Friday, June 5, 2020

So this is spring in its infinite glory: each blade of grass reaching up to high-five the increasingly effective sun, while bird songs overlap with one another in a hyper-rhythmic euphony of stunning melodic cohesion. And here we sit, basking in its primitive glow, readying ourselves not for the renewal of tradition as we’ve known it, but for whatever strangeness the ensuing dawn will deal. How can we possibly lay claim to the notion of complacency and routine when we’ve got all this fun to tackle?

National Old Maids Day

Was this game always so weirdly racial?

An old maid – and I feel I need to provide a definition here, since I’m not entirely certain anyone still uses this term – refers to a woman who has never married or had kids, and is old enough for society to assume that they never will. The male equivalent of this term is a “confirmed bachelor”. Think about that. If you’re a single older guy then you have merely confirmed to the world and yourself that you’ll continue to live the bachelor lifestyle. If you’re a single older gal then you are akin to a domestic servant whose best and most vibrant days have long past.

Then there’s the word ‘spinster’. This dates back to the 1300s and refers to a woman who spun wool or yarn for a living. Not a slur at all, at least until a few centuries later when it began to take on its current meaning. The suggestion here is that unmarried women probably had to get by with jobs that were lower-class and lower-paying like spinning. So it’s more of an economic statement, but still…

I think the best way to celebrate National Old Maids Day is to not refer to anyone as an old maid again, unless they are actually in the field of domestic housecleaning and are significantly aged. There’s also the children’s game by that name which we would have happily played but we don’t have that particular deck of cards. I know I played it as a kid (and it is absolutely a children’s game), but I can barely remember it.

Ultimately we’ll call this one a win as we stuff Old Maids day deep into the patriarchy pipe and light it up. As it should be.

National Hug Your Cat Day

There is no known origin story to this day, nor is there anything we can really research and learn here. Hug Your Puppy Day was January 21 and Hug Your Dog Day was April 10. We are all about affection being doled out to pets.

Unfortunately we are fully without any feline accompaniment in our home. This is by design, as we tend to prefer doggos, but we’re not the type of dog-lovers who scoffs at those who adore their cats. We have both met numerous kitties in our travels who have become dear to us. We simply prefer the untethered, manic, almost illogical adoration puppies give to their human hosts. Call us needy, but these creatures keep us sane.

Our family is full of cat lovers though. And having met a few of these cats in person (or in cat – whatever), we totally get it. Above are a handful of our familial cats, in the process of being hugged by their people. We’ve got my auntie Chris with Feral, my auntie Kathy’s dog, Cora, hugging her cat, Luna, my my cousin Sam and Tang, his girlfriend Jenny with Moe, my auntie Kerry with Felix, our son Colton with Phoebe and Baillie, and his girlfriend Daria with Dantes. It’s a happy bunch hugging another happy bunch, and it’s all a glorious part of our goofy family tapestry.

In absence of an actual cat to hug, these photos my family sent over made for a terrific little celebration. Thanks everyone!

National Cheese Day

It’s here! It’s finally here!

We have indulged in a few National Days this year that involve cheese, from Cheeseball Day to Swiss Cheese Day to Cheddar Day to Cheddar Fries Day and Poutine Day. But this is the official one, the one that may have been put together by the industry itself. We don’t know – no origin story is offered anywhere we looked. But who cares? Cheese!

Cheese comes to us courtesy of the protein called casein. Once that protein starts to coagulate the solids get pulled away from the liquid, then get shmushed together into a delicious, gooey masterpiece. There are over a thousand different varieties of cheese on the planet, and I have yet to encounter one I didn’t like. Brie took a while for me to warm up to, given its mucous-like consistency, but it’s just so damn tasty. Blue cheese is pungent and offensive, but on a burger with some onion straws and barbecue sauce it’s perfect. Even swiss, which is probably lowest on my list, fits in perfectly with certain dishes.

When I was warned of the lactose intolerance that had settled into my innards when I turned 30 it was cheese that I mourned for. Cheese and ice cream. I have since been relieved to learn that many hard cheeses – which to my palette are often the best cheeses – have very little lactase within them, and no pills are necessary. The first time I had to try this out in action was when I ordered a cheeseburger and found I had no pills to counter the dairy content. Fortunately the restaurant uses real cheddar and not plastic fake-cheese slices (which I also love but which my intestines do not), so I was in the clear.

Yesterday we enjoyed the last remnants of our Wookey Hole Cheddar, which enjoyed its journey from milk product to hardened cheese in a cave not far from Cheddar, England – one of only two dairies (from what I understand) who still manufacture it this way. It’s an incredible cheese, and absolutely my favourite to slice up and enjoy. But all cheese is life, all cheese is magnificence. Praise be to the mighty cheese.

National Cognac Day

Knowing almost nothing about brandy, apart from the fact that I tried it when I was an underage drinker looking for my ideal beverage, this day promised to be interesting. I didn’t care for brandy back then; it just didn’t move me. But cognac is a classically snooty beverage, right? An uppercrust type of libation. Charles Emerson Winchester III praised it passionately on M*A*S*H so it must be fantastic, right?

