Saturday, June 20, 2020

Yesterday was an amalgamation of unintelligible whispers from a periwinkle sky, sending birds into tweet-tizzies and our city’s ample supply of air-pollen into an acrobatic airborne dance. It was springtime’s stage-left shuffle, making way for an uncertain season of potential hammockery, barbecuity, and chill-outedness. We remain eternally optimists as we plop each foot forward into the next cycle of sunlight, always aware that our calendar stands to periodically thwack us with an abundance of madness. For example:

National Flip-Flop Day

There were so many ways we could celebrate this day, it was genuinely hard to pick. Most of us know the flip-flop either as the shoe item pictured above or else as a political accusation, because to politicians an opponent’s act of changing their opinion based on receiving new data is nothing short of scandalous. But the flip-flop has so many more options.

A flip-flop circuit is a circuit that has two stable states. For example, it can store a single bit of information in a computer: a zero or a one. It’s also known in the field as a bistable multivibrator. I’ll let you make your own joke there.

A flip-flop in gymnastics is a back handspring. We shan’t be celebrating that, as attempting it would likely kill us.

A flip-flop is another name for the African wood butterfly. We didn’t have any of those on-hand.

A flip-flop hub is a hub for a rear wheel on a bicycle, which is threaded to accept fixed cogs or freewheels on both sides. As previously mentioned, we don’t have a working bicycle right now so I’m pretty sure we possess zero flip-flop hubs.

Flip-Flop is one of the less exciting games on The Price is Right, wherein you can win a prize worth between $1000 and $9999 by choosing to ‘flip’ the first pair of numbers, ‘flop’ the second pair, or ‘flip-flop’ both. Not as good TV as Plinko or the mountain climber game.

A flip-flop is also a move in competitive freestyle kayaking. That didn’t come up yesterday.

A flip-flop in algebraic geometry is… no… never mind.

A flip-flop is also a situation that may occur during a male-male sexual encounter, in which the top and bottom exchange positions. That also didn’t happen yesterday, at least not here.

We wore the footwear. That was sufficient to celebrate. Happy Flip-Flop Day.

National Garfield The Cat Day

42 years ago, the comic strip Garfield was first published in 41 newspapers nationwide. It had grown out of a strip Jim Davis had been writing for the Pendleton Times of Pendleton, Indiana, since 1976. That strip was called Jon at first, but Davis realized the star of the show was going to be the grumpy-ass cat who hated Mondays.

Davis had started out with an insect-based comic strip, but that wasn’t getting a lot of love. So he took his cantankerous grandpa’s middle name and personality, and threw them into a cat. The merchandise that has spawned from that cat has earned as much as a billion dollars per year. The strip is beloved around the world, in part because it never makes a societal statement or takes a political stance. Bloom County has always had a thread of politics running through it, and Calvin & Hobbes is jam-packed with existential and philosophical concepts that don’t always land with the simple masses. Garfield is simple. Garfield is universal.

And it’s big money. The franchise was recently purchased by ViacomCBS, one of the terrifyingly huge media titans of our age. And Jim Davis is still writing the comics, working on a new animated series for Nickelodeon in a triumph of corporate synergy. My favourite Garfield story is that Bill Murray, who is notoriously difficult to pin down to any specific project, accepted the role of voicing the cat because he mistakenly thought the film’s director, Joel Cohen, was actually Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers, who make actual quality movies. That’s a classic Hollywood legend, so it’s likely not true. But it’s a terrific story.

Yesterday we celebrated the cat by eating his favourite dish for dinner: lasagna. It seemed appropriate.

Wear Blue Day / National Men’s Health Week / Men’s Health Month

We wore blue on January 11 to speak out against human trafficking. But because the spectrum is limited in its color choice, blue gets reused again. This time it’s for men’s health. No, not for any health issue in particular, just for men’s health. Turns out we don’t go for check-ups as often as women, and our general response to something feeling off is either to ice it, walk it off, or hope it goes away on its own. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it takes us with it. Get yourself checked out.

The three biggest killers of males in our corner of the world are cancer, heart disease, and accidents. I wore blue yesterday so I can remind myself that I need to visit my doctor for the dreaded prostate check at some point in the next few months. It also served as a reminder to take my blood pressure medication because yes, middle-age is that much fun. As for accidents, I’ve found the best way to avoid accidents is to avoid leaving the house. So I proudly did that yesterday as well.

The Men’s Health Network set this day up, and they are intent on reminding all of us Y-chromosome-types to take care of ourselves. Check your nads for spooky lumps. Get your bloodwork done when your doctor asks for it. And sure, the thought of a doctor poking a digit through the back doorway isn’t pleasant (or maybe it is – it might depend on your doctor), but it can save your life. I mentioned before that I lost my dad to prostate cancer, not because it’s a powerful and deadly disease, but because he ignored his doctor’s warnings that he should get checked out.

Don’t be a schmuck. Take care of yourself, fellow dudes. And wear blue, just in case you forget.

