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.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Some days skim the surface of the surreal, propelling us through mayhem and conundrum with nary a second thought, distracting us with the colors and lights of utmost potential. Yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday, as my workplace threatened to drag us out of our comfy home offices and back to the germ-infested downtown office towers, my anxiety leapt into a frantic rhythmic gymnastics routine with little rhythm and zero grace. My mental health has blossomed working from home, and my productivity has probably doubled. Plus, I’ve had time to really dig into some lengthy prose, in order to celebrate all the wonders in the world. Like this:

National Splurge Day

I prefer the way this was rebranded on the show Parks & Recreation as Treat Yo’Self Day. It’s a great idea though, to refocus your efforts on rewarding yourself for all your hard work. Or, if you’re not big into hard work, simply for surviving another day. Whatever your excuse, it’s a good idea to splurge every once in a while.

Of course, this entire year is a form of splurgery for us. We’ve been treating ourselves to every dessert celebration (up until Wednesday, anyway), and getting doughnuts every Saturday – including throughout the pandemic. This has left us on a pretty strict budget right now, though that’s also due to having over-invested in a suddenly non-communicative (but totally honest-sounding) Nigerian prince.

So we plotted out our end-of-month splurge. We have to remain cautious, as Jodie receives her entire summer’s worth of paycheques at the end of June. So we did some online browsing and set our splurges: Jodie’s getting a new pair of shoes and I’m springing for a webcam, in hopes that I’ll be continuing to work from home beyond the end of the month. Since that’s only negligible fun, I was planning to add the latest expansion to Civilization VI because that game has done a bang-up job of sucking my non-work, non-celebration time into the vortex of gaming. But then my lawn mower offered a different splurge suggestion last night: how about a new lawn mower, now that ours has died? Hooray!

If you’re not already splurging on a regular basis, this was your day to dive in. And if you’re a chronic splurgist like we are, you can wait one more day to change your ways. Or not. It’s your life.

National Sushi Day

We have to confess: neither of us are deeply in love with sushi. We like it, and some days it hits the spot perfectly. But Jodie is a bit put off by the sashimi – she took a biology course in university that freaked her out too much to eat raw fish. Sushi is most impressive for its history though – the rice actually helped to keep the fish from spoiling, so it was a practical dish above anything else. This happens as a result of lacto-fermentation, which sounds a little like what happens to my insides when I consume dairy, but actually refers to a metabolic process. The same science occurs in the creation of sauerkraut, in kimchi and in yogurt. Science is neat.

Back the olden days when this process was first being utilized, the rice would help to preserve the fish, and would then be tossed out before the fish was eaten. Vinegar was added to the process about 800 years ago, but they didn’t start subbing in fresh fish with vinegar, rice and nori until fairly recently. The style of sushi we’ve come to know and love popped up in Edo (Tokyo in today-speak) in the 1820s or 30s.

One thing to note about sushi is that it is perfectly acceptable to eat with the fingers, even if you’re at something formal, like a wedding or bar mitzvah. By the way, let’s not try to create a gefilte fish sushi blend, okay? That sounds stomach-turningly bad. (never mind – it’s already been done – this is truly the darkest timeline) For the sushi that features a piece of fish atop a bed of sticky rice, you are only supposed to dip the topping into the soy sauce. Dipping the rice in will cause the sushi to break apart, and that’s no fun for anyone.

Our local grocery store makes passable sushi, and that’s what we enjoyed last night for dinner. But when all this madness is over and we can once again venture into a restaurant without concern, we are overdue for a great sushi feast. We’ve been to a Benihana-style teppanyaki restaurant in the last year or so, but we need a real sushi experience. We’ll skip the sashimi though – the nearest ocean is thousands of miles away and there’s no way that raw fish is going to be fresh on my plate. Besides, Jodie knows what’s in there…

National Stewart’s Root Beer Day

A man named Frank Stewart had a vision of the perfect root beer, which he then unleashed upon an unsuspecting world back in 1924. Specifically they were unleashed at his chain of root beer stands, known as Stewart’s Restaurants. The drink has been beloved for nearly a century, and has spawned a number of other beverages in the Stewart’s line, like Birch Beer, Orange ‘n Cream, and Black Cherry, which Jodie sampled on a Bonza Bottler Day earlier this year.

So why does this particular brand get its own special day? There is no National Root Beer Day (though August will gift us with a National Root Beer Float Day, so that’s awesome), so what’s up with this?

I… have no idea. I can find no origin to the day, nor can I pinpoint June 17 as a particularly notable day in the storied history of the Stewart’s beverage line. I suppose someone – most likely someone in the employ of this company – decided that there should be a commemorative day for root beer, and that this was the lone brand of root beer that deserves it. Sure, okay. Maybe if the A&W, Hires, Barq’s, Mug, and Dad’s people can get their acts together and coordinate their own National Root Beer Day, we can expand on it.

But for now, this day belongs to Stewart’s. And we celebrated as we were meant to, by enjoying the beverage with dinner. It’s great stuff, like damn great. I’d pick it as the best root beer out there, especially if that would mean they’d send me some free product. But they likely won’t, so I’ll withhold my judgment. Maybe since they’re such a proactive company with the celebrations my luck will change.

National Dump the Pump Day

Well if this isn’t just a fine scrotal kick today. This day is meant to encourage us all not to use our cars but to take public transportation. It’s good for the environment, it eases overall traffic, and if you live in a big city you’ve probably got an adequate transit system at your disposal for a fairly low price. Our transit system gets mixed reviews, and that’s on its best day. My commute is roughly 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic. If I were to drive, I’d get there in half the time, at least.

But I’d also be paying for gas to and from downtown every day. And parking costs at least $300 a month if I want to be within 8 blocks of my building. Jodie has the benefit of free parking, and while her bus commute would probably be at least as long as mine, she can get to her school in about 15 minutes. So she drives and I don’t.

Usually. This is not a usual time. My commute now, from my bedroom across the hall, is even better for the environment, and takes 15 seconds, maybe longer if I head downstairs to turn on the coffee. Right now the thought of taking public transit makes me queasy. Our city is seeing an uptick in COVID cases and a downtick in people willing to wear masks in public.

But I understand the purpose of the day, and in a normal year I’d give it a good thumbs-up. Jodie advised me she would not have taken the bus had this been a normal year, as she has no desire to figure out that process and get it right at 7:30 in the morning. I get that. So let’s file this one away and take it under advisement. If you have to leave the house for work, keep transit in mind once it’s not a likely germ-infested hellhole experience. In Edmonton, we’ll someday return to public transit being only a regular hellhole experience. I can’t wait.

International Panic Day

I found one source that claims we should use this day to mitigate our sense of panic (which has, of course, seen a handful of quality tests in 2020), or to keep panic fully at bay by focussing on calming things. Another source tells me we should absolutely panic on this day, full-throttle and with every ounce of energy we can muster. Get it out of our system? Hope that the release sends calming endorphins into our gooey parts? Maybe smash that old abandoned car in the neighbor’s yard?

No, I dealt with panic on my terms today. My homegrown anxiety took me for a delightful dance as I sat in a pair of meetings to discuss the deconstruction of our happy quarantine and the eventual return to the office. I received few assurances, and spent a chunk of the day contemplating how I could somehow acquire a medical condition to render me immuno-compromised and unable to face the outside world. Is this the first step down the road to becoming a hermit? Well, as long as I’ve got my wife, my dogs and my high-speed internet, that sounds great to me.

Panic can be a killer. A panic attack can strip you of your ability to make logical, sensible decisions, and that can lead to all sorts of unpleasant mayhem. Mass panic, while it worked great when our prehistoric ancestors were using it to scare herds of wild beasts into running off a cliff, has led to some astounding tragedies. Panic is the body reacting after the removal of intellectual controls. The notion of having nothing to fear except fear itself is bogus – fear will motivate us to protect, inspire us to innovate. But panic is the quickest route to destruction.

I spent the day yesterday managing my panic. And unless you are really in need of a catharsis and maybe have a spotter or two who can ensure you don’t smash anything of actual value, I’d advise pursuing that method of celebrating the day. Panic ain’t fun.

Recess At Work Day

The people behind Recess at Work Day – and from what I can tell, they are very cool people – feel we should take a moment on this special day and do something different. Have some fun. Socialize. Build morale. I think that’s a terrific idea, and I’d like to see this more as a day that a workplace can use as an excuse to start a tradition of recess. In fact, I’d like my place of work to start doing an actual recess, like in school. Make us go outside for 15 minutes (when it’s not deep winter, of course). We can play soccer in a field, climb some monkeybars, maybe pass a note to our secret crush.

I don’t see that happening, especially since the only field near our office tower is too small for a good game of soccer, and usually filled with day drinkers. But I have always made it my mission at work to encourage some morale-boosting ideas. On Wednesday I took our staff (or some of them) through a trivia contest I put together. That was over lunch hour though, so it doesn’t count. This is actually the week designated for appreciation of us public servants, which for this government means we’ll simply have to pat ourselves on the back and hope there are no more layoff announcements. Yay for appreciation!

But seriously, yay for recess. I took some time mid-shift yesterday to play with my local schoolyard friends, all of whom are canine and fuzzy. It was a wonderful escape from an otherwise unpleasant day.

Today we roll forward once again, into another crazy Friday. And by ‘crazy’, I mean we’re going to finish that damn 3000-piece puzzle, and also make time for all this:

  • National Garfield The Cat Day. Thanks Jim Davis, for unleashing a miserable malcontent cat on the world. We’ll honour the dude by eating his favourite food.
  • National Martini Day. We’ll see how that barrel-aged gin does with some vermouth.
  • National Watch Day. Wear a watch? Or watch some TV? So many options.
  • Wear Blue Day. Delightfully easy to do this one.
  • National Flip-Flop Day. Footwear question for the day has been solved.
  • International Box Day. We’re supposed to build a box for our cat. We don’t have a cat, so maybe we’ll just put on the gloves and punch each other.
  • World Sauntering Day. Hard to move much faster than a saunter in flip-flops.
  • National Take Back the Lunch Break Day. Wait – who stole our lunch break?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Delirium lurks like a panther around my mental corners some days. The frantic sack-race we clamber through each day to pile these celebrations into some sort of coherent order can wear us down, especially when that pesky other-life-stuff steps in and sounds its frail bleat. Yesterday was one such day. We also face a precarious timeline for completing the 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on our dining room table before our children return home for a visit. Next week. Oi vey. Let’s get right to the meat of yesterday’s madness, shall we?

Global Garbage Man Day / Waste & Recycling Workers Week

This is the tenth such day to grace its presence in the world, having been launched back in 2011 by a man named John D. Arwood, who may or may not be a garbage man himself. Actually, he is one, and so was his father. But he’s not a guy who just snagged a city job for the sweet pension (and of course, the chicks). John is passionate about this work because he recognizes just how important it is. Our society could not function without these individuals. Have you ever seen footage of New York City during a garbage strike?

