I cry “Celebration!” and let slip the dogs of war?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our mirth-filled events. The course of true revelry never did run smooth. We are two who partied not wisely but too well. If music be the food of celebration, party on. Party on, Garth.

Some are born celebrating, some achieve celebration, and some have celebrations thrust upon them. We are certainly among the third group. Yet we’re stuck inside. Is this the spring of our discontent? No? Methinks me wife doth protest too much. We have seen better days, yet all the world’s a celebration, and all the men and women and dogs merely revelers. They have their pineapple upside down cakes and their glazed spiral-cut ham. And one man in his time plays many parts. For me, that’s usually the cook.

To celebrate or not to celebrate. That is never a question. Beware the Ides of March, as it is also National Pears Helene Day. To thine own calendar be true. A brunch in a restaurant! A brunch in a restaurant! My kingdom for a brunch in a restaurant!

I’d prattle on, but brevity is the soul of wit. And I’m all about the wit.

World Book Day

Once again the good folks at UNESCO want us to obtain a grasp on the important things. For World Book Day – also known as World Book & Copyright Day and International Day of the Book – the aim is to highlight the importance of reading, and ideally to keep kids thoroughly interested in it. It was originally conceived as a way of honouring author Miguel de Cervantes on his birthday, October 7, as well as on his death day, April 23. UNESCO decided to go with the April date, primarily because it’s also the anniversary of the day Shakespeare died.

In fact, the two of them both died in 1616 on April 23, yet Shakespeare died ten days later. Spain was already rocking the Gregorian calendar whereas England was still using the Julian calendar. There’s your weird piece of literary trivia for the day. You’re welcome.

In Spain this day is celebrated by giving the gift of books to children, which ties in with St. George’s Day in the Catalonia region. St. George is the patron saint of that little corner of the planet, so there were multiple reasons for gift-giving yesterday. In Sweden they’ve bumped this day to the 13th on two occasions so that it wouldn’t coincide with Easter. In the UK and Ireland they celebrate this day in March, reserving April 23 as World Book Night, which I assume is when they break out the dirty books. Closer to home, in Kensington, Maryland they celebrate this day with a street festival on the nearest Sunday. Needless to say, don’t call your travel agent for a quick flight to Kensington this year. It ain’t happening.

We are thrilled that we’d taught our kids to be avid readers. Jodie read some of her new novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing yesterday, while I was only able to parse a couple of articles in my Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, thanks to a busy day at work, an evening meeting, and having to write an article partly in Shakespeare-speak. I did manage to sneak in some other reading though:

International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

Of all the days we are celebrating this year, this one might have my favourite name. I’ll break it down for you: the technopeasants are us, the readers of fiction, and also the authors of fiction. Specifically in this case, science fiction. It’s international because this allegedly gets celebrated around the world, and the pixel-stained refers to the literary work being read on a computer screen. To sum up, this is a day for writers to post professional-quality sci-fi stories online for free, and for the rest of us to read them.

Author Jo Walton was talking to a colleague a few years ago, when the colleague started complaining about the ‘webscabs’ who post stuff for free. This democratization of literature is not promising for people who hope to make their living at it. And I should know – the only reason I’m not making a living as a writer is because assholes like me keep putting stuff up online for free. You can check out the day’s official (maybe) website and find a collection of stories, novels, poems and art available for free, all with the retro-joy of surfing a page that looks like it was made ten years before the first International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day in 2007.

This was the goofy little short piece of fiction I started with. It gave me a bit of a laugh. Unfortunately a lot of the other entries in short fiction were no longer online, perhaps because this day was created in 2007 and hasn’t been celebrated (at least not on this particular website) since. Oh well – I still got to read a little free quality prose.

And this celebration still has the coolest name.

National Picnic Day

It’s rather disheartening that National Picnic Day shows up in mid-April. I know, most of the western world is basking in spring’s unfettered glory right now, with flowers blooming and leaves emerging and birds having sex with bees (or however that works), but in Edmonton spring is taking its first infantile breaths. Yesterday would have been a fine day for a picnic, weather-wise, except for the wind. But what really nixed it for us was the grass.

Snow-mould. It’s real, and it’s gross. Almost as gross as the smell after your 5-month-old canine research assistant eats half a pound of butter and throws it up on the carpet beside your desk. Am I getting distracted and off-topic? Hell yes I am. Sorry.

The word picnic first showed up in our language in a 1748 letter from Lord Chesterfield (inventor of the sofa), in which he described an affair involving card-playing and drinking. It was literally just an anglicization of the French word pique-nique, which sounds much cuter. Actually, for the French the picnic was once an act of bold defiance, symbolizing freedom and progress. After the French Revolution, those ornate royal parks were opened to the public, and for the common-folk to dine in one unchallenged was pretty damn cool.

