Wednesday, May 6, 2020

While lifting our foot off the proverbial gas pedal that propels this project forward recklessly into a weird fuzzy abyss is out of the question, there exists the issue of our health. It’s no surprise that there are a number of eating celebrations this year; our research had revealed the non-shocker that folks give hearty praise to the food they love. But the mountains of sweets threaten to fall in upon us and bury us in an inescapable pit of obesity and high blood pressure. Some delicious treats will have to be shelved. For example, instead of praising Coconut Cream Pie this Friday, I’ll probably write a piece of epic prose or perhaps a sonnet in tribute instead. I need to live to 2021, if only to see what the world is like post-party. That said, we still tackled all this:

Cinco de Mayo

158 years ago the Battle of Puebla came to a dramatic close with the Mexican army under General Ignacio “Nacho” Zaragoza declaring victory over the French Empire. You had about 4,500 Mexicans battling about 6,500 French soldiers, so the odds weren’t in their favour even a little. This was a huge moral victory, and it vaulted the momentum of the Mexican troops to incredible heights, and caused the French to re-evaluate their approach to this intervention on Mexican soil. Unfortunately, they re-evaluated well. More troops were sent over, and the French took the capital about a year later.

But this moment of triumph meant the world to the Mexican people, even if their celebration was short-lived. President Juarez declared it a national holiday on May 9, 1862. In Mexico they hold ceremonial parades and battle re-enactments on this day, but the real party happens in the US. A lot of people confuse this with Mexico’s Independence Day (which is in September), and that’s fine – it’s an excuse to celebrate Mexican culture, which I’m sure is welcomed by the massive immigrant population in the US.

One interesting side-note to the Battle of Puebla: one noted historian believes if the French had not been thwarted on that day, they would have likely lent their support to the Confederate States of America. This might have shifted the Civil War in a very different direction. Fortunately we’ll never know.

We celebrated this one yesterday with a nice mix of Mexican music to accompany our work day. Found a lot of great stuff we’d never heard. ‘Twas a happy little Cinco.

National Astronaut Day

So, I could have been an astronaut. But rather than list all the reasons that little dream-of-8-year-old-Marty never came true (and there are many reasons) I’ll put a bit more of a positive spin on today. This day was created in 2016 by the Uniphi Space Agency to celebrate everything astronauts have done for the betterment of human knowledge. Who are the Uniphi Space Agency, you ask? They’re the other kind of agency – they will help you book astronauts for speaking engagements and such. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to book an astronaut to come have a talk with us, so we’ll have to make up our own way to celebrate.

I thought it would be interesting to see who is up there right now, spinning around our little rock from a can above the sky. The ISS is currently home to Expedition 63, a three-man team sent to see how extended periods in space affect human physiology, among other things. We’ve got three up there right now: Chris Cassidy from Salem, Massachusetts, Anatoli Ivanishin from Irkutsk, Russia (which we all remember from the Risk game board), and Ivan Vagner from Severoonezhsk, Russia, a town whose name I hope never to have to spell again.

Chris Cassidy, who looks like an older version of Ted from Schitt’s Creek, was a Navy SEAL, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, a Master of Science in Ocean Engineering from MIT, and this is his third trip up beyond the atmosphere. Like most astronauts, he’s an overachiever. Anatoli Ivanishin has not only been in space three times, this is his third visit to the ISS. Ivan Vagner is the engineer of the bunch.

These three guys are by themselves for now, but on May 28 they’ll be welcoming the crew of the Dragon Demo-2, the first US-launched space mission since the end of the space shuttle era in 2011. This will be a combined effort between NASA and Space-X, so a lot of astronaut history to be made this month. At this point neither Jodie nor myself will likely ever see the inside of a spacecraft so we’ll have to be satisfied firing off a big salute to those brave folks who blast themselves off this planet. It’s a pretty kick-ass job.

National Teacher Appreciation Day / Teacher Appreciation Week

This is the American celebration – the Canadian equivalent shows up in October. But let’s throw a little love toward all teachers right now, as they’re engaged in what will probably be the strangest year of their careers. School was cut off with very little warning, and teachers have had to scramble with how to deliver the curriculum points they have to impart to their kids, but in this new messed-up paradigm. Lesson plans, unit plans, year plans have had to be rewritten. Teachers who struggle with technology suddenly needed to know how to teleconference, and somehow maintain a classroom feel with only a screen in front of them.

Teachers are still putting in five days a week. They are still planning, marking, and responding to students. What they are lacking is in many cases the stuff they love the most about their job: coaches are hanging up their clipboards with no more athletics this year. Option teachers, phys. ed teachers, they’ve all seen their work cut short for the year. Jodie had a massive musical production of Matilda that was supposed to hit the stage this week. A lot of work had to be abandoned, and some of her most talented kids will scootch into high school next year, having missed out on the experience of a lifetime.

Then you have the human element. As baffling as it is to us non-teachers, most teachers actually like these children. They care about them, they worry about them, and their lives are intertwined with theirs. Now they have to sit at home knowing some of their kids are stuck with abusive parents, or not enough food to eat. And they can’t do much of anything about it.

Teachers deserve our love and respect for most of the usual reasons, and if this were a normal May 5th I’d be listing off those. But the way they have had to adapt, sacrifice and re-imagine their approach to their work in the last couple months is phenomenal. American and otherwise, thanks to all teachers out there for doing what you do.

National Cartoonists Day

Declared 30 years ago by the National Cartoonists Society, May 5 has been designated as the day to celebrate those writer/illustrator types who make us giggle, and hopefully make us think. We spent a chunk of yesterday looking through works of some of the greatest cartoonists: Bill Waterston, Berkeley Breathed, Gary Larson and even some old Don Martin Mad Magazine entries.

