Sunday, May 3, 2020

With golf courses set to re-open next week, one may inquire whether we’ll be participating in National Golf Day. Well, the day’s official celebrations have been postponed in Washington DC so I suppose we’re off the proverbial hook, however you want to slice it (pun not only intended, but poorly forced). No, we shan’t be deviating from our routine. We don’t have to: we work from home, we make a supply run or two on the weekend, and we celebrate in a socially-distanced fashion. This is our reality for now, and we’ll let the aspiring Arnold Palmers and such go do their thing in peace. We’ve got all this fun to take care of:

National Fitness Day

Anyone who has been following this project over the past four months (both of you) has probably come to the same conclusion as we have: this is an exercise in absolute gluttony. Every dessert, every junk food, every high-fat, high-carb, high-indulgence food has its day, and we have been diving into most of them mouth-first. A few – and I mean a very few – of these celebrations have actually promoted positive healthy choices. Unfortunately, today we landed upon one of them.

I joke, of course. We are not averse to fitness, we simply forsake it for other hobbies, such as eating doughnuts and watching Brooklyn 9-9. It doesn’t make us bad people, but it does help to make us overweight and out-of-shape people who find themselves enduring three days of painful suffering after, say, 2-3 hours of yard work on the weekend. We hope to remedy this next year, once this period of gluttony comes to an end. In fact, it may factor in to a follow-up project in which we try to physically recover from 2020.

National Fitness Day is partnered with Athleta, a sportswear company, and its intent is to get people out there being all fit and stuff, probably whilst wearing Athleta gear. They had an elaborate schedule of fitness classes broadcast yesterday through Facebook Live, Instagram Live and Zoom. Unfortunately most of those classes had wrapped up by 4:00 eastern, or 2:00 our time when I sat down to write and discovered their website. So instead we hauled our dogs on an long sunny walk yesterday and got our cardio up above normal. It felt good to move around after having spent the majority of the last few weeks in such a sedentary state.

Also, it gave me an excuse to wear shorts after nearly 6 full weeks of sweatpants. So that was a treat.

National Truffle Day

We were, of course, relieved to learn this is a day to celebrate chocolate truffles, and not those fungus truffles that Europeans hunt for with pigs. Those are great too, but much more expensive and harder to come by right now. Besides, it gave us yet another excuse to swing by Carole’s Sweets yesterday and load up. Cherry truffles were on our menu, in both dark and milk chocolate variety, made in-house by this wonderful little shop. It may be a year of reckless indulgence, but goddamn if it ain’t fun.

The chocolate truffle is simply a chocolate ganache coated in cocoa powder or chocolate, and occasionally rolled around in some sort of chopped nut. They’re a classic, and we could have gone old-school with some authentic chocolate ones, but it’s always fun to see how confectionary artists have furthered the medium by experimenting. Besides, we were both craving a little cherry something, and like I said: indulgence.

Truffles were invented, not surprisingly, by the French. They named the sweets after the fungus truffles due to a physical similarity. These get traced back to Auguste Escoffier, the guy whose name seems to pop up every time we’re talking about historical French cuisine. You may recall him as the guy who gave us all those fancy French sauces, as well as melba toast and peach melba. The legend states that this was an accidental discovery, as he poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks when he should have poured it into the other bowl, which contained sugared egg. As his accidental creation hardened into a paste, he found he could roll it into a ball shape, and boom – a new delicious treat was born.

Thanks, Auguste, for all of your fattening contributions to this year. Also, the melba toast.

National Scrapbook Day

Creative Memories (yes, a scrapbook company) came up with this one 26 years ago. The scrapbook is a fun way to preserve memories, and not surprisingly it takes more work than most. You could pile all your old pics into a photo album (note to kids: this is what we did before we had every photo we’ve ever taken on our computers and phones), but where’s the jazz in that? A scrapbook combines photos with drawings, emojis, and ornamental whatnot to spice it up.

The scrapbook began with the commonplace books that were a big fad in England in the 1400s. People would pin recipes, quotations, poems, etc. inside these books. In a way it was the Facebook wall of the Renaissance era, as I’m sure people often showed them off to friends and family. A couple hundred years later the ‘friendship book’ was a trend, as buddies would fill each other’s books with illustrations and little written messages. Again, this was early-era social media. The only things that were missing were pictures and argument-flamed conspiracy theories.

Those old fashioned scrapbooks would serve as souvenirs of great voyages, and even as yearbooks in a way. People could thumb through them and remember acquaintances met along their travels, people they’d likely never see or hear from again. And the best part was that these books were personalized. They reflected the personality of their owner. These are among the most human and visceral historical records we have.