On August 19, 1989, an event known as the Pan-European Picnic sought to change the world. It was held on the border between Austria and Hungary right at a border crossing that was to be opened for 3 hours on that day. Things got a little wilder than the authorities may have expected, as scores of East Germans looking to get to West Germany via Austria poured through the crossing, as well as through a hole in the fence a ways away. It’s estimated 100,000 people made the walk to freedom, and it set into course the crazy events surrounding the fall of the Soviet Empire, including the wild destruction of the Berlin Wall a few months later. It was an amazing time to be alive.

And we can thank the beloved picnic. We avoided the snow-mould and had an in-car picnic instead. No worlds were changed, no classism statements were made, and no one found freedom. But the fries were pretty good.

National English Muffin Day

How much can I really rave about something as dull as an English muffin?

The answer, of course, is a veritable fuck-ton. I love these things. Toast one up and let it ooze beneath the warm current of melting butter and you’ve got a perfect breakfast food. We had considered giving Eggs Benedict another go last night, but I couldn’t wait. I toasted up a couple of ‘shmuffs in the morning and it was heavenly. The thing about the English muffin though, is when it’s not toasted it’s not particularly good. It requires that crunch to be elevated to greatness.

Back in the 1800s muffins (they just call them ‘muffins’ in England) were sold by travelling salesmen who would ring a loud bell, much like how an ice cream truck sends out its cries with a ding. It was a snack bread, eaten in its raw state most likely, given the disappointing lack of electric toasters in the Victorian age. Those salesmen were the ‘Muffin Men’; one of England’s most beloved nursery rhymes is literally about a guy who sold bread door-to-door.

The English muffin, whether topped with butter, jam, bacon, or a full-on stack of breakfast-sandwich innards, is a disc of bountiful breadly bodaciousness. Breakfast rocked yesterday. But you know what was even better?

National Cherry Cheesecake Day

Do we care about the ancient Greek desserts that may have been somewhat similar to the cheesecake? Does it matter that the Roman Empire also boasted something along these lines? Should we examine deeply the 15th century pastries that went by the name ‘cheesecake’ at the time?

No. Fuck all that. We’re here to celebrate the hell out of what cheesecake is today. And not even the global equivalents, which range from the vatrushka in Russia, which is a ring of dough stuffed with quark or cottage cheese, to the Swedish ostkaka, which involves curdled milk and jam. No, let’s look instead at the same dichotomy that divides pizza in America: New York and Chicago.

The Chicagoland cheesecake is baked, firm on the outside and fluffy inside. The crust is made from shortbread. The New York style uses heavy cream or sour cream, and ends up more dense and creamy. We try to grab a couple slices of real New York cheesecake whenever we visit – at Junior’s near Times Square the last couple times, but before that it was a pilgrimage to Lindy’s on 7th Avenue. The slices were massive and nearly unconquerable. And damn they were perfect.

Jodie was going to make her own yesterday, but one of her favourite former students (Myles, who is now a superstar baker at the competitive level) baked one of his own earlier in the week. Jodie reacted to his photos with awe, and he offered to create this masterpiece for us. Cheesecake is at its best – in my humble opinion – with cherries on top, but if the cheesecake is great your preferences may vary.

Last night was astounding. Best cheesecake we have had north of NYC. We are so glad this day exists.

Today we won’t be burdened by too much. A pleasantly light day:

  • National Arbor Day. We’ll give some love to some of the trees in the ‘hood.
  • National Pigs In A Blanket Day. A delightfully unhealthy dinner to remind us that our next insane project had better be a health-positive one.
  • New Kids On The Block Day. Yes, this day is actually a day to celebrate the 80s/90s boy band.
  • National Day of Silence. Actually a peaceful protest, but if we’re silent will anyone know? If an office drone speaks and no one hears him, does he make a sound? Do the dogs count? Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

So if lockdown persists into the manic summer months, and culture itself skids to a temporary pause, what will be the soundtrack of our warm months this year? What melodies will be reverberating off our walls, keeping our minds tapping in rhythm instead of spiralling into madness? Or while spiralling into madness if that’s more your path? I say let’s make 2020 the year we all crank up the Monkees once again. Why not? We’re already in scriptless crazy-land, we may as well hop aboard the last train to Clarksville and have some fun. On another note, here’s what we had to rock out to yesterday:

National Administrative Professionals Day / Administrative Professionals Week

This day carries with it the heft of history. The National Secretaries Association was put together 1942 to shine a spotlight on the profession, and to attract more people to it. World War II was presenting more urgent need for workers in non-secretary jobs like uniform-sewing, bullet-stuffing, and fedora-repair, so a group of executives, secretaries, and the president of the Dictaphone Corporation pitched in to make it happen.