Garbage collectors – I hesitate to call them all ‘garbage men’, as I’m sure there are women in this field – have a brutal job. It’s all lifting and contorting in potentially unhealthy ways, and you have to contend with stabby things sticking out of bags, with angry people in bathrobes, shaking their fists because you didn’t pick up their 1976 console television they left on their curb the week before, and with a bevy of unpredictable smells.

And the end result of their work is a livable, workable city. Our trash and recycle collectors do a bang-up job keeping our neighbourhood flowing. So for this day, Jodie and I decided we’d find a way to get some gift cards out to our collectors. Unfortunately we’ll be a week late, as they stopped by to collect on Tuesday morning. I suppose had we been thinking ahead we’d have been ready for this and done it early, but sometimes we fumble the ball. The best we can do is recover it and advance it. If you know a garbage collector, give them some love. They do what most of us won’t or can’t, and they do it well.

National Eat Your Vegetables Day

We literally had a day to encourage us to eat vegetables one day ago. I even dug up some interesting little veggie trivia facts on Monday for that celebration. If you’d like to learn more about veggies, please feel free to scroll on down to yesterday’s piece. If you’d like to know how we spent this celebration… we ate more vegetables.

People are supposed to eat something like 13 or 19 servings of vegetables a day. Maybe that’s a bit excessive; maybe I’m being over-cautious. Maybe I should be eating that many servings every day, if only to counteract all the dessert celebrations we indulge in. I should point out that today can also be considered a vegetable-related day, as it’s Paul McCartney’s birthday, and he has said that his birthday wish for this year was for people to become vegetarians.

Well, we won’t be doing that, Sir Paul. But we’ve been eating vegetables and will continue to do so, even if the calendar isn’t making us. But give up bacon and all that other meaty goodness? I’m afraid it’s not likely. Happy birthday though. And to everyone else, eat your vegetables.

World Crocodile Day

Many people – the world’s crocodile enthusiasts – joyously celebrated World Croc Day yesterday, but for me the most interesting party came in the form of a touching tribute by 16-year-old Robert Irwin for his dad, Steve.

We grew up watching Steve Irwin and his wife Terri perform ridiculously dangerous interactions with the most vicious creatures on the planet. And he did it with such calm and such inherent charm, we couldn’t look away. It was as though it were perfectly natural and normal for a man to indicate the third-most-venomous snake in the world, then to pick it up to show us its angry hiss in a close-up.

“Dad brought these misunderstood animals to the world and showed everyone just how amazing they truly are. His passion for these modern-day dinosaurs is what inspires us to continue his message of the importance of this keystone species.” Robert then plugs his dad’s research, his croc rescue project, and his own work in the croc field. It’s somewhat comforting to know that these animals still have an Irwin looking out for them. Three actually, since this is still the family business.

For this day and every day going forward we encourage people to keep supporting this research and doing what they can to keep these animals alive. For most of us that will simply mean supporting with our time, money and attention whatever the Irwins put out into the world next. It’s a sadder world with Steve gone, but a far better one for his family still being in it – especially for this little corner of the animal kingdom.

That’s it! No apple strudel yesterday and no cherry tarts. We’re trying to keep our svelte figures here, and the desserts are getting out of hand. Besides, we’ve still got fudge. And now we’ve got this to deal with:

  • National Go Fishing Day. Unfortunately this is a day of work. Perhaps we’ll play a game of fish, the card game, in the evening.
  • National Splurge Day. On a day so perfectly timed between paydays, this might be tricky. But we’ll find a way to treat ourselves today, and discuss why that’s important.
  • National Sushi Day. Perhaps we’ll splurge on some sushi.
  • National Dump The Pump Day. This day suggests we should not use our cars and instead use public transportation to get around. Normally I would, if I was travelling to the office. But I’ll be staying at home. Buses are germ hives right now, so this one is not practical.
  • International Panic Day. Good. I was thinking of doing this anyway.
  • Recess At Work Day. Yay!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

While we praise the vibrations of the cosmic lung-skin as it ripples and quivers in coughing fits, we remember to keep our focus on gratitude. Gratitude for the ability to clamber hungrily out of bed to discipline the day. Gratitude for the boundless crackle of goofery that spews from the wild, untamed eyes of our canine assistants. Gratitude for the calendar, which offers every day a bounty of weirdness so as to differentiate it from the day before. Monotony chimes its ominous clang in lives all throughout this city; we can practically hear it as we walk through our neighbourhood. But we get to grab each day by a different scruffy shirt-collar and face stuff like this:

National Fudge Day

Oh sweet, yummy fudge, you snuck up on us again. We had Nutty Fudge Day on May 12, we Yelled “Fudge” at the Cobras in North America on June 2, now we get to simply enjoy the glories of plain ol’ nut-less fudge. We still have a Peanut Butter Fudge Day, a Hot Fudge Sundae Day and something called a Penuche Fudge Day coming later this year, but this one is set aside for pure creamy sweetness.

And the best part is, I’ve got almost nothing to write about. I dabbled with the history of fudge back in May, so yesterday’s celebration was aimed straight at our taste buds, inviting us to smile and savour, rather than read and research.

Our team baker (thanks, Mom!) came through for us in a big way, and with relatively little notice. She hadn’t planned on making fudge for us this week, but when she saw the other options for dessert creation this week were cherry tarts or apple strudel, she happily threw some fudge together instead. Ever the experimenter, she tried popping some instant coffee into the mix, creating a mocha flavour. This tempered the fudge’s innate sweetness a little, and added a dynamic new taste sensation. She should be selling this stuff for some extra cash; it’s damn phenomenal.

So happy National Fudge Day to all you who joined in, or to those of you who can still grab some and celebrate a day late. It’s what we need to get us through to next month, when we’ll learn what the hell Penuche is.


If you grew up in this part of the world, you knew Bloomsday as an annual race held somewhere near Spokane, Washington, the town where our feed originates for our American TV networks. Fortunately, this celebration has nothing to do with exercise of any kind. Even fortunatelier, it has to do with whiskey.

Now if you happen to be of a more literary persuasion you probably know this as being a celebration tied to the novel Ulysses by James Joyce. The 1922 novel takes place in 1904, and June 16 is the day that the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, heads out for the first time with his wife-to-be. I haven’t read this novel, but I feel this is a charming excuse for a celebration.

James Joyce was actually present for the first Bloomsday celebrations, remarking to a friend about one of them in 1924. Irish communities all over the world celebrate this day, usually with some readings from the novel, and consistently with the consumption of alcohol. Even in Hungary, in the fictional birthplace of Leopold Bloom’s father, they have been celebrating Bloomsday since 1994. The first part of the novel was written in Italy, so they celebrate it there. They celebrate it in Australia and New Zealand, and there’s a five-day festival commemorating Bloomsday in Montreal. This year it’s all online, of course.

Not being too aware of this piece of celebrated fiction, we simply read a few excerpts from the novel while sipping back some Irish whiskey. It was a tasty and happy way to celebrate. The quality of the prose is almost magical – and it makes me feel like just a bit of a schmuck for not having actually cracked this book yet. Am I waiting until they make it into a movie, possibly starring Mark Wahlberg? No – it’s on my someday-list to actually read. At least I’ve already raised a toast to Mr. Bloom.

Fresh Veggies Day / National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month

I have a theory about this one. Some kid was trying to do a prototype to this project, to celebrate everything he could possibly get away with. He did this because he saw stuff like National Strawberry Shortcake Day and National Fudge Day, and he figured it would be an easy way to talk his parents into letting him gorge out on junk food. So his crafty mother (and I choose mothers here, because few fathers could be this crafty) invented Fresh Veggies Day.

I hope that’s the origin story. I can’t find one online, so I’m going go with yes – who’s to argue?

With really no backstory to propel the narrative forward, I suppose that just leaves us eating vegetables and posting about it to social media. Yep, we are officially the lamest people on social media now. Here’s our asparagus. Woohoo!

Let’s learn some interesting veggie facts, if only so this day isn’t a complete wash. The US Supreme Court ruled in 1893 that the tomato was a vegetable, despite science insisting that it’s a fruit. You can use a cucumber as an eraser for a ballpoint pen. Apparently sticking a slice of bread in your mouth and leaving it there will prevent crying whilst cutting up an onion. Potatoes were the first food to be grown in space. The ancient Egyptian laborers who built the pyramids were paid in radishes.

Okay, that’s enough facts for today. We also factually ate veggies, and that’s what matters most. Thanks, mom.

National Vinegar Day

Every source I used in preparation for this project indicates that National Vinegar Day is on November 1. That’s the day I’d planned to celebrate it, which will mix very strangely with National Calzone Day. But then this popped up in my research this week. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised.

Vinegar apparently occurs when ethanol mixes with oxygen to create acetic acid. But does this really matter? Are any of us home-brewing vinegar in our basement? And if so… why? You can buy all sorts of vinegar all over the place. Stop wasting your time and start making some beer instead.

Vinegar dates back to 3000 BC and those hearty Ancient Babylonians. The Egyptians used it, as did the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, the Spartans… pretty much every old-timey civilization made use of the stuff. I’m going to focus on the stuff we had sprinkled on our asparagus last night before tossing it onto the barbecue: balsamic.

Balsamic vinegar originates in Italy, and it’s made from the concentrated juice of white Trebbiano grapes. I have never tasted a white vinegar that has stood out from other white vinegars, but I have explored some exquisite balsamics. I suppose this is the sort of vinegar it would make some sense to brew as a hobby, as it is aged and crafted differently by different producers. And it’s damn tasty. This was a tasty treat, even if we’ll be repeating it in a few months.

No Orange Clothes Day

You know how Olympic athletes and soccer fans and really every international sporting person to emerge from and represent the Netherlands is wearing orange? There’s actually an interesting story about that, and it ties in with this bizarre, yet strikingly simple to celebrate day.

William of Orange became Prince of Orange when he was just 11. That was an area of France, but through events that probably involved a bunch of anonymous (and therefore unimportant) people dying, it came under his control in 1544. Fast-forward 24 years and William led the Dutch revolt against the Spanish, which created the Dutch Republic, whose flag was orange, blue and white.

Unfortunately, William died, as great leaders have a tendency to do. The power in the Dutch Republic filtered down to the provincial estates, and the orange stripe in the flag was eventually replaced with red. No longer a colour representing the entire country, orange came a colour of rebellion against oppressive leadership, which led to the colour being banned in clothing on June 16, 1784. Orange made a resurgence in 1813, when the Orange monarchy was established in the Netherlands.

So I’m not exactly sure of the right way to celebrate this one. The orange-wearers were the oppressed, and the order not to wear orange was an act of suppression by the folks in charge at the time. So while we could have honoured the day literally, it actually felt more important to show our solidarity with the Dutch by wearing that forbidden colour on this day. We’re kind of bad-ass that way.