Jodie and I weren’t feeling like spending a beautiful Saturday cutting and pasting stuff into a scrapbook, but it gave us a tremendous excuse to drag out a couple we had made in the past. We travelled to Las Vegas twice about 20 years ago, and we made some nifty little scrapbooks to remember our journey, much of which had been somewhat obscured by an alcohol-produced fog. We had no idea at the time we were carrying on a 600-year tradition. And it was great to look through them again. It made us want to travel. Six weeks of lockdown didn’t help with that craving either.

World Naked Gardening Day

This bizarre holiday, which I’m certain our neighbours were hoping we wouldn’t observe, comes to us courtesy of one of the editors of Nude & Natural magazine, which is not a girly mag but rather a magazine devoted to the nudist lifestyle. Nudists live by the belief that many of life’s endeavours (frying bacon or operating power tools notwithstanding) can be undertaken in the nude. Gardening too? Sure, why not?

The thing is, we like clothes. We have no desire to step outside and force our neighbours to accept a nudist lifestyle. Personally, I’ve seen me naked. I’ll stick with clothes for everybody’s sake. But that’s not the spirit of this day, is it?

We did some tending to our plants yesterday, and yes, we did it au naturel. Indoors. There is no outdoor spot on our property that would not be in potential view of those who reside around us, and we have to live with these people. I think it’s healthy to maintain an unspoken, unbroken bond of mutual clothes-wearing within a suburban community. Besides, they could retaliate, and there are zero of our neighbours whom we’d like to see naked. No offense. Still, we dove into the spirit of the day, and found a way to post our first naked pics to the internet without doing it in a way that would mortify our grown children.

Our second, actually. Jodie indulged for National Bath Day, and I wrote an article clothesless for Work Naked Day. But whatever – we still made the effort yesterday. And thankfully only our dogs saw us.

National Brothers & Sisters Day

To be honest, we’re not 100% certain about this one. We had National Siblings Day on April 10, and a bunch of countries in Europe celebrate National Brothers & Sisters Day on May 31. So who or what is promoting this May 2nd celebration?

My searching revealed nothing. This is a repeat holiday, with other repeats to follow (Brothers Day is May 24, and Sisters Day is the first Sunday in August). That said, one should take the time to honour one’s siblings more than once (or, I guess, twice) in a year, so Jodie did the right thing and reached out to say hey to her siblings. Having none myself, I got to pass on this one. That’s fine; I had to endure more of that weird Mexican tuba music the other day than she did, so she can pick up the slack on this one.

Happy day to all siblings out there. Yes, again.

International Astronomy Day / National Astronomy Week

This is a day so awesome it gets split in two. One shows up in May, the next in September – both ideal for stargazing outside, even in this tundra climate. I took part by heading out to a dark location last night and checking out the stars, many of which I learned about the day before from watching Neil DeGrasse-Tyson’s Cosmos for Space Day. I have a great app on my phone called Night Sky, which allows me to point my phone upward and see where the constellations, planets, and other assorted space stuff are located. I highly recommend it.

This day was first conceived by Doug Berger, the president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California, in 1973. People tend to overlook the majesty of all that stuff above us, despite all that stuff being essentially our birthplace. This planet was formed from stardust, as was everything on it, right down to the little plastic Baby Yoda figurines sitting on our counter. We are a product of astronomical forces (and a healthy dollop of biological coincidence), and the more I learn about them, the more I’m fascinated.

I checked out a few sites that are promoting activities for Astronomy Day, and sure enough most of them are plugging their 2019 events. Observatories and planetaria are shut down right now, which is a particular shame in Edmonton, as we have a deeply awesome planetarium (pictured above) that has recently been brought back to its ultra-cool mid-century UFO look, and was supposed to be open to the public by now.

Oh well. The stars are there for all of us to experience, in groups or properly socially-distanced. Jodie and I got our fix last night, and nothing was going to get in our way. Except possibly clouds. I guess we got lucky.

National Homebrew Day

In 1988, the American Homebrewers Association took it to Congress. They wanted the first Saturday in May to be a day dedicated to celebrating the great work undertaken by the nation’s amateur sudsmiths. The Canadian day, which showed up just last year, isn’t until June. Why not celebrate both?