This event first launched in June, 1952 as National Secretaries Week. Three years later it was moved to the end of April, perhaps so it didn’t interfere with Bed Bug Awareness Week festivities. It’s still a full week to celebrate these hard workers, but yesterday was the day bosses should be showering their admin professionals with gifts, flowers, free food, unlimited cocaine, circus peanuts, whatever traditions your office may follow. In 2000 the ‘Secretaries’ part was changed to Administrative Professionals, because that was the thing to do back then.

At our office, the term ‘administrative professionals’ refers to those who do secretarial work, plus front-line citizen-conversing and a number of office-ish jobs. Every year they get taken out for lunch, and every year a couple of them make a strong effort to enjoy that as much as possible by ordering appetizers, drinks and desserts. This year I’m afraid they may have been ignored, given that few of them are seeing the inside of our office. Jodie’s school receptionist is still reporting in every day though, and yesterday Jodie whipped a bouquet of flowers over to her as a thank-you for making her school continue to tick on a daily basis.

Appreciate the front-line and admin folks – without them it would be an ugly, disorganized chaos.

Earth Day

On the one hand, people may be forsaking Earth Day as a low priority this year. I get that. Obviously any major gathering or event is going to be cancelled, as the cross-over between gun-toting protestors who want to end the shut-down and folks who care about the environment is shockingly small. But let’s look at the sunny side of all this.

Earth Day has been a thing since 1970, which marks this as the big 50th anniversary since Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed an environmental ‘teach-in’ to mark the first Earth Day. It went international twenty years later, and I’m pretty sure that in the 50 year history of Earth Day, we have never seen such low levels of pollution on the planet. Sure, it’s because most of us are inside, away from our cars and away from our factories. But if we’re looking for a shiny silver lining, there it is. The planet is getting a lovely slow exhale from all the strain we put her through. That’s a great thing.

In 2016 on Earth Day 195 nations signed the Paris Agreement with the aim of hitting the brakes on climate change, which – despite the grumblings of your crochety old uncle at Thanksgiving – actually exists. The official Earth Day website,, has a massive list of things that were happening yesterday, including online seminars, streaming songs written for Earth Day, and some in-person workshops that will hopefully get another shot next year.

We did a small amount of yard clean-up yesterday, just to make our little corner of the earth a little more tidy. It wasn’t a great stride for environmental elevation, but it’s all we can do right now. Happy day, little planet. Enjoy your deep, cleansing breaths now, because we’ll get back to polluting the shit out of you again before you know it.

National Beagle Day

The beagle is, according to people who know better than I, an intelligent breed. Just look at little Bentley up there, working from home, being just as productive as when he’s in the office.

The history of the beagle stretches back to William the Conqueror, who brought the Talbot hound to Britain in the 11th century. For a long time the word ‘beagle’ was used to refer to any smaller offshoot of the hound family. Edward II and Henry VII kept Glove Beagles, which were small enough to fit on a glove. Elizabeth I had a Pocket Beagle, which would have been no more than 9 inches high. It’s believed the modern beagle breed got its start courtesy of Reverend Phillip Honeywood in Essex back in the 1830s.

The breed nearly went extinct a half-century later. In 1887 there were only 18 packs of beagles in all of England. Not long after that scare they became incredibly popular, especially in North America. This was no doubt helped by Snoopy, who has become the most famous beagle on the planet. Their legacy is ultimately a blend of how damn cute they are and their incredible skills. Beagles have some of the best noses in the puppy game. Their ability to track a trail along the ground is amazing. They are friendly, gentle, great with kids, but very single-minded and stubborn which makes them hard to train. Given our experience with bulldogs, we can relate.

Unfortunately, beagles are also the breed of dog most commonly roped into product testing by unscrupulous and soulless corporations. That is not why they were put on this planet. They can sniff out explosives, track down termites, they were bred to be assistants in hunting, and they are ideal for pet therapy. Happy Beagle Day to those of you fortunate enough to have one in your lives.

National Jelly Bean Day

We have been looking forward to this one. On our Saturday supply run last weekend, we had planned to grab a hearty bag of assorted Jelly Bellies and devour as many as we could last night. Then we discovered Carole’s Sweets was still open and we asked if they have anything better. We were sold the ones above which look like little rocks. There isn’t quite the variety of flavours, but black licorice, cherry cola, cinnamon, pineapple and mint are fine when they are this good. Thick, and full of flavour, these are the best jelly beans we’ve ever tasted. We are lucky our self-control allowed them to last all the way to yesterday.