The first cartoons were political in nature of course. William Hogarth, English painter and satirist of the 18th century, gets credit for blazing the trail in this industry. He made little sequential illustrations known as ‘modern moral subjects’, which poked fun at the politics and the culture of the day. From there cartoonists were spewing stuff all over newspapers in Europe. The first American political cartoon was created by Ben Franklin, who was just padding his extensive resume at that point.

We have two weekly comic strip inserts in this town – or at least we used to when I was a kid. I haven’t seen an Edmonton Sun comics section in decades, or an Edmonton Journal one in probably five years. The Sun used to give us Garfield, Family Circus, and various other mediocre strips. The Journal had the good stuff: Far Side, Bloom County, Calvin & Hobbes. Bloom County still lives online, and their current focus on political satire still hits it out of the park – perhaps more now than it ever did.

I’m glad these folks get their own day, and that we had an excuse to get some chuckles yesterday.

Bonza Bottler Day

Our fifth Bonza day, a day to grab a bottle of something we don’t normally consume and celebrate it. For something different today we both enjoyed a bottle of A&W Root Beer.

The first place one could buy this root beer was opened up by Roy W. Allen in 1919. It was nothing more than a root beer stand – his family of burgers had yet to be born. He had purchased a root beer formula from a pharmacist whose name is lost to the ages. Back then pharmacists dispensed frothy or fizzy liquids as tonics – I don’t know that this particular root beer was supposed to have any medicinal properties, but I’m guessing not since the pharmacist sold it off to some guy to make his fortune.

Roy partnered with Frank Wright, and Mr. A and Mr. W. fused their names to either side of an ampersand and began to open franchises all over California. They had 170 running by 1933, but the only thing they all had in common was the root beer. Some opted to sell food, some didn’t. There were no common uniforms, no architecture to blend all the locations into a single brand, and no consistency.

A&W Root Beer is a true classic. They don’t serve their drinks with ice, which some find off-putting because it means they aren’t particularly cold. But the company doesn’t want to dilute their product, which makes sense. That’s also why the frosted vessel is the best possible way to consume the stuff. We wish we’d had proper root beer mugs but the budget for props and accessories for this project is pretty much the spare change we can shake free of our couch. That’s okay – we savoured the beverage and that was the point.

Hug a Shed & Take a Selfie Day

Take some time to appreciate the stuff in your shed: the gardening stuff, the lawn care stuff, the summer outdoor chores stuff… that’s just weird. I mean, I get loving to garden and fixing up your home’s perimeter as a hobby, but then just do it already. There are gardening days – even a naked one last weekend – and this is just another goofy way of translating the same sentiment.

So we took it literally. No time to garden yesterday (thanks to work stuff), but plenty of time for a weird shed-hug and a selfie.

Poem On Your Pillow Day

Print out a poem and leave it on the pillow of someone you care about to give them a sweet little surprise. That’s a touching sentiment. Unfortunately it’s one we can only carry so far. We have no working printer, so we’d be writing it out by hand. Also, there’s no element of surprise to be had, as Jodie is well aware of what’s happening in every day’s calendar.

To celebrate this one we settled for the William Carlos Williams poem I’d written out for Poem In Your Pocket Day last week. I plopped it on a pillow. Again, a literal interpretation is sometimes the best interpretation.

Nail Day

This is right on par with Hairstylists Appreciation Day popping up a couple days back. Jodie laments her beautiful nails, which stood ten strong and mighty just a couple months ago, and which have now been reduced to a ten-pack of normal-size, normal-colour nails like the rest of us schlubs. Her ability to get her nails done is, of course, restricted by the virus.

For me, I could actually devote yesterday – or a 45-60 second portion of it – to honouring this day. I trimmed my nails. Do you prefer the clippers or the scissors? We have both in our house, though I prefer the scissors. I don’t know why one is considered greater than the other, I only know I’ve used one for my entire life and see no reason to switch it up.

Here are some interesting facts about fingernails that you didn’t know you needed. They grow roughly 0.1 millimeters every day, but that speeds up in the summer. This is likely due to more vitamin-D-rich sunlight hitting them during the warmer months. They do not, however, keep growing after we die. That’s a myth, a confusion of witness testimony. It seems the skin around the base of the fingernail actually recedes after death so it gives the illusion of longer nails. You can also check out your nails for indicators of lung, heart and liver diseases. So they’re handy for more than prying open a stubborn pistachio shell.

The longest fingernails in the history of the world were grown by beautician Lee Redmond of Utah. It took her close to 30 years, but her thumbnail was two feet, eleven inches long. All ten nails combined stretched a total of 28 feet, 4 inches. I’m really wishing I hadn’t ended on such a gross mental image.

Today continues to rock along with plenty to keep us busy:

  • National Nurses Day. Some raves for all the awesome nurses out there.
  • National Totally Chipotle Day. Bumped from yesterday because I foolishly forgot it’s supposed to marinate for 6 hours.
  • National Beverage Day. We will endeavour to drink a large variety of beverages today.
  • National Crepe Suzette Day. We’d love to make this one, but it may not be in the cards today.
  • National Bike To School Day. This will also be tough, with no bike on hand and nowhere to bike to.
  • International No Diet Day. This will be easy. We’ll hop off our strict diets and actually eat some junk food today!
  • National Tourist Appreciation Day. There aren’t many tourists right now doing tourist things, but we’ll appreciate what we can.
  • No Homework Day. Jodie will assign no homework today. Of course, she met all her kids yesterday and assigned them their work for the week, so it’s not a big stretch, but hey – literal interpretation.
  • Great American Grump Out. Being grumpy for a purpose, instead of our usual being grumpy just because.

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