National Watch Day

This ancient tradition goes all the way back to 2017, when Nordstrom decided they weren’t selling enough watches in June. This isn’t surprising; many people have stopped wearing watches entirely. Even I stopped wearing a watch, and I loved my watches. My dad had a little obsession with them, so in junior high I had a watch that displayed world time zones, another with a little game on it, and another with a 1988-level mini-computer, which allowed me to painstakingly enter text at the rate of one word every 30 seconds or so.

But why would I want something clinging to my wrist, when my phone tells me the time? The only reason I can see for wearing a watch is if you have one attached to your phone, so you can see messages pop up, and you can look more natural diverting your attention from a meeting to scroll through Facebook.

I dug up an old watch and wore it for a chunk of yesterday, though not while I was typing, as it became immediately annoying against my desk. In fact, the last few years I wore a watch I’d remove it to use the computer. And now that I spend an inordinate amount of time on the computer every day (mostly typing out ridiculously lengthy articles) I have no use for the things.

So for me, this is like National VCR Day last week. A hearty salute to a bygone technology.

National Martini Day

Our return to the world of gin has certainly been a busy one. We’ve indulged in mint juleps, black cows, and gin on its own. Yesterday we were called to the classic beverage, which we opted to make without olives. As we pointed out on olive day, we aren’t fans. I even tried another olive when we ordered Greek food last week, and I hated it. I also held off on adding a cocktail onion, as I didn’t feel it was worth purchasing a jar of them strictly for this day.

The classic martini is supposed to be six parts gin to one part vermouth. A dry martini is made with dry, white vermouth. A wet martini is made with a sweeter vermouth, and that’s what we were advised to make with the barrel-aged gin we bought from the local distillery last weekend. Unfortunately, we’d already picked up some dry vermouth just before stopping there. And, as expected, it tasted a little off with that mix of flavours. It wasn’t the perfect martini, but I maintain that the gin is terrific to sip by itself.

A dirty martini contains a splash of olive brine along with the olive. Why on earth anyone would subject themselves to that, I can’t imagine. Then there’s the “perfect martini”, which is simply an equal balance of sweet and dry vermouth. We’ll leave that on the try-someday pile.

To mix things up, I tried a vodka martini next. We have some delicious vodka, and it paired brilliantly with the vermouth. That was the big winner yesterday. And I had it stirred, not shaken, as I’ve been advised that shaking up a martini is going to ‘bruise’ the alcohol and render it grotesque. James Bond wasn’t right about everything.

International Box Day

I was hoping this would mean we could strap on the gloves and determine once and for all who is the real ass-kicker in this relationship, but then I realized I’d probably lose that, and besides – this day isn’t about boxing, it’s about actual boxes. So calm down, Jodie. And quit with the trash-talking already; the dogs are starting to choose sides.

This is a day for celebrating the box as only a cat can: by rubbing against it, crawling inside of it, and doing whatever other weird cat things they do. I’ve always found this to be one of the most endearing traits in cats, as it invokes an aspect of human childhood. For young humans it’s an act of imagination, turning a box into a fort, a spaceship, a time machine, whatever. For cats… well, I don’t know what cats are thinking when they get all down and funky with boxes. But clearly they love it, so who am I to judge?

We have no cats in our home to observe, so we had to farm this one out. We have friends and family with cats, and from what I can gather, a great number of cat owners are well-equipped with boxes. So we asked for a few pics, and this is what we got:

World Sauntering Day

How long has it been since we’ve celebrated a day that exists solely to remind us to stop and smell the roses and appreciate the good things in life? Like, five days? That might be a record. Anyhow, World Sauntering Day – sometimes called International Sauntering Day, because apparently there are enough people who celebrate this for there to be regional variations – is all about stopping to smell the roses and appreciating the good things in life.

Before we all unleash a squishy collective eye-roll, this one actually has a clever backstory. A person by the name of W.T. Rabe (and I don’t know who he is or what he did, but I’d like to think of him as a professional misanthrope – it’s the romantic in me) came up with this one back in 1979. He was sitting on the world’s largest porch, at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. W.T. was put off by the new trend of jogging, so he created this day to encourage us all to slow down. I assume an aversion to disco music was also involved, because W.T. strikes me as the kind of guy who wouldn’t be into disco.

So, we sauntered. We sauntered around the neighborhood with the dogs, we sauntered up and down the stairs at home, and Jodie even went to her school to do a little bit of remote sauntering. And of course we appreciated everything – it was a sunny, gorgeous day and the birds didn’t stop chirping for the entire time I was at work. Why not saunter? That’s our default speed. Jogging is for suckers.

National Take Back the Lunch Break Day

As a diligent government office drone, I had no idea there was a trend of people taking shorter and shorter lunch breaks at the office. I suppose that’s more of a private-sector thing. In my office, people take their full allotted time off – at least most folks do. I certainly do, at least when I’m in the office. While working from home I keep things a bit looser, sometimes starting late, sometimes early. But I still take the full time, and I don’t go over. In case my bosses are reading this.