The history of the jelly bean, which may or may not be 100% true, states that William Schrafft, a Boston candy-maker, used to send jelly beans to front-line soldiers who were fighting for the Union in the Civil War. In the 1930s the candy beans became linked with Easter due to their sort-of egg-shape, and because they made for great fillings inside baskets or little toy eggs.

The term ‘jellybean’ took on a new colloquial meaning in the 1910s. A jellybean was a dude who dressed really well, but didn’t appear to have much else to offer to the world. This weird alternative meaning lasted for a few decades, then eventually fell out of fashion. These were the same guys who would have been called ‘fops’ or ‘dandies’ a few years earlier. I suppose now we’d just call them douchebags.

Jellybeans were in the news in the early 60s thanks to Beatle George Harrison. He foolishly mentioned in an interview that he loved the snack, and for months afterwards fans would hurl jellybeans at the stage when the Beatles played. I suppose these fans – who may or may not have been operating at full brain capacity at the moment – felt George would scoop up all the floor-beans and drop them into his pocket for a snack, later returning to track down the fans who threw them and pledge to them his undying love. I’m pretty positive that never happened. I’m also pretty sure it would have been incredibly difficult to play guitar and sing while getting thwacked with a hundred jelly beans to the face.

We threw none and ate a bunch yesterday. It was a great sweet celebration.

Today we ramp up again, with a heap of weird and interesting celebrations to help this Thursday go by.

  • National Cherry Cheesecake Day. We will eventually allow some of these dessert-oriented celebrations pass us by. But we ain’t gonna start with this one.
  • National Picnic Day. Our back yard is still quite full of poop and our front is full of snow-mold. Not sure if we will be picnicking today.
  • National Take A Chance Day. Crank up the ABBA and take a risk!
  • National Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day. I’m thinking a Facetime call will count, given that our son and daughter are both thousands of miles away.
  • Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Forsooth. And stuff.
  • National Poem In Your Pocket Day. Or are we just happy to see you?
  • Canada Book Day. We will read a Canada book.
  • International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. A day for reading some top-quality science fiction online.
  • National English Muffin Day. Maybe we’ll try Eggs Benedict again?
  • International Nose Picking Day. Good, a day to celebrate the important stuff in life.
  • Movie Theatre Day. Well this is just cruel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Through a porthole of bliss we saw this year unfolding like a comically clumsy ballerina, harnessing gravity and fortuitous lurches of momentum to produce a display of unwitting hilarity. Reality, as it often does, splashed its chilled hydration in our faces and fired at us a curveball that could encircle the sun. With vibrations of agonized tension reverberating around the globe we opt to maintain our course rather than silence ourselves out of respect or solemnity. Our beloved Folk Fest, which was to be four key days in the glut of all our celebratory madness, was officially nixed yesterday. We may be one of the only shows left in town, but I’m afraid ours must go on.

National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day

A day we were set to flush, as this is not a snack that has yet been adopted by the candy industry to be a marketable variety of Glosettes or M&Ms. The cashew is a pricier and more coveted member of the nut family (a seed, specifically, but aren’t we growing weary of these semantics?), so incorporating it into a mass-produced candy has proven problematic. So our best option was to recreate the peanut clusters we had made for National Peanut Cluster Day on March 8, but with cashews instead. Given that those clusters were among the most addictive treats we’d made so far this year, I was on board.

Then last weekend we swung by Carol’s Sweets, the greatest candy shop in town and one we weren’t certain would be considered a business essential enough to remain open. Fortunately they are doing curb-side pickups from orders on their website, and also for people who swing by. They make their own chocolate in-house, and we opted for two chocolate-cashew clusters of milk chocolate and two of dark. Why make something passable with store-bought ingredients when a local artisan already makes a masterpiece?

We had a movie date last night. Metro Cinema, which shows vintage movies as well as local films and major arthouse releases, is running home screenings during quarantine, with actual start times so it feels like a real date. We finally caught Parasite, last year’s Best Picture winner, and along with the film we devoured these chocolate covered cashews. They were outstanding, far better than anything we could have made. There is no shortage of sweet treats on the menu this year. Not great for our waistlines, but awesome for enjoying our days. Apologies for the mediocre photo – it’s hard to take a proper picture when you need to pay attention and read subtitles.

National Library Workers Day / National Library Week

In scanning through my Facebook friends list, I realized I have zero lawyers, no doctors, not a single professional mechanic, yet three people who work in libraries – none of whom know one another. To some this may feel unfortunate, and certainly I see the benefits of having on call someone we could ask about that noise our car is making, why it hurts when we move our arms like this, or whether we need to worry about being sued for saying mean things online about the jagoffs we encounter in our lives. But as someone who incorporates a good chunk of research into their lives, our library worker friends have been tremendous resources.