World Sea Turtle Day

The WWF – that’s the World Wildlife Federation, not the 80s and 90s wrestling people – have designated this day to celebrate the undeniably awesome sea turtle, and to make us all feel like awful shits for how we have desecrated this planet to the point where their future is in jeopardy. Seriously, 8 tonnes (and that’s the larger, metric kind of tonne) of plastic gets dumped into the ocean every year. Six out of seven species of sea turtles are dangling off the cliff of existence, perilously close to extinction.

So let’s learn about them and why they seem so… for want of a better word, fucked. Discarded fishing line gets wrapped around their necks. Sometimes it’ll get wrapped around their flippers, causing infection or leading to amputation. 91% of sea turtles who collide with boats don’t survive. And that happens often, especially where they nest just off the coast of Florida. Microplastics get jammed up in their digestive tracts.

If all that isn’t disgusting enough, these creatures get poached for their shells, eggs, and meat. Honestly, whoever is out there eating sea turtles, just hit up an Arby’s instead. If you’re that much of an asshole, you deserve to suffer through Arby’s.

Sea Turtles are just beautiful creatures. They have no teeth – their jaws are made from keratin, just like our fingernails. They can be up to almost six feet long and weigh 500kg. They’re spectacular. And yet one out of every two is estimated to have swallowed plastic, thinking it was food. That’s a really lousy number. We can do better. We owe it to these dudes.

Wish Fulfillment Day

I’m not sure what to do with this one. Not even a little.

I can find only one source for this holiday, and it comes from a June 16, 2001 entry on a blog written entirely from the perspective of two housecats. This is what the internet was back in 2001: plenty of Geocities Third Eye Blind fanpages and cat blogs. The entry for that day calls it Wish Fulfillment Day and claims the cats were particularly happy because the Red Sox won.

Well, the Red Sox didn’t win yesterday. They did what we all did – spent much of their day at home. So if this celebration has barely enough backstory to even qualify it as a celebration, do we still do it? I mean… sure, why not?

It seems highly implausible that we’d come up with a wish to fulfill on the same day. And picking some esoteric wish for the future goes against the nature of the celebration: it’s fulfillment day, dammit. So what classic wishes can we fulfill? What did we want for in the past that might have come true yesterday? Well, I got to hear my wife comment (without the sarcasm one might expect) that I may have lost weight. She hasn’t said that to me in years. And for Jodie, she got to see the end of this weird teleconference teaching crap that has defined the last chunk of her school year. Next week the kids show up and return their books and stuff, and after that: summer.

I know, those are fairly weak wishes, but this is a fairly weak holiday. We could have set up some wishes earlier in the year so they’d pay off today, but this celebration didn’t make my radar until the day before yesterday. Besides, we don’t do everything cats tell us to in their blogs. We’re grown-ups.

Do I get my wish fulfilled with an easy day of celebration today? Sure! Except for all this:

  • Global Garbage Man Day. This might be a good day to pick out something to do to thank our waste collection professionals. Who, unfortunately, came to collect a day before this day.
  • National Eat Your Vegetables Day. OKAY MOM, WE GET IT! WE EAT TOO MANY DESSERTS!
  • National Stewart’s Root Beer Day. A very specific celebration, but one in which we are happy to partake.
  • National Apple Strudel Day. This one might be trickier to source.
  • National Cherry Tart Day. Wait… really? Maybe that mom has a point.
  • National Take Your Cat To Work Day. Hopefully my cat-owning friends will come through for us.
  • World Crocodile Day. Another great creature to learn about. Neat.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The seconds yesterday were like polished sand, slipping between my fingers and dirtying up the floor, along with all that damn dog hair. Work was busy, I needed to create a trivia game for my coworkers, Liberty was set to graduate from her second puppy class, and we had a pile of celebrations on the table to comb through. It might have exhausted us completely were it not for the grace of such bodacious revelry, like this:

National Beer Day (UK)

Lest you were wasting your day seeking out the correct hashtag with which to honour this sacred day, #cheersforbeer is the way to go. The consumers of beer in England have a delightful knack for creativity. They placed this day squarely on June 15 in order to honour the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, which took place 805 years ago. There is a line in that sacred document that reads as follows: “Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn…”

So there you go. It’s not just a document that is at the foundation of our modern legal system, it also references beer. In particular I believe this portion of the document is stating we need to establish a standard wine glass, a universal pint, and… the cob. I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer.

If the pubs are open in Britain, they should be celebrating this day. Actually, I just checked – they aren’t. July 4 is the expected opening date, and by then National Beer Day will be but a distant memory. But not around here. Around here we forego with silly socialization and dig into our celebrations with only ourselves to hold one another accountable. Jodie skipped the day, as she does with most alcohol days and all beer days (because yes, I’m the cool one), but I enjoyed some Old Speckled Hen.

The Morland Brewery of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, has roots that date back to 1711. Old Speckled Hen was a 1979 creation, crafted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MG Car Company. It’s a delightful ale, and it made for a fine tribute to a nation whose beer history is among the richest and tastiest on the planet. I hope there are more beer days ahead.

Global Wind Day

Wind energy, the noise from which may or may not cause cancer, depending on whether you believe in science or goofy, idiotic speculation, may be the way of the future. Or maybe not. It has its drawbacks: those turbines are expensive to build, mount and maintain, and the blades can occasionally swat birds out of the sky. Honestly, I don’t see wind power replacing the fossil-fuel options we use today, but it can certainly be a big part of the solution.

The day’s official website features a number of essays… well, one from this year and one from last year, with a handful from 2018… and some nifty animated videos explaining how wind energy works and its history. There’s also an online quiz, which I was excited to take. Then I learned it’s a Zoom-meeting quiz, and that it took place four hours before I sat down to write this article. The website is European-run; by the time I was hard at work at my desk, these wind enthusiasts were already tucked into their breezy little beds.

That’s okay, I found this quiz instead, courtesy of the US Department of Energy. I didn’t know going in if this was going to be science based, or more centered around the current American administration’s approach to alternative energy. Anyway, I was set to answer “COAL, BITCH!” for every question, just in case.

Well, I scored only 4/13, so my knowledge of wind power is obviously embarrassingly low. But in messing up all those questions I did learn a lot. There are over 800 components in a single wind turbine, for example. That’s a lot to keep track of, and potentially a lot that could break down.

I’m giving a thumbs-up to this one, and I hope we can celebrate it next year in a world where wind energy is a much more accepted standard. We’ll see.

National Smile Power Day

Behold the power of the smile.

No really, that’s it. Just behold it. Behold it as long as you need to behold it until you feel it has been sufficiently beheld. This is a celebration to commemorate the power of a smile to change someone’s day, which we could have milked with our coworkers had this been a normal day. I only saw three of my coworkers on a conference call today, and while I smiled several times, I don’t believe it carried as much power as it might have in person.

But smile we did. We smiled at Liberty’s puppy class, but everyone did. We all felt the power. We all basked in its glory.

The suggestions for this day, apart from just smiling more? Learn a couple of jokes, ideally not racist or sexist ones. Make a list of the things that make you smile. Learn the art of spoonerisms, which is a letter-swapping game. So that way, if you’re at a restaurant you can say, “I’ll have the keys and parrots” instead of “I’ll have the peas and carrots.” Did you smile? Why the hell not?

First of all, since when are peas and carrots a dish that someone orders at a restaurant? What kind of restaurant is this? And will your waiter or waitress think you’re being clever or will they worry you just had a small stroke? And if you’re smiling, is that going to help your case or hinder it?

Screw it. We smiled. We didn’t go out and order weird shit from restaurants, nor did we learn little jokes to tell. We just smiled. Celebration celebrated.

National Prune Day

Ah, prunes. Commonly known as an old-person food, which means I had better start developing a taste for it now. I mean, they’re just plums with all the life sucked out of them, right? And plums are fantastic. Prunes just look like large raisins, or extra-large rodent turds. One interesting bit of tid about the prune is that in 2001 the United States prune people (not an official designation, and it sounds more like the basis for a monster movie) decided that ‘prune’ was just too much of an old-person term. So they got permission from the FDA to market their products as ‘dried plums’. Talk about changing the conversation.

Prunes will help to keep the machinery in motion, so far as digestion is concerned. They contain a lot of dietary fiber, so they’re great if your trips to the stall are yielding less than ideal results. The most impressive part of prunes is their stash of Vitamin K, which is great for the blood, bones, and other various inside parts. They also make for a great snack, assuming your house is otherwise devoid of better snack alternatives.

Look, I’m being a bit rough on the beloved prune, and on its special day no less. For this I offer only a scant apology. Prunes are slimy and weird. They don’t taste bad, but the texture is a little like what I’d imagine biting into a ferret’s scrotum might resemble. I’m all for the Vitamin K and pooping on the regular, but I don’t know if it’s worth the cost. My mouth feels gross after eating a couple of these, and I’m wondering if I’ll have it in me to finish this entire bag.

I kind of hope not.

National Kiss A Wookiee Day

There is a Facebook page for this celebration, which indicates that it has been celebrated since 2005. That’s kind of sweet, and I think we can all look back fondly on the spring of 2005 as the time when we saw the return of the Wookiee to Star Wars lore, as Chewbacca and his fellow Kashyyykians helped to fight off the bad guys in the third prequel film.

Now, we all know that Wookiees aren’t real. At least they’re not in this galaxy, which is not far, far away at all. But we probably all know some Wookiee-esque folks. In our case, that would be me. I have the extensive body hair and the tendency to moan incoherently as a form of primary communication. I also look pretty bad-ass with a crossbow (or so I suspect). So Jodie gave me a kiss yesterday as our resident Wookiee.

There’s really no other feasible way to celebrate this day. Peter Mayhew, the beloved actor who brought Chewbacca to life, has passed away, and I think he deserved a kiss more than the rest of us. I suppose if you find yourself anywhere near Joonas Suotamo, the guy who has played Chewy in the last few films, you can give him a kiss. But maybe warn him first – we don’t need to go getting arrested for this celebration.

Or if you do, please let us know. We’d love a story of one of these happy mirth-vessels spiraling out of control.

National Electricity Day

On this day back in 1752, Ben Franklin performed his infamous kite-fly, which brought forth the reality of electricity to a power-hungry world. He used a length of wet hemp rope to conduct the electricity, which was far safer than the lightning rods he had been using in his earlier experiments. There was a house key hanging from that hemp, connected to a Leyden jar, which was a method of storing an electric charge.

Ben’s kite didn’t get struck by lightning. Had that occurred, this would have likely been the final chapter in Ben Franklin’s story. But he noticed that the loose ends of the kite string were repelling each other, and that the Leyton jar was getting charged. It was a pretty bad-ass science experiment, and it led us as a people on a long, steady arc of progress to find ourselves sitting in front of electronic devices today, one hand down our pants and the other mindlessly scrolling through lengthy articles like these.