The problem, of course, is that neither of us know anyone with a  batch of homebrewed beer for us to sample. We will keep digging in hopes of finding something for June, but even our ability to pick up some supplies and make our own is limited, as homebrew supply stores are not considered to be essential businesses right now. And honestly, I have no real desire to make my own beer. There are fine beers out there being made with much more expertise than I possess, and I’d just as soon support their efforts with my money and my brain cells. Were I to venture into home-based intoxicant creation, it would be through making my own whiskey. Or rum. Maybe gin. But not beer.

For this day we sampled some of the delicious sour cherry liqueur that was home “brewed” by Jodie’s friend and colleague, Brent. I’ve been saving this stuff to crack open again on this day, and it hasn’t lost its tasty charm. We will dive into home brew day again next month on the Canadian day – perhaps then we will have sourced some beer from someone’s garage or basement. Hopefully it will be tasty.

National Scurvy Awareness Day

Scurvy? But that’s an old-timey pirate disease, isn’t it? Well, yes. And the cure has been known for a lot of years now. But look at Bayside Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Between 2009 and 2014 they diagnosed 30 patients with scurvy. There are still people out there forsaking Vitamin C and contracting this horrific disease.

Despite this being a very treatable condition, it’s not one you’ll want to put yourself through. Just look at the symptoms: you’ll be lethargic at first. Then you’ll get some shortness of breath and bone pain. You’ll bruise easily. Your gums will bleed as gum disease sets in. Your teeth will loosen. You’ll become irritable – possibly from the disease, possibly because of all these unpleasant symptoms. Dry eyes. Jaundice. A fever. Convulsions. And ultimately – though by this point it might be welcome – death.

You don’t have to gorge out on citrus fruits or supplements to keep this disease at bay – just making the most basic efforts to eat semi-healthy should keep your body in check. Even fried seal meat held off the disease for a 1902 Antarctic expedition. Scurvy is treated with vitamin C. That’s seriously it; within two weeks your scurvy should dissipate with a modest intake of vitamin C. Dying of this disease at this point would almost require an intentional effort. Eat an orange. Live another day.

World Tuna Day

The United Nations is at it again, pointing our attention toward something they feel is important to the health of the world. We discussed the need for keeping track of the world’s tuna population for Tuna Rights Day back on April 21, so today we’ll look a little deeper into the life of the mighty tuna.

First of all, don’t worry, we won’t run out of tuna. That said, we might run out of tuna. That is, if the conservation efforts weren’t there – they absolutely are, and hopefully they’ll keep things under control. 7.5 million tonnes of tuna were yanked out of the sea in 2016, which is a notch below the 7.7 million peak a couple years earlier. There is high demand though, between the sushi/sashimi variety that comes from bluefin and bigeye tuna, and the canned stuff that is mostly cultivated from slipjack and yellowfin tuna. Fortunately we have 96 countries on board with maintaining the tuna population. Still, the Atlantic bluefin is classified as endangered, and the southern bluefin is critically endangered. We’ve got to stay vigilant with this.

Where most fish have white flesh, a quick glance at a plate of sashimi will reveal these buggers have reddened meat. This comes from the myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule that pushes oxygen-rich, energy-producing blood to their muscles. This is why a motivated tuna can swim as fast as 75km/h, or about 47mph for our American friends. That’s freeway speed right there.

We’re not in a dire place with tuna population right now, but it’s crucial that the conservationists keep at it. It would be a shame to lose these tasty creatures.

Another wild Sunday awaits us, jam-packed with all sorts of weirdness:

  • National Lumpy Rug Day. I was excitedly curious about this one, then I learned it’s just a cutesy way of saying spring cleaning. I guess we’ll vacuum.
  • National Garden Meditation Day. We don’t have a garden really, but we can do a nice outdoor meditation.
  • National Two Different Color Shoes Day. A very important cause in support of shoe color awareness.
  • National Paranormal Day. Edmonton has a few notably haunted locations. Perhaps we’ll visit one or two.
  • National Chocolate Custard Day. We honestly might skip this one. There are only so many sweets we can eat.
  • National Raspberry Popover Day. We compromised with something close for blueberry popover day, and we are set up to do the same here.
  • National Montana Day. Nothing says Montana cuisine like a bison burger! Alternately, we may just pack up and move to become dental floss tycoons.
  • National Lemonade Day. Have you heard about this new pink lemonade vodka? We have, and that will work swimmingly for this day.
  • World Laughter Day. Possibly the 10th or 12th laughter-based day of the year.
  • Wordsmith Day. Well, that’s kind of my thing.
  • Public Radio Day. A good day to support your local public radio station.
  • Sun Day. It’s a Sunday sun day, which is a day for extolling the benefits of solar power. Fun. Also, happy birthday, Stew!

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