Library workers do more than scan books as they fly in and out of the building, or order the shelves so that the Dewey Decimal digits are in sequence. Library workers are the gatekeepers to the planet’s collective knowledge. We may take them for granted with such powerful search tools at our fingertips, but not everything is going to pop up on the front page of Google. In researching the history of a long-abandoned Nevada town for a story last year, library workers here and in the US sent me piles of information about train schedules, presidential tours and local historical information I could have never found otherwise. They sent me more than I’d asked for, and they sent it for free.

But wait, said I, ever the cynic. Why did they do all this for a complete stranger without expecting a tip? Were they expecting a tip? Should I have tipped them? Now I feel bad.

No, library workers get paid to do just this. They catalog and safeguard all of our knowledge, and when someone comes hunting they uncover what they can and provide it. They are the keepers of truth and fact, the custodians of our very civilization. And right now they are all either laid off or sitting at home, awaiting their return to those shelves of precious tomes. Our hearts and love go out to library workers everywhere – may you never be taken for granted, and may you be back among the wisdom and words of the ages again soon.

National Tea Day

More globally beloved than coffee, and more often consumed even than beer, tea is a celebration that should be stretched over a longer time than one mere day. Actually, January is National Hot Tea Month, and we did acknowledge that, so… so, good for us, I guess. Yesterday we both enjoyed the Jasmine Pearls tea from David’s Tea – that one is Jodie’s favourite right now. She drinks tea almost every day, so I deferred to her expertise.

Tea is, as everyone knows, a Chinese creation. But tea has become so completely intertwined with the culture of India, of England, and of so many nations, it is truly the most global drink we have, apart from water. The rest of the world first clued in when some Portuguese priests sampled some in China in the 1500s. Over the ensuing decades it spread to Europe, then to the colonies across the Atlantic. It has never gone out of style in all that time, probably because it is one of the world’s truly perfect drinks. And if a certain tea doesn’t toast your spirit, you can almost certainly find a different one that will.

Black tea is more oxidized and generally stronger than most teas. Black teas, which include Darjeeling, Ceylon, Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Masala chai, account for about 90% of the teas sold in the western world, and they generally have a good caffeine kick to them. Green trees aren’t as withered or oxidized, and they have been the most popular teas in China for the last 1000 years. Oolong teas have been withered by the sun, and a lot of care has been taken to the timing and temperature in the processing stage. These teas are huge in southern China and Taiwan.

Some folks prefer their teas to be iced, and that’s groovy too. We’ll reserve our praise for this style of tea until June 10, on National Iced Tea Day. Just know that our snobbery will arise insomuch as we aren’t fans of Nestea and other processed ‘sweet teas’. Brew your tea and pour it over ice, and if that flavour isn’t enough for you, find better tea.

Tea is life. Tea is magnificence. Praise be to yummy tea.

Big Word Day

This is a day for people to use the largest words they can easily stuff into a sentence. Why? In order to impress people. Because who isn’t impressed by a person who injects a large word into an obviously forced situation, thus proving that they memorized this word solely for use in this specific conversation they have orchestrated? I mean, I wouldn’t make fun of someone who was suffering from pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism if they were to use the word antidisestablishmentarianism casually, but then I’m not a monster.

Long words are not, as a rule, very impressive. The medical condition I cited above is built from a number of root words, and effectively describes the specific condition it aims to – that makes sense. It’s actually the longest non-contrived word in the Oxford English dictionary. Non-contrived – that’s the real catch here. Authors and playwrights and personages of varying degrees of wit and savvy have created a bunch of ludicrously long words over the ages, but just for the sake of creating a long word. There’s no real purpose for it.

If you dig into medical journals the words can get a little longer. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is a lung disease you might get from inhaling tiny silica particles from a volcano. Again – a very descriptive word, and Microsoft Word even lets it slide without a red squiggly underline. Then you’ve got James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, which contains nine 100-letter words and a 101-letter word. I’m going on record to say those don’t count. Neither does supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – it’s a goofy made-up word with no earthly meaning. Then you’ve got the chemical name for titin, the largest known protein. That word clocks in at 188,819 letters. There is dispute over whether this name is real or not – I don’t care, I’m not including it here.

Let’s land on a 2009 computer study that read over a million samples of English prose and pointed out the longest word we are likely to encounter in the wild on a daily basis is uncharacteristically, which is a healthy 20 letters long. Any longer than that and you’re just showing off.

Keep Off The Grass Day

The source for this day appears to be someone named Jace Shoemaker-Galloway, who calls herself the Queen of Holidays. Perhaps Ms. Shoemaker-Galloway should meet us before she gets too comfy in that particular crown. So what does this particular day mean? Well, like most flimsy parties in this year of never-ending mirth and merriment, it can mean what you want it to. Great.