Actually, I don’t get a lunch hour at all. I take a 45-minute lunch and stretch my start and end times so that I get an extra day off every four weeks. Jodie, well, her situation is a bit different. She is often supervising or rehearsing or helping kids at lunch (sometimes all three), so she almost never gets an actual lunch break. And in a weird twist, yesterday she found herself back at her school, surrounded by students (at a safe distance), and not taking a proper lunch break for the first time since before the lockdown.

So in a sense, we took back our lunch hours. I continued my tradition of savouring that time I don’t need to pay attention to my work email, while she spent her lunch hour in motion, interacting with kids at her place of work and barely putting away a half-decent meal. It might sound as though she went against the spirit of this day, but given how much she misses those students, I’d say she took it back with gusto.

Remember to take care of yourself and take time out to eat and relax in the middle of the day. You’ll be happy you did.

National Email Week

If you’ve been putting off trying out email until you had a valid excuse, well I’ve got some great news for you. It’s here! National Email Week!

From what I’ve found, this is a week to remind yourself of some of the basic facts of email-ness. This includes removing emojis from your signature (especially if you’re a professional like a doctor or a Fortune 500 CEO’s golf caddy), use spell-check and proof-reading to ensure you haven’t recommended to your bosses that they “go pubic” with an ad campaign, and to avoid sarcasm. People often miss sarcasm in emails.

I’m at the point with my emails where I groan when I see I’ve received one, in much the same way I groan when my phone rings. I don’t get a lot of “letter” type emails, old friends wanting to reconnect, or family sending me pictures of some new baby or better – a puppy. I get those communications through text or social media. A new email either means someone is advertising to me, I’m getting a new entry to some mailing list I lost interest in ages ago but haven’t become bothered by enough to unsubscribe from yet, or I forgot to pay a bill. It happens. I’ve got a lot going on these days.

As for our jobs, we live off our email communication, especially during this weird COVID adjustment to our work lives. My goal is to get my inbox down to zero messages, to have everything filed away in subfolders, twice per year: once at Christmas and once before vacation. My vacation starts next Thursday and I’ve got 33 items in there right now, so it’s not looking good. This is the week I should be able to take that by the reins and fix it.

Too bad I didn’t realize it was Email Week until Friday.

National Flag Week

As you may or may not know, depending on your geographic location, last Sunday was Flag Day in the US. We didn’t acknowledge it here, given that we are not American, and we do not own an American flag. We do, however, consider ourselves to be amateur vexillology enthusiasts. So I thought we could show off some of the world’s more unusual flags, just for fun.

The official flag of Nepal is the only national flag on the planet that is not rectangular. It’s a combination of two pennants that belonged to two rival branches of the ruling dynasty prior to the flag being adopted in 1962.

The Guam flag looks like a poor attempt at pitching a logo for a travel brochure.

The Swaziland flag does not represent spears splicing through an American football. That said, I think that would be a great idea for a flag, and I plan on suggesting it once people get tired of the maple leaf.

This is the North Caucasian Emirate flag, for a republic that lasted for only six months during the Russian Civil War of 1917-22 which birthed the USSR. I don’t know what the stars and crescent moon mean in this case, but I love the way it looks like it’s smiling. More flags should smile. They’d look prettier.

Lastly we have the flag of Sicily. And if this doesn’t give you nightmares, then you have a stronger constitution than I.

We once again prepare for a flummoxing Saturday, jam-packed with all sorts of mirth and merriment:

  • National Hike With A Geek Day. Since we both established ourselves as various types of geeks for Geek Pride Day, we’ll just hike with each other.
  • National Vanilla Milkshake Day. I suspect we’ll have no problem making this one happen.
  • National Ice Cream Soda Day. Oh man, I just love this project. Like we needed an excuse for an ice cream soda.
  • National Seashell Day. We don’t have easy access to a sea to gather shells. Perhaps we’ll fill up at a Shell station?
  • World Juggling Day. We may as well give this a shot.
  • Summer Solstice. A good day for a bonfire, as the sun stretches its might from really, really early to really, really late.
  • Ugliest Dog Day. We’ll try to find some ugly dogs online, since ours are far too perfect to qualify.
  • National Daylight Appreciation Day. We can do that. We get a lot of it up here in the summer. A lot.
  • Anne & Samantha Day. An interesting day, dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank.
  • Cuckoo Warning Day. A weird superstition. I love weird superstitions. Always good for a laugh.
  • International Ragweed Day. I think if this day gets a little too full, this might be where I start trimming.
  • International Surfing Day. Another activity we can’t do up here. Except “on the web” I guess.
  • New Identity Day. It’s our day to escape our debts and flee!
  • World Humanist Day. Wow. This is quite the packed day.
  • World Productivity Day. Not likely, with all these celebrations we have to fit in.

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