To celebrate this day, we could have flown a kite if we owned one (or if we’d had some free kite-flying time in the middle of the day), but instead we just marvelled at what this little experiment brought us. Electricity. That which we could not do without. Kind of a weak celebration for such a special day, but hey – we had prunes to eat too. We’re putting in the time.

National Lobster Day

Had we known about this day sooner, we might have prepared by grabbing some lobster upon which we could feast for dinner. But that’s okay – we’ve got plenty of food in this house, and there are a number of ways we can honour the beloved lobster. They are weird, freaky little creatures.

Lobsters appear to be eight-legged creatures, which I find to be utterly repulsive, but they’re actually ten-legged, as their front pincers are considered to be legs. They’ve got blue blood due to its copper content, and most of them are some shade of blue-green, which helps them blend in on the ocean floor. They only turn bright red once they have been rendered delicious through cooking, which really makes me wonder about Sebastian’s backstory. It’s hard to know just how long they live in the wild, but it’s estimated that if they can steer clear of predators, they can pull off 40 or 50 years of life. That’s pretty impressive.

Boiling lobsters live is actually quite frowned upon, and even illegal in parts of the world. You can stab them in the brain to kill them first, but even that won’t work, as the lobster’s brain operates from several ganglia, so one stab won’t cut it. Plopping them into a pot and slowly heating that pot up is just torture for lobsters. So how to kill them humanely so that you can deliver them to their melted-butter destiny with minimal guilt? There’s a device called the CrustaStun that will do the trick. This will electrocute your lobster and kill it painlessly.

It’s a lot of work, but isn’t it worth it? I mean – they’re noble creatures of the sea, and I get that animal lovers don’t like to see anything perish for human consumption, but damn… ever had a lobster roll? Those things are insanely good.

Happy Lobster Day to lobsters everywhere – we didn’t murder any of you for our celebration yesterday. We hope you appreciate it.

Today we roll on into another day of delicious mayhem:

  • National Fudge Day. “But I just made you fudge,” our team baker (hi, Mom!) told us. Yes, but that was for Nutty Fudge Day. This is just Fudge Day.
  • Bloomsday. We’ll be sipping some Irish whiskey and reading aloud from some James Joyce on this sacred day.
  • Fresh Veggies Day. Always good to enjoy some fresh veggies. We’ll hope this balances out the fudge.
  • No Orange Clothes Day. This will be easy to cover.
  • National Vinegar Day. Dare we dip our veggies in vinegar? Our fudge maybe? No, we won’t be doing any of that.
  • World Sea Turtle Day. Glorious creatures deserve some glorious love today.
  • Wish Fulfilment Day. My wish is for this day’s article to be much shorter and more to the point than the last few. We’ll see if that gets fulfilled.

Monday, June 15, 2020

June’s ides find us tapping our feet to the rhythm of the birds and praising the long distorted shadows of an evening that seems to stretch to the ensuing dawn. We are enriched by the boundaries of our imagination, as it is those boundaries which provide us with the edges of our path to eternal wonder. And such wonder is immeasurable if you squint hard enough to see through the daily drek of an encumbered life. For example, we had all of this to keep our Sunday full and fiery:

National Strawberry Shortcake Day

Strawberry shortcake is about as elderly a dessert as we’ll be celebrating this year, dating back to at least 1588. What we know as usually a sponge-cake-based recipe used to be a round biscuit, served hot with butter and sweet cream. Early recipes called for a rounded pie crust, or broken up pie crust bits underneath the strawberries. It wasn’t until the French stepped in and added whipped cream around 1910 that the dessert was truly elevated to perfection.

As a kid, I knew Strawberry Shortcake to be some doll that broke up the important commercial breaks which informed me which sugary cereal I craved or which G.I. Joe action figures I’d beg my parents for next. Those dolls were the creation of freelance greeting card artist Barbi Sargent back in 1973. According to my research (which isn’t going to stretch must past Wikipedia, I promise you), Barbi was granted the copyright to the characters in 1983, so she did make some money off them. Then it says she returned the copyrights to American Greetings, the card company, so that they could continue with the success of the franchise.

So did Barbi get rich off her creation or not? It’s hard to say. There was an extensive legal battle (I seriously can’t believe how much I’ve read about this topic), and clearly she won. But then it seems as though she simply turned the copyright back to the greeting card company so that her creation could continue to flourish and be successful. So I have no idea if she can retire on any share of the hundreds of millions of dollars the Strawberry Shortcake franchise has made. I sure hope so.

Wow – I wrote much more on the dolls than on the food, and this day has nothing to do with the damn dolls. But it does have to do with delicious dessert, and really the point of celebrating is to celebrate, not to write about it. It was a delicious evening.

International Bath Day

We have already celebrated two bath related days this year, so what’s the point of this one?

Actually, this one has the most interesting back-story, and it goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. Archimedes, whom you may remember from such inventions as the lever, the pulley, and the hydraulic screw, gets credit for this one. He was sitting in his bath one day when he came to the realization that the amount of water displaced by immersion into the tub can be used to calculate the density of an object. The story goes that this could be used to determine if a crown made for King Hiero II of Syracuse was pure gold, or gold mixed in with silver by some dishonest crown-maker.

Archimedes (or, Archie to his buddies, probably) was so excited by this realization that he infamously yelled “Eureka!” and ran through the streets naked. In the legend – which may or may not be rooted in truth – this occurred one week before the start of summer, hence our celebration of it on June 14.

Again, I don’t know how much of this is true, given my suspicions over the pinpoint accuracy of most human history from that long ago. But it’s a great tale, and it speaks to the bath as being a place where untold inspiration can thunderously crash through someone’s cranium and bring about a life-altering moment in time. Abbey, our beloved far-away daughter, had a bath yesterday, though she did not report any life-changing revelations or astounding scientific epiphanies. Maybe next time.

National Pop Goes The Weasel Day

A couple weeks back we celebrated an idiotic children’s song about a faulty bucket, now we’re supposed to pay tribute to an equally idiotic song about an exploding rodent? That hardly seems like fun.

The song is thought to trace back to the 1700s, but it rose to prominence in the early 1850s as a dance, much like how the mashed potato, the slop, and the stroll would take over culture a century or so later. And hey, I found a site with some sheet music from 1853 that actually describes the  dance thusly:

“Top couple ballançez, four bars – then gallop down inside and back, four bars – take the next lady, hands round four bars – then two bars back and (while all sing Pop Goes the Weasel) pass her under your arms to her place – repeat with the lady’s partner then gallop down inside and back, four bars – and down outside to the other end of the line, four bars, which finishes the figure.”

Got it? Cool.

The other option is simply to grab an old jack-in-the-box and turn the handle. Of course then you’ll miss out on the lyrics, which are plenty cryptic on their own:

“Every night when I go out,

The monkey’s on the table;

Take a stick and knock it off,

Pop! Goes the weasel.”

Is that a heroin reference? Were monkeys frequently found in English homes back then? Do I really need the answers to these questions? No, I’m pretty sure I don’t. And I don’t think this song is truly deserving of a celebration, but that’s not my call to make. I just pass on the news. To celebrate this, I wrote this piece while the melody to the song played over and over in my brain, nudging me just a little closer to insanity. Damn. I hope there are no more celebrations like this.

National New Mexico Day

Ah, that’s better. Back to something that makes sense: food. In particular yesterday we celebrated food from the Land of Enchantment, the 47th addition to the tapestry of those United (so-to-speak) States. New Mexico, and Albuquerque in particular, has seen a recent uptick in popular culture, thanks to the wacky antics of Walter White and the rest of the Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul troupe of lovable goofballs. One could extrapolate from those shows that the state is full of meth-heads and organized criminals, but that would be unfair. Meth-heads and organized criminals can be found in every state.

Nuevo México was founded as a province of New Spain back in 1598, when Europeans were desperately trying to subdivide this big new continent into bold extensions of their own home nations, indigenous populace be damned. Santa Fe was created as its capital in 1610, making it one of the longest-lasting cities in North America west of the thirteen colonies. The name came from the Valley of Mexico, a plateau where the Aztecs dwelled, and which had been visited by Spanish explorers. Mexico the country wouldn’t get its name until 250 years later, so New Mexico actually holds the longer claim to the name than the country.

New Mexico’s economy relies on oil drilling, cattle ranching, and lately filmmaking. It’s a state without any professional sports teams, and with a climate that stretches from snowy-cold to sweltering desert. The state tends to rank low in the quality of its education, yet in 2000 it had the highest concentration of PhD-holders in the country. The lowest recorded temperature in the state’s history was -50, or -46 Celsius. I wouldn’t have expected that, especially after having watched all those Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Famous folks from New Mexico make for a pretty decent list: Jeff Bezos (yeah, I know) from Albuquerque, Ronny Cox (the bad guy in Robocop and Total Recall) from Cloudcroft, John Denver from Roswell, Neil Patrick Harris from Albuquerque, Demi Moore from Albuquerque, and a heap of others. Because of New Mexico’s claim to the largest percentage of Latinx Americans in the country, we decided Mexican food would be the way to go for our state-inspired cuisine. We ordered in from Calle Mexico, an incredibly popular restaurant that we had yet to sample. The food was great. And I’d love to visit this state someday.

Especially now that Gus Fring won’t be a problem.

National Bourbon Day

Oh bourbon, you magnificent nectar of wonders, how grateful am I to be basking in your glow once again. To mix things up I enjoyed some on its own terms, sipping its splendour in carefully spaced moments of exquisite harmony. I considered enjoying another Black Cow because the evening necessitated another dessert, but I’d eaten too much shortcake. The bourbon was fine on its own.

I’ve heard a rumour that bourbon must be crafted in Kentucky in order to be called bourbon. This is absolutely false; there is no such requirement as you’d find in Champagne with their guarded beverage. Bourbon simply has to be brewed in the United States, must contain at least 51% corn in its blend of grains, and it must be aged in new, charred oak casks. There are alcohol requirements as well for the various stages of its creation.

Straight bourbon whiskey made in Tennessee tends to be labelled as ‘Tennessee Whiskey’, even if it meets the legal requirements for bourbon. Jack Daniels fits this description, so if that’s all you have laying around with which to celebrate National Bourbon Day, it’s allowed. Bourbon is a brilliant ingredient in a number of delicious beverages, like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. This is our third deployment of bourbon in the last couple of weeks – we also used it to make mint juleps, which were not particularly tasty.

But I’m blaming my weak mixology skills. How could a drink so astoundingly tasty as bourbon find its way into something less-than-palatable? Nope, this was the right way to do it – let the bourbon do the talking. And it spoke to me deliciously.