Actually, this day is cleverly situated between the day when pot smokers celebrate their favourite pastime and Earth Day, so you can consider this to be a bridge between the two definitions of grass: the one no one under 60 uses anymore and the one attached by its roots to our planet. That’s kind of cute.

To celebrate this vague and uncertain day we avoided stepping on any grass. Most of the grass – as you can by our decrepit front lawn pictured above – is blanketed by snow mold right now, giving many of us terrible allergic symptoms that are undoubtedly causing COVID-panic in a lot of homes. This stuff is grotesque, and I’m happy to stay the hell off our grass until we get a good rain to wash this away. As for the other form of ‘grass’ – that stuff is medicine so skipping it is a big no from us. You may choose to celebrate however you wish.

Tuna Rights Day

Apparently Charlie the Tuna once jammed with Mr. Meseeks?

I… I’m going to include this, but I’m thinking it’s mostly bullshit. First of all, who is fighting for Tuna Rights? Tuna is one of the most widely caught and shamelessly devoured fish in the ocean. If it has rights and those rights include being yanked out of their habitat, left to die on the deck of a boat, getting cleaned and gutted then diced up and crammed into a can that gets shipped to your local supermarket, what the hell good are those rights? Are tuna fishermen supposed to grant each fish one phone call?

There is no verifiably solid source for this day, yet the UN does have a Tuna Day coming up on May 2. That day acknowledges the importance tuna plays in our global diet, and that makes more sense to me than searching for their ‘rights’.

But, for the sake of including this day on our heavily-stacked menu, I’ll give it a whirl. Tuna are not at all endangered, but there are multiple global commissions which push for their conservation, including the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, the Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. As abundantly as these fish are plucked out and served up, the fishing process still needs to be monitored. Bluefins, for example, have been severely overfished, as has yellowfin and albacore.

These aren’t the rights of the fish themselves, but rather of those who make a legitimate living off the industry. And of those who enjoy the results of that industry, which is a large percentage of the humans on this planet. So here’s to tuna rights, however it may be interpreted. And as for the tuna themselves, we’ll check in with them in a couple weeks when the UN tells us to.

World Creativity and Innovation Day

We’re back in UNESCO territory for this one, raising awareness of how innovation and creativity have spurned humanity to great things. The theme of this year’s celebration is appreciating that innovation is necessary to harness a nation’s economic potential. That’s mildly amusing, given that this theme was likely conceived before the COVID fiasco. Nations, corporations, small businesses and independent contractors are all going to have to pull a little innovation out of their pockets in order to get through the next few months or years.

UNICEF shared a video showing how innovation has helped out disabled Rohingya refugee children in being able to access toilet facilities. One unfortunate side-effect of this virus is that with a lot of industrialized nations facing struggles in the coming times, focus may be pulled away from work being done in developing nations.

The UN posted its top five picks for world-changing ideas for this day. First they give praise to the tiny house. Homelessness is a huge problem worldwide, and these are affordable. Next they focus on the ‘dhow’, a sailing boat made entirely from recycled flipflops. A good use of 30,000 unwanted flipflops, and it’s pretty to look at too. Then there’s wardrobe recycling: polyester made from recycled bottles. Clever – probably not overly comfy – but clever. Next we have an innovative use of drone technology, to deliver vaccines over long distances to remote locations. Much nicer than using drones to bomb places. Lastly there’s an online portal that allows people to check out how land is being used all over the earth’s surface.

To those who create and innovate to improve the planet, thank you. That doesn’t mean as much as the UN’s thank you, but it’s the best we’ve got.

National Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day

I mean… aren’t they though? Here are a few photos we’ve taken over the years of our beloved beasts. We’ve had at least one bulldog in our lives and in our hearts since the summer of 2003. They’re just so damn beautiful.

A relatively light day today, which will give us more time to look at bulldog pictures.

  • National Administrative Professionals Day. Usually our office takes the admin staff out for lunch on this day. They’ll have to settle for some kindly emails, I guess.
  • National Earth Day. A planet-wide celebration of the planet our species seems determined to destroy.
  • National Jelly Bean Day. We have the greatest jelly beans we’ve ever tasted to celebrate today. Hell yeah.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Yesterday Jodie went into work whilst I enjoyed a ‘flex day’. During normal-world times, that means a welcome day of rest every four weeks after putting in a few extra minutes every other work day. Yesterday I spent much of the day sitting at the same desk in the same office as I’m at today. Only I was playing games and getting buzzed instead of the normal workday, when I don’t play games. My bosses don’t read these articles, right? Right. Here’s how we partied yesterday:


Jodie posed an interesting question: does 4/20 really matter now that it’s legal here? There’s no need to protest in the streets (also, it would be frowned upon this year), and there’s no fight left to fight, unless people are that insistent on raising the amount we’re legally allowed to possess. I countered with the notion that 4/20 can now stand as Cannabis Appreciation Day, given that no such day appears elsewhere on our calendar. We spend numerous days toasting various beers, wines and spirits, why not our herbal friend?