Well… I’m still not sold. I tried some yesterday evening, and while it did pair nicely with our fancy aged cheese, it didn’t quite embrace my taste buds the way a fine rum or a well-made whiskey might. But this is one of the aims of this project: to learn, to grow, and to keep drinking stuff I’m not familiar with until I know for certain whether I like it. Was Celebrate366 simply a method for me to develop alcoholism? Time will tell.

Cognac was named for the French commune of the same name. In order to be called cognac the brandy must conform to certain rigid regulations, and must be produced somewhere in or around Cognac. Specific grapes are used – usually Ugni blanc grapes, which are also used in making mediocre Italian wines – then the brandy must be distilled twice in copper pot stills. After that it must be aged for at least two years in oak barrels from either Limousin or Tronçais. The stuff ages in barrels the way whiskeys and wines age, and often its makers leave the liquid in there longer than the bare minimum.

Our cognac was from Courvoisier, the largest distributor of cognac in our part of the world, and a company whose history stretches back 185 years. It was the only cognac available in a small bottle, and I’m sure it’s one of the lowest-end cognacs on the market. But it wasn’t bad, and I’m certainly willing to explore the world of cognac beyond it. Such is the joy of 366 days of merriment.

Mom’s Equal Pay Day

The term ‘mom’ in there is a bit misleading. This has nothing to do with moms and everything to do with women. From what I understand, Equal Pay Day lands in a different spot every year. The date is meant to represent the disparity between men and women’s incomes in the previous year. Last year it fell on June 9 (6/9), indicating that on average women earned 69 cents for every dollar earned by men.

According to the American Association of University Women, you have to factor in hours worked, career field, education and employment. The math used to calculate all of this hurts my brain, so I’m just going to shut up and assume they got it right. It’s not right though – it may be accurate but it sure ain’t right. I never understood why women are paid less, but then there are a lot of injustices in this world which make no sense to me. I guess it can all be tied back to the people with the power and the money not wanting to give any of it up to anyone else. I have no solutions; I only acknowledge the dates.

Different countries celebrate this concept at different times. In Great Britain they celebrate it on the day that women effectively stop earning money for that calendar year. In 2018 that was November 10. In Germany they use different math but they also celebrate the day more loudly. I see no indication of when Canada celebrates this, or even if we do. Whatever – we do in this house.

My wife is a teacher, and as such she makes the salary for a teacher in this province, which is not subject to gender. I’m quite positive my fellow government office drones make the same across the gender spectrum as well. But in the private sector this is still somehow a reality. We’ll do our part by spreading the message around, but damn, someone has to step up and fix this issue.

Shopping Cart Day

The sun crept its wrinkly forehead above the horizon on the morning of Friday, June 4, 1937, bathing the parking lot outside the Humpty Dumpty supermarket in Oklahoma City. No one who pulled their Studebakers and their Packards into the lot that morning had any idea that history was about to be made. Enter our story’s hero: store owner Sylvan Goldman.

Sylvan had seen customers limit their grocery shopping when the baskets they carried got full. Keep in mind, the supermarket was a relatively new business model at the time. Sylvan wanted to move more product. Then, in a moment of thunderous inspiration, Sylvan grabbed a wooden folding chair, slapped a basket on top and some wheels on the bottom. Then, because that was an ineffective and clumsy device, he worked with one of his employees, a mechanic named Fred Young, whose name is now also forever linked to this moment in history. Together they crafted a steel frame that held two wire baskets inside. The shopping cart was born.

Of course it would see some evolution, like when Orla Watson came up with the swinging back door for easy nesting in 1946. Or the one created by Chaotic Moon Labs in 2012, which is a driverless model featuring Windows Kinect, an electronic drivetrain, and can be operated through a Windows 8 tablet.

For now, shopping carts are seen as germ magnets, and are being thoroughly sanitized in between use by most reputable stores. We stopped short of borrowing one from our local Safeway for some weird physical acknowledgement of this day, since technically that’s stealing. But we learned a little something, and isn’t that sometimes the point? Happy 83rd birthday, shopping cart.

And off we go again, running the gauntlet of goofiness that is our year. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Gingerbread Day. Nothing better than some delightful ginger snaps.
  • National Moonshine Day. I considered sourcing some of this, but I’ve tried moonshine before and there’s literally no way to make it palatable.
  • National Veggie Burger Day. We’ve come a long way from the sawdust-like veggie burgers of my youth.
  • National Doughnut Day. Well damn, this is important.
  • Apple II Day. Today we’ll pay tribute to the first computer system to blow my effing mind.
  • Hug An Atheist Day. While I’m not strictly an atheist in the sense that I strongly believe in no God (I’m just completely disinterested and neutral on the subject) I can fill in for this.
  • Festival of Popular Delusions Day. Sure, that sounds like it might be fun, whatever that is.
  • Hot Air Balloon Day. We can’t ride in one, but we have before and we had a blast.
  • National Attitude Day. Check it, yo.

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