World Blood Donor Day

Here’s something we learned yesterday, as we drove across town to the blood donor clinic at the University hospital: the blood donor clinic at the University hospital is closed on Sundays. Dammit.

Luckily Canadian Blood Services now has an app. We were able to book an appointment for next weekend to go spurt out some of the red stuff. It’s a good thing for anyone to do as often as allowed, which is 56 days from one’s last donation. Look, nobody likes needles, and unless you’re into some really weird shit you probably don’t want to spend a great deal of time making visual contact with your own blood.

But donating blood saves lives in an extremely direct way. Some of the policies surrounding blood donation I get – like having to wait for a while to donate after getting a tattoo. But the Canadian Blood Services restrictions on gay men donating still irks me. They have reduced the requirement now so you can donate if it has been three months since your last same-sex encounter (which could simply account for a reasonable dry spell in one’s love life), but it still isn’t right. But that’s an argument for another day.

This isn’t the kind of issue people should protest by refusing to donate blood. The demand for blood in hospitals is unrelenting, and we all need to step up and help out. Besides, they give you juice and cookies afterward. I’ve learned throughout my years that I’ll do a lot of stuff for juice and cookies.

Family History Day

This is a day for folks to dig into their deep pasts, to scour their sources for genealogical knowledge. This is terrific for people who haven’t yet done this. I’m sure we’ll both get around to digging through our ancestors’ closets for some juicy bits someday, but not today. We’re both a bit nervous about sending our DNA through the mail to a private company, as I’d hate for someone to use mine to clone some sort of evil Marty-lizard that winds up taking part in a government overthrow. I really don’t need that publicity right now – I’m just trying to celebrate shit.

So instead we’re going to share a couple of interesting stories from our own family histories. Jodie’s story is about her father, who was a member of a certain organization that was mostly known for riding motorcycles, but also delves into some… other activities. Jodie was aware growing up of the reputation of the club of which her dad was a part, but this gave her an interesting insight. She realized that all people, no matter what organization they may be a part of, are someone’s mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, etc. They’re people. And they should be defined as people, not as part of the greater whole. Her dad joined the group when they were fresh to this country. Back then it was about riding bikes and drinking beer and embracing freedom in its purest and most vibrant sense. The other stuff came along later.

My story is about my grandfather, who used to regale me, in his thick Brooklyn accent, with tales of the Great Depression, of sharing a soda with a girl on a date, or of going to a movie for 25 cents, and that included popcorn, a drink, and a new tailored suit. My grandpa quit school at a young age to help his family out, and this included a stint selling firearms, despite being far too young to legally own one. He somehow talked his way into the Yankees’ dressing room once to show off his goods, and it was one of the highlights of his life. It makes me smile to think of my grandpa, basking in his heroes whilst offering them the opportunity to purchase something to kill someone with.

Family histories are always full of weird stories. I hope that we are contributing our own for our offspring to share. Maybe it’ll have something to do with a ridiculous year-long project or something.

Write To Your Father Day

I’ll be honest, this article is getting away from me a little. Yesterday was such a busy day that chronicling it all became a bit too much – sometimes you just have to celebrate in the moment and leave the writing to the more esoteric topics.

I found one article online which described this as a “Major New Holiday” back in 2006. It’s been around 14 years and I’ve never heard of it. The idea here is simply to write to your father, then expect the postal service will get the message to him within a week for father’s day. The article goes into 70% of prisoners growing up without a father, but I don’t think we really need to delve into statistics for this one, do we?

Quite simply, a message to my father isn’t going to reach him in a week. He passed away years ago, so I would simply be writing one of those symbolic letters to spew out my unexpressed feelings. I have no need for that; I was able to tell my dad everything I needed to tell him, good and bad. We didn’t end things with a big blank pause, we simply ended them too soon.

Jodie’s dad, on the other hand, is alive and well and awesome. She penned a lovely Father’s Day card to him, which she’ll be mailing out tomorrow. That is the spirit of the day – no need to keep writing about it. Right?

Race Unity Day

There’s really nothing I can add to this one. Right now the races are far from anything resembling unity, but that does not have to be a permanent condition. We are doing our part, but I’m going to hit the pause button on this site become a place to preach about that. We have said our peace and we continue to say it each and every day.

We really hope this celebration reflects a much happier world in 2021. But everyone has to want it. That doesn’t seem to be the case. This day was started with much optimism by the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly in Evanston, Illinois back in 1957. Their ultimate aim is peace, and they saw racism as a significant barrier to peace. They were right, of course.

Unfortunately we have no easy answers to this one. All we can do is hope it someday comes true, and we can celebrate our unity rather than be disgusted by our stunning lack of it. But this is the fight currently underway in the streets of America, and really around the world. It’s a necessary fight, and I hope it continues until it no longer has to. We’ll see. Today I’ll try to be as optimistic as the Baha’i.

On a much happier note, today will be jam-packed with all sorts of goofy goodness:

  • National Smile Power Day. Hey cool, a day to acknowledge the power of a smile and of positivity and of… yes, again. We are doing one of these again.
  • Nature Photography Day. We’re both working today, but given our weird situations we should be able to pop out and take a few nature pics.
  • Global Wind Day. I guess we acknowledge wind and its awesome globalness.
  • National Beer Day (UK). Well you know I’m going to celebrate this one. And I have a tasty English beer to help me out.
  • National Prune Day. Prunes. We’re gonna snack like we’re nonagenarians!
  • National Kiss A Wookiee Day. I’ve been told I resemble one. Maybe I’ll get some action.
  • National Electricity Day. We will celebrate by using electricity. Often.
  • National Lobster Day. Pricy and hard to find right now. But we can certainly celebrate our love of the stuff.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Deep in the throes of a Saturday that COVID tried to slash to bits, we found ourselves scrambling for ways to squeak celebrations out of a day that required us to do more than was allowed. There was a celebration for doing something nice for people with cancer, but we couldn’t go volunteer anywhere. There was a celebration for sewing machines but we didn’t have access to one to play with (though for this we found a work-around). There was another celebration all about axe throwing, and the one establishment in town that features this pastime was not letting folks in to do it. Yesterday was a day of compromise. Luckily, we found a way to cover all of this:

National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day

The initial plan for this day was to fake a kitchen accident while cooking. Spill some flour, slip on it, hit my head on the glass kitchen table, shatter the table and land on the floor whilst being pelted by broken glass shards, get a concussion. You know, something hilarious like that. But that isn’t really what this day is about.

I honestly don’t know what this day is about. One celebration suggestion involves reminiscing about kitchen screw-ups we’ve made. Jodie has already brought up earlier this week that her track record for baking includes some recent blunders, including flat, lifeless cookies and the chocolate macaroons that didn’t seem to harden. She’s been breaking a lot of yolks in her egg-making lately. But as far as I’m concerned she redeemed herself with those magic ginger snaps last week. That was 61 cookies all baked to a state of utter perfection.

My recent attempt at hollandaise sauce would classify as a klutz move. I poured the butter in too quickly and the sauce never stood a chance of holding together. The sauced came out tasting like melted butter and had to be scrapped, leaving us with eggs benedict minus the sauce. That wasn’t my worst fuck-up though – I’d give that to my attempt at making a large batch of Caesar salad dressing back when I worked at local Cajun restaurant Café Orleans in 1994. I was supposed to add a liter or two of chicken stock, but no one had told me that meant mixing the powdery chicken stock with water first. So I dumped all the powder stock into the batch, creating a massive stash of yellow, over-salty, grotesque dressing you wouldn’t serve on the salad of your enemies.

Anyone who has any kitchen skill has at least a couple of klutz stories like this. Thankfully neither of us have cut anything off of ourselves (though knife wounds were pretty much an expected part of professional kitchen work), nor have we smashed a glass kitchen table with our skulls. Not yet. Maybe next year.

National Weed Your Garden Day

Another day to focus upon our garden, which we technically do not have. The shot above is of a little patch of… well, pretty much weeds in our front yard. There was a tree there once, and over the past year we’ve seen a new tree begin to rise toward the stars in the very same spot. We like this little tree dude. The weeds around him are, for the most part, rather pleasing to the eye as well. They present as little white and purple flowers, though they offer no nectar to the bees. Or at least, so I think. Jodie believes they are proper flowers, and I really don’t care – I like ‘em. I trim the grass and the uglier weeds from time to time, but yesterday was the day to actually pull them.

Jodie took care of this one. Because I have taken on the task of all other outdoor home maintenance, from shoveling snow to mowing grass to laying out peanuts for our tenant/squatter squirrel, Elton, Jodie took hold of this one. And she did a fine job. The after photo is not as impressive as seeing the change up close, but I was snapping pics whilst writing. Sometimes multi-tasking is crucial.

Me, I did my part by enjoying some weed near our garden later in the evening. The rain was falling by then so I didn’t spend a lot of time out there, but hey – a celebration just needs to be done to be done, right? Is that an expression I can coin and eventually become famous from? I suppose that’s up to you, the reader. Squeeze that saying into your daily parlance, and weed your lexicographical garden of less catchy phrases. We can do this.

National Sewing Machine Day

The invention of the sewing machine is long and detailed, and most likely the subject of a volume of books, or perhaps a multi-part documentary series by Ken Burns. Sure, there’s Elias Howe, the guy we’ve all heard of, and his legal battles with Isaac Singer and Hugo J. Pfaff and Horatio Q. Brother. But a host of other folks also developed technologies before and after Mr. Howe’s 1845 brainstorm, and to delve into each of them here might put us all to sleep.

So instead I’d like to comment on my personal experience with sewing machines. My mom used to sew in our basement. She sewed together a couple of Halloween costumes for me, including a believable burlap cloak for my Yoda costume, which I used two years in a row because the latex full-head mask was just that awesome. Sewing skill is, however, not a genetic trait. I looked it up. I also lived it.

In the eighth grade we used to bus across the west end of town to Westminster school on Monday afternoons, where we spent half the year taking shop and the other half taking home economics. The home ec component was split into sewing, then cooking. The last sewing task involved crafting a complete apron, with a loop for the head and ties for behind the back and everything. Even a pocket. Unfortunately, I was so utterly hapless with the sewing machine that I completed my apron just in time for the final cooking class, where I made a pizza of little remarkable quality. The one thing I learned in that class: I hate sewing.

So yesterday we did not commemorate this day by using a sewing machine, because Jodie is no more effective on one of those things than I am. We don’t own one. My mom sent over a picture of her mother’s “treadle” machine, which does something sew-like, but I don’t know what. I did learn that ‘treadle’ rhymes with ‘peddle’ and not with ‘Don Cheadle’, so that’s something. Anyway, happy sewing machine day if you’re into that sort of thing.

National Knit In Public Day

Some celebrations we can fling our arms around and dance with until the unholy crack of dawn. Others… well, if you were to put Jodie and I in front of a sewing machine and a pair of knitting needles, we’d be able to hack our way much further with the sewing machine. I have never once in my life held knitting needles in my hand, other than perhaps to move them out of my way so I could sit down whilst visiting my grandmother. It just hasn’t come up.

