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.

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