Saturday, May 30, 2020

We are not professional entertainers, or even amateur ones. We joke about this maelstrom of weirdness going viral, but we have no desire for fame. Lest any misinterpretation arise, we do this not for attention or validation, but merely to shriek into the wind and maybe come out the other side with a story to tell. This is an exercise in madness, and we don’t earn a passing grade if we back out before absolute madness is achieved. So let’s forego the formalities and get to the meat of the matter, the celebrations we all cherish and love to the sputtering depths of our hearts:

Learn About Composting Day

compost

For those of us who have not really given serious thought to the topic, composting is just taking a bunch of your trash and dumping it into a smelly pile in your back yard. Well, according to the good people at learn.eartheasy.com, “with compost, you are creating rich humus for your lawn and garden.” I had no idea humus was going to be the end result. I love humus! It’s delicious! We’ve celebrated it twice already this year!

Turns out ‘humus’ with one ‘m’ is the organic component of soil, which is formed by the decomposition of plants and stuff. Chickpeas are not involved. That’s disappointing. Proper composting involves balancing the mix with carbon-rich items and nitrogen-rich items. So if you dump your leftover table scraps into the pile, which are nitrogen-heavy, you’ll want to balance it with some carbon-ish stuff, like coffee grounds, egg shells, and any sawdust pellets you’re looking to dispose of.

Composting is a lot of work, and we respect anyone who makes the effort to do it. I heard a rumor that our city will be promoting it in its overhaul of our trash collection processes, so that’s good. But this is a lot of careful separation of food items – banana peels, fish scraps and meat remains are not advised, either because of pesticides or pest attraction. Dog poop is discouraged, but human poop is fine, assuming you’re not saving it for an upcoming craft project or something.

Composting is a great thing for the planet, and for those who have the space and the ability I hope you’ll take the time to do it. We learned a little more about it, as was the purpose of this day, so we’ll call that a win. Not sure I trust our poop eating dogs around an actual compost pile though.

Put A Pillow On Your Fridge Day

Apparently in the early 20th century it was a tradition to drape a piece of cloth or linen over your larder. A larder, for the 100% of my audience who likely has never used the term, is like a cold pantry for meats, used before refrigerators were a thing. Anyhow, the cloth would be something personal from the bedroom, like a nightgown or a bedsheet, or maybe one of those goofy old night-shirts men wore back then. This was seen as a way to bring bounties of food and good ol’ fashioned fertility into the home.

Neither of these benefits interest us. We have plenty of food thanks to the mandate of this project, and we have no desire for fertility. Liberty is the only female on the premises who is not surgically distanced from fertility, and when her time comes there won’t likely be a problem in moving that forward. But it’s a positive groove, so up the pillow went.

I like a celebration that asks so little of us. Maybe we’re screwing things up by using a pillow from our front room instead of one from the bedroom, but this way we can leave the pillow up there right past midnight and get maximum silly-superstition output. When it comes to matters of goofy pseudo-supernatural hoo-ha, you’ve got to hedge your bets.

National Paperclip Day

How to honour the mighty paperclip, which has toiled for the past 153 years solely for this achievement: to be celebrated as a triumphant National Day, right up there with the one about sticking a pillow on top of your fridge.

Samuel B. Fay snagged the first patent for the paperclip in 1867, intending it primarily for affixing paper to fabric, but acknowledging that yeah, people may want to attach paper to other paper too. Fay’s design was simple – it looks like a wire version of one of those ribbons people wear to support various causes. It would do the job, but not very well. The clip we all know and love is known as the Gem clip, which wasn’t patented in the US until 1902, but had likely been produced in Britain as early as the 1870s.

Then you’ve got Norwegian Johan Vaaler. He created a clip very similar to the Gem, but squared off and missing that last internal loop. It was never marketed because the Gem worked much better. Nevertheless, after Vaaler’s death Norway was pushing his name as the inventor of the modern paperclip, to the point where it was proclaimed as fact in multiple encyclopedias in the middle of the 20th century. The paperclip was an unofficial national symbol for Norway based on this erroneous claim. This is why having the easy ability to fact-check things is the greatest gift of the information age.

The clip has surpassed most every other office supply in integrating into our culture in strange and curious ways. The Paperclip Project, created and curated by middle-school kids, sought to link together six million paperclips to represent the Jews who died in the Holocaust. The paperclip symbol is the universal attach-something-to-an-email device. And then there’s Clippy, the obnoxious Windows assistant that anyone who lived through can hopefully laugh about now. Not bad for a little bent piece of wire.

End of the Middle Ages Day

This is a weird commemoration, but it’s just weird enough to be worth looking into, at least in my opinion. And my opinion is one of only two that matter, given that no one is paying us to plow through this madness.

On this date 567 years ago, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire. This had been the capital of the Byzantine Empire, so that put a neat little bow on that chunk of history and scooted the Byzantines off to obsolescence. The Middle Ages had kicked off when The Roman Empire ran its closing credits, way back in 476. A lot of big strides forward were taken by humanity during the millennium that followed, but once the Renaissance kicked into high gear in the post-Byzantine days, the post-Roman era was looked upon with scorn and derision. There’s a point there – the Renaissance spewed art, culture and science all over the face, neck and chest of civilization, so by comparison the Middle Ages were aptly known as the Dark Ages.