Fortunately, the talents of our friends and readers far outshines ours in a much wider field of skills. Our friend Brenda did some crochet work on her front step, while our friend Heather took her knitting under the sun. Over in the National Capital District in Ontario, my longtime friend Alana enjoyed some quality knit-time on a park bench. Meanwhile in Calgary, my beloved auntie Kerry drove all over the city, pausing to knit at a variety of public locales. This is what happens when you surround yourself with good people – they come through in ways you’d never expect.

This day was launched by a lady named Danielle Landes back in 2005. Her plan was to shatter the solitude of knitting for just one day, and to lure knitters out into the world to practice their talents among the people. Local events are organized all around the globe – even this year with the pandemic. The only Alberta event listed on the site took place in Chester, Alberta, and it involved people socially distanced on their porches and lawns, sharing in what I hope was a beautiful day.

A huge thanks to those of you who pitched in and gifted us with your outdoor crafting exploits. You rock.

National Rosé Day

A French winery called Bodvàr came up with this day back in 2014 to celebrate this refreshing summery style of wine. Given that neither of us are wine experts, we couldn’t tell you offhand what specifically makes rosé wine different from other wines, apart from its colour and probably coming from a different type of grape.

While I’m certain there are specific grapes that lend themselves to making a perfect rosé, the real difference is in technique. Rosé is well-known for using the skin contact method, which sadly does not mean people stomp on the grapes with bare feet, Lucille-Ball-style. It means the black-skinned grapes are crushed, and the skins remain in contact with the juice for between two and twenty hours. Then the grape-guts are crushed and the skins tossed out. If you’re making red wine, you leave the skins in the mix throughout fermentation, which brings in more tannin and colour.

Rosé wines have been made for as long as people have been making wines, but they didn’t get their fancy French moniker until much later. After WWII, Mateus and Lancer wines, which were sparkling rosés, became huge sellers in Europe and America. Mateus alone accounted for around 40% of Portuguese wine sales in the 80s. Rosé – or at least the Quail’s Gate rosé from Kelowna that we tried last night – is delicious. This one was not sparkling (though some rosés are) and was not at all sweet (which, unfortunately, some are as well). It was a tasty little drink.

More so for me than for Jodie, who refuses to allow the flavour of wine into her heart. That’s okay – as long as someone around here will finish off the bottle.

World Gin Day

Well hello, World Gin Day. So glad you decided to pop by. As those of you who have been hanging on our every word since at least May 22 may remember, we had to miss out on National Craft Distillery Day. We’d hoped to tour Hansen Distillery in west Edmonton, a highly-revered establishment that we’d heard of but hadn’t tried. To be honest, this was also more my thing than Jodie’s – her taste for gin ranks somewhere around her taste for wine. But of course, tours of any facility were put on hold throughout the spring, and we found ourselves celebrating in absentia.

Yesterday we finally made it to Hansen’s, though not for a tour. We enjoyed a tasting of their two gins, and grabbed a bottle of one to take home.

Look, I’ve already written about the history and content of gin, as we had celebrated Gin & Tonic Day with a fine bottle earlier this year. In fact, that day reopened my taste buds to the potential of gin, and yesterday further cemented my belief that my next wave of alcohol enjoyment will be a gin-soaked wave. The flavours are so powerful and varied, each sip is an adventure novel written in hieroglyphics on the head of a sterling silver pin. I have grown to love the stuff.

Hansen makes two kinds of gin – well, one kind, but they also take that gin and age it in oak barrels for a deeper, more textured taste. That’s what we picked up, and while I was advised that the stuff blends perfectly with soda water and a splash of lemon, I found it more enjoyable as a sipping drink. It might just become my official drink of summer 2020. I mean, we have other things the calendar will insist we drink as well, but this is the one I’ll be coming back to. This was a damn great day.

World Softball Day

Have you ever been hit in the head by a softball and wondered why in the everloving fuck they call it a ‘softball’? I have. And the answer is almost insultingly simple: the ball used to be soft.

Softball started as an indoor sport back in 1887. I’m told the game moves at a faster pace than baseball because the distance to run between bases is shorter. That seems fishy to me. The game exploded in popularity after a demonstration at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. I tried to find what else debuted at that World’s Fair, since the ones in the 1890s were chock-full of modern creations, like the Ferris Wheel or Cracker Jack. This one doesn’t have a similar roster of success, apart from the first MLB All-Star Game occurring at the same time. There was also a demonstration of incubators, a “Midget City”, and a cigarette-smoking robot. Oh, the future.

But back to softball. Softball uses a larger ball than baseball, and larger bats to match. The pitching has to take place underhand, and as I mentioned before the field is smaller. Otherwise, the only other difference between the two sports is that you’re not likely to make more than $5-6000 at the highest level in softball.

We have a good friend who plays softball recreationally, and she is heartbroken that there will likely be no season of any kind this year. But softball will return in 2021, and the game will also show up at the Tokyo Olympics once we finally get to them. Hopefully no one gets smoked in the head by one of those balls. Even watching that on TV would probably hurt.

Does the party ever stop? December 31 and not a moment beforehand. Here’s what’s up today:

  • International Bath Day. One or both of us will have a bath. International style.
  • National Strawberry Shortcake Day. Another dessert plan, which is – let’s face it – 95% of why we’re doing this project, along with the booze.
  • National Pop Goes The Weasel Day. I guess we just sing this song all day?
  • National Bourbon Day. I sense another black cow in my future this evening.
  • National New Mexico Day. Our cross-America food tour heads to the Heisenberg State (is that what they call it now?) for some quality Mexican cuisine.
  • World Blood Donor Day. We will be scheduling another trip to give blood. We are due anyway.
  • Family History Day. We’ll come up with some interesting tales from our respective families’ histories to share.
  • Race Unity Day. Wouldn’t that be something?
  • Write To Your Father Day. I guess we write to our fathers.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Yesterday hardly matters, yet here I am on the precipice of penning yet another lengthy missive about another day. I say it hardly matters because I spent my lunch hour laying in my hammock, soaking in the hot sun. After that glorious hour of absolute serenity and tranquility, nothing else we did throughout the day could compare. And we did lots – it was a thick, hearty Friday, jam-packed with the likes of all this:

National Red Rose Day

Here I was, naively hoping this day was symbolic. The red rose could signify a charity, or some tribute we could indulge in. It could be an analogy for gratitude or understanding or reaching across the aisle and connecting with someone we’d normally disagree with. But no, it’s quite literally a day to celebrate the red rose. The flower. Maybe the tea if you’ve got some.

We have neither. A trip to a florist is still not in the cards right now, as we’re going to keep limiting our retail experiences until the COVID numbers go down; our city has effectively tripled its infected count in the last week. Now is not the time to head out and shop, at least not for the over-cautious among us.

For any non-Canadians who wonder what I meant by “the tea”, I’m speaking of Red Rose Tea, which has been one of the top tea brands in this country since it was launched in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1894. My grandmother loved the stuff, and in most places prior to the popularization of herbal and alternative teas in the 90s it was what you’d get if you ordered ‘tea’ in a restaurant. That said, we do not live in pre-90s Canada so we do not have any Red Rose laying around.

I celebrated this one in the most appealing way I could think of. As I wrote this article I listened through Wings’ 1973 album Red Rose Speedway. Some great tunes on that record. Made for a fine celebration.

National Jerky Day

Sure, this was a day started by Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and the Wisconsin Beef Council (which I imagine is staffed by cows wearing business suits because that’s the kind of stuff I like to imagine). But we don’t have to get all cynical about it – jerky deserves its own day. It’s a snack I used to dislike; I tried overly-tough beef jerky for the first time right around the same time I tried a Hot Rod. One was chewable, the other wasn’t.

Now that I’m older and (purportedly) wiser, I have tried better jerky and would take it above one of those nitrate tubes of pseudo-meat any day. Jerky is a wonderful snack.

Beef jerky is simply beef that has been sliced up, salted for preservation, and can be stored without refrigeration for months. It’s lean meat, since fat won’t dry and jerkify properly. The stuff you buy in a store will likely still have sodium nitrate added to it for shelf life, but you can also make the stuff yourself if you’re so inclined.

We were not. We celebrated jerky day not by making our own, but by simply enjoying the bounty nature has provided to us, in the form of a prepared batch from the grocery store. It was a great mid-afternoon snack, and very necessary given that I’d skipped lunch to lay in the sun. I regret nothing. Jerky was the hero yesterday.

National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

A day dedicated to what may be my favourite cookie. Screw it, for the purposes of this article it *is* my favourite cookie. And when our team baker (thanks, Mom!) incorporates chocolate chips into the cookies, they are otherworldly. These are top of the cookie hierarchy for 2020 so far, and that’s saying something. We have seriously eaten a ludicrous amount of cookies this year. And that’s just fine.

Like many of the great things we associate with the peanut, this one came to us courtesy of American peanutmaster George Washington Carver. His 1925 pro-peanut document included three recipes for cookies featuring crushed-up peanuts. The man contributed so damn much to our food culture.

The reason you’ll often see fork tine marks on the top of peanut butter cookies is because that’s in the actual recipe. It has been since 1932. It’s a very dense dough so if you want them to cook evenly you’ve got to squish them down a bit. You can also use something called a cookie shovel, which is just a glorified spatula. Hey, here’s something I didn’t know: if you use crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth, your cookies will have bits of crunchy peanut, which could be really great.

But why mess with perfection? These cookies are fucking perfection.

National Loving Day

I was relieved to learn this was not a day for people to simply express their love for their family, friends and pets. We seem to be getting those at the rate of 4 or 5 a week now. No, this is something much more special and much more wonderful.

Much like how German Chocolate Cake Day surprised us by being named for a guy named German, this day is named for Mildred and Richard Loving, who married in Virginia in 1958. They were literally on their way home from their wedding when they were arrested for interracial marriage. Think about that – we’re talking 62 years ago, well within the lifetime of my parents. This wasn’t simply discrimination or racism, this was the law. Richard and Mildred were charged and convicted, their sentence suspended only so long as they left Virginia and didn’t return together for 25 years.

So they packed up and moved to DC, where they pushed their fight right up to the Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the anti-interracial marriage law was bullshit (probably their exact words), and the Lovings were allowed to go on Loving. Richard passed away in 1975, and Mildred lived until 2008. May of 2008, so unfortunately she never got to see the election of a black president. But she got redemption, and that’s what matters.

The Loving v. Virginia case was cited as a precedent in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage, with numerous courts taking different views on whether the comparison was appropriate. I suspect same-sex marriage will have its own day to celebrate so today let’s just fire off a salute at one of the many steps we’ve taken on the road to eliminating state-sponsored racism. Let’s keep up the fight!