4:20 began as a code among five students at San Rafael High School in 1971. They had stashed a crop of quality bud somewhere, and came up with the code “4:20 Pasteur”, meaning they should meet at 4:20 at the statue of Louis Pasteur on the school grounds to go out hunting for their lost plants. After several tries, they gave up – stoners weren’t known for diligent record-keeping back then. So “4:20” came to refer to the meet-ups, during which they’d smoke whatever they had. One of those five students grew up to become a roadie for Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead (of course), and the expression began to circulate among Deadheads, eventually getting picked up by High Times magazine as an optimal time to begin smoking on any given day. A legend was born.

April 20 – Hitler’s birthday, but we can let that slide – came to be a recognized day for gathering to protest marijuana prohibition in cities all around the world. Road signs that had ‘420’ on them were stolen. Senate bill 420 in the California legislature pushed to legalize the stuff in 2003. 420 has become a part of the language, and I’m sure it escaped no stoners’ minds that yesterday was 4/20 in the month of 4/20.

Still, there was no need for protest here. For some ridiculous reason, America has not turned on to the realization that marijuana is not a dangerous drug. This makes no sense, yet there they are, and Canada is ahead of the curve. We celebrated yesterday, Jodie by taking her half-cookie before bed as usual, and since I had the day off, I partook in a fun-filled, cannabis-soaked day, playing video games on my computer and enjoying the quiet. How perfect it was to have 4/20 arrive during a time when we’re all expected to sit at home on our asses, eating.

National Cheddar Fries Day

There was really no digging into the history of cheddar fries for today’s article. As soon as fries were invented (there’s evidence they go at least as far back as Thomas Jefferson enjoying some at the White House in 1802), I’m sure someone thought to throw cheese on top. The evolution to substituting cheese curds and adding gravy for poutine magic would come later. But plain ol’ cheddar fries? That’ just common sense.

We contemplated which form of fry to use for this. There is significant debate (even within our family) over the best type of fry in the bunch. Potato wedges are at the bottom of the list, unless they have been seasoned brilliantly. Sweet potato fries are often unpleasant, though when done right they can be otherworldly. Steak fries, thick cut and fried until super-crispy the way Red Robin used to do them, is Colton’s pick for accompanying fish ‘n chips. Regular-cut fries are his pick for burgers, though they are a fine standard for any plate in my mind. Abbey is all about the shoestrings, and Colton agrees they work best if you’re making steak frites. Can’t argue with that. Waffle fries can be exquisite if done right, but they get a bit heavy when their temperature cools. Curly fries and smiley-fries  are Abbey’s #2 and #3 picks, but they are a little too cute for us. We opted for the crinkle-cut, since the folds of the fry hold the cheese nicely, and they also work great if you’re scooping up ketchup.

There are a number of ways to churn out cheddar fries. Adding bacon is a good plan, if you’ve got some cooked up and cut into bits. Green onions make sense. Jodie suggested salsa and sour cream for an interesting potato-nacho experience. I was fine with just cheddar and fry – a great food celebration to land on this sacred day (see previous entry).

National Lima Bean Respect Day

We respect the mighty lima bean. We respect it so much, we opted not to desecrate any yesterday by eating them. We had green beans in our leftover North Dakota casserole, and lima beans do not strike us as an optimal side dish to accompany cheddar fries. In fact, Jodie can’t stand them.

Let’s face it, an uncooked lima bean is like biting into a rejected sawdust-flavoured Jelly Belly, with the matching texture to boot. Cook them properly and they can be creamier and much more palatable, but still, Jodie made a solid face of disgust at the thought. So we twisted the meaning of the holiday so we could show respect by not eating them. If this was created by the lima bean industry (and why would anyone else have created it?), then they messed up when they gave us the loophole in the celebration’s name.

Lima beans were discovered in Peru, which really begs the question of why we don’t pronounce their name with a hard E, like the name of that nation’s capital. The mighty lima bean does deserve our respect, however, for being a savvy foe. Their main predators are spider mites (the little fuckers). In order to keep them away, lima beans produce an extrafloral nectar that attracts the carnivorous Phytoseiulus persimilis mite, which munches on the nectar and not the bean itself, and also eats spider mites, so those bastards stay away. Lima beans can also produce hydrogen cyanide on its leaves to keep predators away. It’s a clever little bean.

So we fire off a bold salute to the lima bean for being a hearty plant with a great strategic defense mechanism. One of us hates eating them and the other is wholly indifferent though, so kudos, lil’ beans – you will survive our mastication on this, your most precious day.