When Sultan Mehmed Il Fatih moved in and took over, Christianity scooted north and west to settle down in Europe and Islam plopped into place in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire would enjoy more than 450 years in that spot. May 29, 1453 would forever be known as the date history made a giant shift.

Of course, the calendar has been tinkered with since then, and days skipped entirely in order to correct our place in the annual solar circuit, so to commemorate this day on May 29 may be a smidge inaccurate. But no one’s throwing End of the Middle Ages Day parties or investing too much emotionally into this one, so I guess no harm is done. But for fans of history, this is pretty neat.

National Biscuit Day

We celebrated National Buttermilk Biscuit back on May 14. Actually, we didn’t since we had no access to buttermilk biscuits. We acknowledged the day was coming, but nothing was written about and nothing was eaten so it didn’t make the final cut. But yesterday we got another chance with the more generic National Biscuit Day.

So what is a ‘biscuit’? Is it a bread-like roll? Sure, it can be. The Brits use it as another way to say ‘cookie’. I’ve also heard it applied to crackers. I enjoyed a few Ritzes with lunch yesterday, and Jodie had a chunk of a ‘special biscuit’ in the evening. We refer to those – or really to any cookies – as biscuits, because to say the ‘C’ word would excite the dogs into believing some treats would be forthcoming.

The word ‘biscuit’ comes from the Latin and means twice-cooked. This is because back in the days when Latin was not dead and antiquated, biscuits were first baked, then dried out in a slow oven. So using this logic we can all go forward referring to twice-baked potatoes as ‘biscuit potatoes’, to refried beans as ‘biscuit beans’, and to potheads who smoke in the afternoon and then again in the evening as ‘biscuit people’.

So much we can learn from the biscuit.

National Heat Awareness Day

Are you aware of heat? That heat exists? That it is a property of any mass and can vary due to external or internal forces? That it can also refer to one’s current level of buzz in the entertainment industry? That it can mean your female dog is ready to be impregnated? That it might mean you’re playing basketball professionally in Miami? That it might be referring to a 1990s film starring the two leads from Godfather II and the least-beloved Batman? If you are aware of all these things then congratulations! You have celebrated National Heat Awareness Day.

The National Weather Service felt the last Friday in May was a good time to remind people that summer tends to mean an increase in temperatures. Perhaps they were hoping air conditioner companies would hop aboard the fun-train and put up some sales for this weekend, I don’t know. To my knowledge that hasn’t happened. But sure, we can take a moment to remember that heat exists. I don’t mind.

Edmonton is actually facing its first genuinely hot day today, which I plan on dividing between my hammock, our chilled hot tub in the back yard, and in front of my computer, writing yet another of these lengthy articles. The one thing we won’t be doing is driving somewhere and leaving our dogs in the car. There are too many stories about this every year; if National Heat Awareness Day draws your attention to just one thing, it should be that this is never acceptable. Heat can kill, and in a parked car it can kill quick.

But that’s enough of the downer vibe for this glorious celebration. The inescapable wahoo of summer is falling upon us, and we should be ready to embrace it with open (and adequately sunscreened) arms. Be aware, and be happy!

World Digestive Health Day

The fun-loving folks over at the World Gastroenterology Organization have designated May 29 as the day they pick a specific digestion-related issue and promote awareness of it. They’ve tackled IBS, heartburn, liver cancer and even Heliobacter pylori infection, which is just as scary as it sounds. The 2020 party is dedicated to Gut Microbiome: A Global Perspective.

This celebrates the over 1000 known species of bacteria that lives inside our insides, and if that isn’t enough to guide your digestive health into some queasy waves then you’ve got more mettle than I. But as you can tell by the fun-loving font they used up above that we shouldn’t be creeped out as much as intrigued. A number of gastroenterologists in different nations are holding various virtual events to celebrate the day, though the only one from an English-speaking nation is South Africa, where they were hosting the First Stellenbosch University Microbiome Symposium and Workshop. I wasn’t about to miss that.

And we can all join in, because this symposium and workshop is scheduled for November 28-30. This gives us plenty of time to save up for airfare and accommodation in Stellenbosch, which has a population roughly equivalent to that of Cheyenne, Wyoming. How fun!

To celebrate this day I remembered to pop a couple of Lact-eeze pills before downing my cheeseburger because my digestive health would have taken a notably southern turn had I not done so. Happy eating everyone, and once that’s all done, happy pooping!

I’ll be wrestling with the clock today, as I’m more excited about time in my hammock than about celebrating all this:

  • National Creativity Day. Our life is creativity. How we can celebrate all these days is creativity. Today will be no different.
  • National Water a Flower Day. We will track down a single flower and give it some water. Can’t over-do it – not in the spirit of the day.
  • National Hole In My Bucket Day. That’s a stupid song. Maybe we’ll learn about this stupid song, since our buckets are (and shall remain) hole-free.
  • National Mint Julep Day. I’m on board for this, even if there’s no Kentucky Derby to watch.
  • Loomis Day. He invented the telegraph, now he gets his own day. Cool! We’ll give Loomis some love.

Happy birthday, Josh!

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