Russia Day

This is not merely a tribute to the nation of Russia, but rather the official day that Russia celebrates its sovereignty. It has been celebrated ever since 1992 when the Soviet Union packed up and vacated the premises. Before that they celebrated October Revolution Day – this one is honouring something much less vibrant, and hopefully more cheery for the folks who live there.

We have passed on celebrating most national country days, as I believe that’s another project entirely, one that would necessitate more food exploration and travel than our budget and time allow for. But our son is dating a woman from Russia, and we’ve always been fascinated by the history of that country, so we’ve hopped on board this one. Besides, we have vodka at home, and what could be more Russian than toasting the country by downing a shot of vodka? I would argue literally nothing.

In 2005 only 15% of Russians actually considered this a holiday. Was this a holdover from elder communists who still felt October’s Revolution was the right thing to honour? Actually, it was more likely due to the fact that this day reminds folks of the really difficult time Russia went through in the 1990s after the fall of the USSR. It wasn’t pretty. That number of Russians who feel this is a holiday has increased to about 45% nowadays, though oddly the number of people who actually get the day off has decreased from 73% in 2005 to about 42% now. If I wasn’t getting the day off I don’t think I’d consider it a holiday. Except for this year – everything’s a damn holiday this year.

The celebrations in Russia are pretty much what you’d expect: parties, fireworks, concerts, lots of flag-waving and anthem-singing. And likely lots of vodka. We don’t know the anthem well enough to sing it and we own no fireworks, so we got by with the vodka. It was a great way to toast a nation.

Ghost In The Machine Day

I was originally going to skip this day entirely, as I could find no clear evidence that it has ever in fact been celebrated, or even a description of what it means. The phrase itself has to do with the duality of mind and body, and their relationship to one another. This has been posited in numerous sci-fi offerings, as well as The Concept of Mind by Gilbert Ryle (which I haven’t read) and even back in the writings of Descartes (which I have read).

So why is this day getting an entry? Because Jodie said so. She feels there is a ghost in every machine she operates, due to her confounding difficulty in navigating the complexities of technology. This makes sense – it couldn’t be her. It must be a ghost. We all know that when we die we are assigned to a piece of tech to haunt for eternity. I feel for those sad spirits who were placed inside of 8-track players or Laserdisc machines. How lonely must eternity be for them now?

So according to my wife’s theory, when I swoop in and fix whatever technical issues she may be having, that makes me a Ghostbuster. So that’s why this day is still being honoured in our little experiment, because it’s my only opportunity in life to be called a Ghostbuster by my wife. I regret nothing.

I also listened to the Ghost in the Machine album by the Police, just to add an extra element of wahoo to the whole affair. Great album. And I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts in no machines.

National Superman Day

This is really more of a one-day thing than an annual celebration, but what the hell. Superman Day was declared on June 12, 2013, as a tie-in to the Man of Steel movie. Remember that one? The one where Michael Shannon plays General Zod? I remember nothing about it myself… but that doesn’t matter. This day was orchestrated as a tie-in for comic book retailers and other establishments to give away some Supes swag to get people pumped up for the flick.

Superman’s actual birthday would be April 18. It was on that date in 1938 that Action Comics #1 went on sale – though it was labeled as the June 1938 issue – and changed the world. A number of superheroes were introduced in that issue, but a great image of Superman got the cover. In 2012 it was estimated that only 50 to 100 copies of this original issue still exist. I imagine that number is right around the same now, as everyone knew eight years ago how valuable it was. In 2014 a copy sold for $3.2 million. For a comic book.

Because of a few forgettable films (like the one referenced above) I think Superman has taken a big hit in his popularity lately. Part of that is due to Marvel having created a pile of cinema superheroes that drew flaws and complexities in its heroes from the comic book lore. Superman has always come across as uncomplicated and ideal. At least that’s what I got from the Christopher Reeve movies – his only potential weakness was his affection for Lois. I don’t know what kind of a complex dude he is in the comics.

Hopefully they’ll do a proper reboot of the character someday in a way that connects with the masses once again. Smallville seemed to have a pretty loyal following, but even that was ages ago. Still, the guy deserves his day.

Another wild Saturday in the thick of the thick humidity of June:

  • National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day. This does not define me. Maybe I’ll fake an accident involving flour and honey?
  • Random Acts of Light Day. This is meant for doing something kind for someone with cancer… social distancing guidelines might clip this one.
  • National Weed Your Garden Day. This sounds like a Jodie celebration. Yep.
  • National Sewing Machine Day. We don’t own one. But maybe we’ll get to play around with one.
  • National Rosé Day. I guess we’re drinking some rosé tonight. Cool.
  • International Axe Throwing Day. This hurts. We had plans for this day, but again, it was COVID-killed.
  • Worldwide Knit In Public Day. I may have to talk someone into doing this for me.
  • World Gin Day. Now we’re talking.
  • World Softball Day. Not likely we’ll be playing any. Nor can we make a softball bet. Does anyone bet on softball? I hope so.

Friday, June 12, 2020

With the passing of each day we see a gradual erosion of expectation. Where once the days were imprisoned by the rigidity of routine, we find ourselves liberated and with an abundance of time. Time which is immediately claimed by other requirements – in my case those requirements are generally tied to this project and these articles. When I stumbled inside from mowing the lawn at 9:00 the other evening, there were still drinks to make, and celebrations to embrace. This is who we are now, and who we shall be for the next 203 days. Shit, there are still 203 days to go. At least we’ve got this fun to tackle:

National Corn on the Cob Day

It hadn’t been our intention to celebrate this on a day when we were having leftover spaghetti for dinner, but here we are. The two don’t pair well together, but much like our pasta-n-egg-roll feast on Wednesday, does that really matter? They are both beloved foods; we have the capacity to enjoy them both at once, weird as that may be.

Honestly, I have little use for corn that is has been removed from the cob, unless it has been squished into chips, tortillas, or if it’s been popped and buttered. Here’s a fun fact: that ear of corn on the cob you’re enjoying was picked when the endosperm was in the milk stage. Doesn’t that sound delicious? Oh, and leaving the corn to sit (as we did; this was part of a grocery run about 10 days ago) is not a good plan. Corn can lose up to 25% of its sweetness within a day of being plucked, so you want that endosperm in your mouth right away.

We compensated with butter and salt, as people do.

Apparently corn on the cob has been a quandary for etiquette-woke folks throughout snooty history. In a 1921 etiquette guide it is advised that the ideal way to consume corn in this fashion is to provide each diner with a knife they can use to scrape the corn off the cob before eating it. That strikes me as thoroughly weird, and defeats the purpose of enjoying corn this way, as opposed to cracking open a can of niblets. If you’re looking for variety, you can try the Mexican method of eating corn on the cob with chili powder, lemon juice and salt. Sometimes they’ll serve it with grated cheese or liquid cheese. Other options include mayo, ketchup, mustard, lime juice, and sweet and sour sauce. Hungry yet? I don’t think anyone has tried dipping corn on the cob into gravy. Maybe we should give that a go.

Or, just stick with butter and salt and be all pure and unadventurous about it. That works just fine.

National Making Life Beautiful Day

Launched by a cosmetics company in 2015, this is a day to focus on building relationships or helping other people find success, thus making life beautiful for the world and the people around you. In other words, this is a vague suggestion of a celebration, with very little we can grasp hold of to bring it to life. We’re used to this conundrum.

Jodie did her part in helping her students find success yesterday, as her perpetual task of marking assignments she has scantly been able to adequately explain to the kids continued. I’m sure the cosmetics company had other ideas for this day, to promote outer beauty by perhaps recommending a few friends try out that particular brand of eyeshadow or lipstick, but we opted not to follow through with the outward stuff.

Now that I think about it, that’s not true. I celebrated the hell out of this day by making myself look beautiful (or at least less non-beautiful) by getting my first actual haircut of 2020. I went from looking like a hippie who might hit up a stranger for a couple bucks to buy roach clips to looking like a guy who can afford his own roach clips (but probably still uses them, the dirty hippie bastard). This had the effect of making life beautiful for those around me who cared. Which would be Jodie. The dogs didn’t find me more beautiful until I was holding a treat in my hand. Then I was whatever the dog equivalent of Cindy Crawford would be.

To those who will no doubt pile on and say I make their lives beautiful every day by posting these articles, thank you. I expect I’ll hear that from at least six of you, even if I’ve invented all six of you in my head. Life is beautiful. Insanity from excessive quarantine perhaps less so, but maybe the haircut will help.

National German Chocolate Cake Day

So how does one create a German Chocolate Cake for this day? Do we have to import special German chocolate? Prepare the batter whilst listening to electronic pioneering band Kraftwerk? Do we adjust the lighting in the kitchen so as to create stark, angular shadows akin to what you’d find in a 1920s German expressionist silent film?

As it turns out, no. The German chocolate cake has zilch to do with Deutschland and everything to do with the U.S. of A. It goes back to 1852 when a man named Samuel German (aha!) created a new kind of dark baking chocolate for the Baker’s Chocolate Company. His chocolate was used in a recipe 105 years later, presented on the Dallas Morning News by homemaker Mrs. George Clay. This was back when women apparently dropped their first names when they got married, rendering her Mrs. George for life. It was a weird time.

Mrs. George named the cake German’s Chocolate Cake, as Baker’s had been kind enough to name this new strain of dark baking chocolate after its creator. So in the end, it’s just a chocolate cake. Well hell, we had one of those just last week. It came from our beloved favourite haunt (destined not to open, likely until the entirety of the COVID crisis has passed, due to its narrow footprint), Da-De-O. They make a divine chocolate cake on their regular menu, and offer for pickup an impressive version of it. I’d say it wasn’t the same without their exclusive chili-pepper lager, but they’re also offering growlers of that for pickup, so I was well satisfied.

If you want to make your own German Chocolate Cake, it’s an elaborate concoction with layers and possibly cherries on top. But any chocolate cake, whether or not it’s actually made with German’s patented brand of chocolate, is worth the effort.

Cousteau Day

A bit of housekeeping on this one. According to the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Cousteau Day was launched on June 25, 2010, to commemorate his life on the 13th anniversary of his passing. Then, according to Jacques’ son, Pierre-Yves Cousteau, a campaign has been underway (by Pierre-Yves himself) since June 11, 2010, the 100th anniversary of Jacques’ birth, to declare Cousteau Day on that day. So we’ve got one official organization’s special day competing with his son’s special day, a battle that has been raging for ten years. Here at Celebrate366 we are siding with Pierre-Yves, as we feel that celebrating someone’s birthday is always better than celebrating their death-day. Besides, it’s family. Pierre-Yves gets dibs.

So what do we know about ocean conservationist and researcher Jacques Cousteau? Growing up I saw a few of his specials, usually airing on Saturday afternoons after the fun-filled batch of animated programs had finished its run. The man knew his ocean wildlife.