National Lookalike Day

Neither of us have ever been told we look a lot like any particular celebrity, at least until recently when a friend commented that I resemble Marc Maron. I don’t see it, but as a fellow cantankerous Jew, I’ll take it as a compliment. Every so often someone says they saw a person who looks just like me, which means I either have “one of those faces”, or to some people all chubby white Jews look the same. Again, I’ll take it as a compliment, even though I’m pretty sure there’s nothing complimentary in there.

I found a few sites that claimed they could pair us with strangers who look similar to us. I was skeptical, but uploaded a picture of both of us to, a site which asked me more than once as I registered if I was a member of the Mormon Church. Not sure why. Perhaps I should have said yes, as both our pictures registered a big ol’ goose-egg on that site. Apparently no one who has used the site looks remotely like either of us. Either that, or only Mormons get matches with them. Whatever.

Then I headed over to My picture seemed to match up with every guy who has a beard, even if their skin tone is 60 or 70 shades darker than mine. The guy on the left below clocked in as my #1 match, at 82%. I don’t see it. Jodie was less successful. The person on the right was her top match, at 69%.

I’ve heard it said we all have a doppelganger out there somewhere. Clearly ours have not tried celebrating this day yet by using either of these sites. The hunt continues.

Chinese Language Day

Once again we tap into the United Nations’ reserve of celebrations, and I swear, they celebrate as often as we do. In yesterday’s article I praised both Chinese languages for their interesting inflections and gorgeous written styles. Turns out there are many more official dialects in China. April 20 was selected as the day to honour Chinese Language out of respect for Cangije, a mythical figure who apparently invented the Chinese written characters about 5,000 years ago. April 20 is when Chinese people celebrate Guyu, a chunk of their year in which they honour Cangije.

Legend has it that when Cangije created the Chinese characters, the deities and ghosts cried, and it rained millet. Why millet? Who knows? In northern China, Mandarin rules supreme. In central China you get into Wu, Gan and Xiang. Down south you’ll hear more Hakka, Yue and Min. The differences between all of these dialects can range from subtle inflection to substantially alternative approaches. Having no time to learn all those differences, we were left with one question: how to celebrate?

Since language can come across most eloquently in song, a musical approach seemed to be best. I tracked down this Youtube playlist, which features numerous popular songs sung in Chinese. The version of “Hotel California” sung around a dinner table by a dude with a guitar was great. The cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was hauntingly beautiful. The three people singing “I Want It That Way” did a great job nailing the harmonies in the chorus. The ‘Cheatles’ (Chinese Beatles) covering “Let It Be” was interesting, especially since part of the video was shot on a rooftop. At least until the white guy started singing in Chinese. It got a little weird at that point. Once we got to the Chinese Elvis impersonator singing “Don’t Be Cruel” in a realistic Elvis voice, we realized we’d gone far enough.

National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day

This is a very specific day. But, our team baker (hiya, Mom!) did an amazing job putting this together. This was dessert last night, and will probably be dessert for the rest of the week, at least until Chocolate-Covered Cashew Day (today), Jelly Bean Day (Wednesday), and Cherry Cheesecake Day (Thursday). Damn, we are going to need to up the exercise regimen.

An upside-down cake is a cake baked in a pan with all the toppings at the bottom. Then, after you remove the pan from the oven you slap it down onto a plate so that the toppings are beautifully displayed on the top. This results in the toppings being baked onto the cake, rather than simply resting atop it. The flavours seep into the batter, and it makes for a very satisfying 4/20 munchie appeaser.

The pineapple upside down cake, made with pineapple and maraschino cherries, is a truly American concoction. It was sweet and pretty tasty. Nothing exceptional or life-altering, but a nice little cake.

We have plans to have a movie date tonight, so a manageable roster of celebrations is much appreciated.

  • National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day. We will be popping up some corn for the movie, but that should be followed by something sweet. This will do nicely.
  • National Library Workers Day. Some of our favourite people happen to work at libraries, so rather than visit them (which we are not allowed to do) we will sing their praises as the guardians of the world’s knowledge.
  • National Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day. And they are. We will observe this all day long.
  • National Tea Day. Jodie is thrilled about this one. Glorious tea, second only to water in the world’s thirst-hearts, finally gets its day.
  • Big Word Day. We’ll throw down some of our favourite big words and sound all smart-like ‘n stuff.
  • Keep Off The Grass Day. Anyone else think it’s kind of funny this shows up a day after 4/20?
  • Tuna Rights Day. Sorry, Charlie. Your rights are quite limited on this planet.
  • World Creativity and Innovation Day. Today we will create, and help others to do the same.