Jacques had planned to be a navy pilot, because in 1930 that was about the most bad-ass profession available to a French man, apart from full-contact sword-mime. Then a car crash shattered both his arms and he turned to ocean exploration instead. Jacques was a team with his wife, Simone. They made a film in 1943 that showed off the newly-invented aqua-lung. Here’s a fun fact: Jacques’ brother, Pierre-Antoine, was an anti-Semite who wrote a collaborationist journal in the war and received a death-penalty sentence in 1946. This was reduced to a life sentence, which lasted only eight years until he was released. So fuck that guy.

Jacques is truly the father of scuba tech – he didn’t invent the stuff but he helped to refine it, and worked often with the masters of technology. He published his first book in 1953 and won the Palme d’Or at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival for The Silent World, which he made with future My Dinner With Andre director Louis Malle. When he found out about a plan to dump radioactive waste off the coast of the French Riviera, he turned it into a cause. Protestors sitting on the railroad tracks actually stopped this environmental catastrophe.

Cousteau’s widest exposure came through his TV series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, which ran from 1966 to 1976, and its follow-up, The Cousteau Odyssey, which aired from 1977 to 1982, and was probably the one I saw as a kid. John Denver wrote a tribute song to Jacques, which hit #2 on the charts.

Jacques Cousteau’s legacy lives on, and the oceans might live a little better thanks to his work. Happy 110th birthday Jacques, wherever you may be diving today.

Pet Appreciation Week

I found only one source that claims this to be Pet Appreciation Week, and even it doesn’t seem too sure of itself. But that’s fine; we’ve indulged in many celebrations in honour of our canine research assistants, so what’s one more? The only thing I think we’ve done more often in this project is eat. In that sense, this project truly reflects our every day life perfectly. Food and dogs.

There’s really not much to add here. We’ve boasted of the magnificence of our canine friends, and we’ve posted pictures of them numerous times. So we’re just going to post a few more. Because dammit, they are appreciated.

National Shampoo Week

Another wild celebration with nary a definitive source in sight. To state that we’ll be celebrating the week by using shampoo every day, that would not be accurate. I use shampoo every day anyway, so that wouldn’t be a celebration. Jodie uses it whenever she washes her hair, which is not every day. Were she to switch up for this week it might damage her hair, and for what? That’s hardly a celebration.

Changing up brands is not an option either; Jodie gets some special stuff for whatever weird chemical pH her hair is tuned to, and I use Costco-size bulk Head & Shoulders because it’s cheap and it seems to work. I suppose I did use less shampoo for the last couple days of this week, due to my haircut. So if we consider conservation and rationing shampoo a way of appreciating and celebrating it, then we’re on board. How about a little learnin’?

Long ago in the Indian subcontinent, sapindus trees were boiled with Indian gooseberry, and the extract was used to scrub hair clean. An Indian traveller named Sake Dean Mahomed showed up in Britain in 1814 and introduced the concept there. The methodology at that point was to boil some shaved soap and mix the shaved-soap soup with some herbs. Prior to Mr. Mahomed’s arrival, European hair was not as lustrous and sheen-packed as the movies might have us believe.

They had things figured out in old-timey South America. Before you can eat quinoa you have to wash out the saponin from the grain. That by-product, which was sudsy and had a unique fragrance, would then be used as shampoo. Then again, if you’re the type who would join the ‘No Poo Movement’, which has to do with rejecting shampoo expectations and nothing to do with excrement, you might forsake all sorts of hair rinse, even quinoa suds. These folks recommend using baking soda or vinegar to wash your hair instead.

Let me know how that goes. I’ll stick with the Head & Shoulders.

National Rivers Month

In honour of National Rivers Month, let’s go over some of our favourite Rivers, pausing to reflect on how they have each enriched our lives.

Rivers Cuomo has been fronting the band Weezer for more than 25 years now, and their unique blend of crunchy, distorted and cranked-up guitar-driven, highly melodic pop songs packed with singable harmonies, is just awesome. We saw Weezer live in 2001 and while the band was partly obscured by the thick fog of marijuana smoke hovering above the first few rows of the audience, they sounded terrific.

Phillip Rivers played quarterback for the San Diego (and eventually Los Angeles) Chargers for a number of years, and hasn’t yet found his way to the big game. He was a rival for Manning and Brady for a good chunk of time, but he never quite had the oomph to make it. Now he’s got an automatic starting job for the Indianapolis Colts, which I’m not totally convinced is a great idea. Oh well, thanks for years of quality entertainment, Mr. Rivers.

Johnny Rivers had a few great tunes, like “Poor Side of Town,” “Summer Rain” and “Secret Agent Man”, which my daughter once pointed out sounds like he’s singing “Secret Asian Man” and now I can’t hear it any other way. Johnny also sang what we called the ‘white guy version’ of classic tunes like Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Lovin”. He was a staple of AM Oldies, so very much a part of my teenage years.

Joan Rivers was a ground-breaking comedienne whom I never got to see in person. She had so much plastic surgery that she looked as though she was in her late 20s when in fact she was in her late 70s. That’s a fifty-year span of surgically altered distortion. Impressive. A lot of Joan’s edgier comedy wouldn’t fly in this Woke world, but damn she was quick. She was a master of self-deprecation, which likely made it easier for audiences to accept her blue material. Joan was a gem.

And lastly a bit of love to Captain Mitchell, who had the absolutely forgettable line, “Rivers! Rodriguez! Report!” in Die Hard, shortly before his failed attempt to “send in the car” to foil the terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza. So many Rivers to celebrate this month. So much joy.

Today the magic continues, as it always seems to. The halfway point is lurking around the corner, but for now there’s this:

  • National Red Rose Day. Are the roses that are just starting to bloom outside our house red? No, they’re pink. But maybe we’ll have some Red Rose tea.
  • National Jerky Day. Hooray for jerky – chewy as all hell, and tasty as can be.
  • National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. Our team baker (hi, Mom!) has crafted some of the finest peanut butter cookies we’ve ever tasted. I love this project.
  • National Loving Day. Hey cool, a celebration for us to take time to appreciate and love the good things in our lives. It’s been, like, ten minutes since the last one.
  • National Flip-Flop Day. We’ll either wear flip-flops or change our mind often. Maybe both! Maybe we’ll start by doing one then flip-flop to do the other!
  • Russia Day. A good day for vodka.
  • Ghost In The Machine Day. No idea what this is about, but there are a lot of songs with this title, so we’ll check some out.
  • Crowded Nest Awareness Day. A day of awareness for the situation wherein empty nesters find their children moving back home and crowding things up. Yikes.
  • Magic Day. A good day for magic. Like there’s a bad one.
  • Superman Day. We celebrated Batman, I guess the Man of Steel deserves a day too.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

In a universe where compromise is inevitable and discretion is its own best teacher, we find ourselves in constant negotiation with the alignment of the stars. We obey their whims, albeit with the occasional quizzical sneer, yet we seldom understand them. Such is the nature of this lengthy task we have chosen to pour into our otherwise unspectacular days. Where yesterday we reflected solemnly upon lost rights and never-forgotten loved ones, today we are required to re-focus, to re-tune, and to open up our hearts and souls for the wonders of this:

National Egg Roll Day

For only the second time in history (I’m trying to add some gravitas to this one, so bear with me) humanity celebrates National Egg Roll Day. The day was founded last year by a – wait for it – restaurant that serves egg rolls. It makes sense, I suppose. If any aspect of westernized Chinese food should be elevated to have its own day… actually, scratch that thought. I can think of a myriad of dishes that should have their own day, and I’d like to celebrate every one of them.

But this will have to do. An egg roll usually contains cabbage, chopped pork, and a number of other mystery ingredients because I don’t want to pull back the veil too far on these. Egg rolls are magic. It is absolutely an American Chinese food staple, having originated on this continent, not in the old country. Oddly enough, one ingredient that often doesn’t make its way into an egg roll is egg. The breading may contain egg, or it may not. An article in the Washington Post suggests we may call them egg rolls because the Chinese word for ‘egg’ sounds like the word for ‘spring’, and these are based off spring rolls which actually are a part of traditional Chinese cuisine. But no one has verified this, so I’m giving this theory a thumbs-down.

The New York style egg roll is about two inches long, with a thick crunchy skin. The ones we usually get around here are larger, but with a puffier batter. We ordered a couple from Lee Garden last night, a restaurant known (at least by us – other experiences may contradict this) as a deeply mediocre purveyor of western-style Chinese food. But the egg rolls were in the crispy style, and they were damn fine.

National Ballpoint Pen Day

Now we’re into some serious party-time. Woohoo, ballpoint pens!

With that biting sarcasm now out of my system, I suppose I can appreciate that ballpoint pens did in fact improve the world considerably. Before them, we either had pencils or fountain pens to deal with. There was no quick-dry solution, in fact it wasn’t even thought of. The first ballpoint patent had nothing to do with replacing fountain pens; John J. Loud simply wanted something to write on rough surfaces, like wood or coarse paper. It turned out that his invention wasn’t quite up to the task – it could make marks on coarse surfaces, but it was too coarse itself to work for regular writing. Not to worry about Mr. Loud though – he went on to invent some sort of firecracker cannon, so clearly his life was awesome.

Perfecting the ballpoint was tricky. Make the ball socket too tight or the ink too thick and you’ll get nothing onto the paper. Err too much in the other direction and you’ll have a sloppy mess. Làszlò Bìrò figured out that newspaper ink dried quickly enough to avoid smudging, so he enlisted his chemist brother to help him come up with the first workable, marketable ballpoint pen in 1938. It was patented on June 15, which brings up the question of why we celebrate this on June 10. There is no answer. I hate it when there’s no answer.

Bìrò came up with his masterpiece in Argentina. The first ballpoint pen marketed to American audiences debuted at Gimbel’s department store in New York City in 1945. It was the Reynolds Rocket, and it sold for $12.50, which is about $186 in today’s money. That’s a lot of cash for a ballpoint pen.

Jodie has her favourite pen, which is a rollerball style. These make use of water-based inks instead of oil-based inks. This can create more smearing, but if done properly feels great when it makes contact with the paper. I appreciate a fine point gel pen myself, which has no place in the sacred space of National Ballpoint Pen Day. I hope you had a few special moments with your beloved favourite pen yesterday – we’ve all got our favourites, don’t we? Or is it just us, the weird people who celebrate stuff, and who also care about the brand of pen in their hands? Whatever – the artwork above shows the capabilities of a ballpoint pen in the right hands. Thanks to our daughter Abbey for being awesome and far more talented than her parents.

National Iced Tea Day

In my extremely limited travel experience, I have found that there tends to be only one standard form of ‘iced tea’ in most places. Up here we have Nestea and other sugary concoctions. If you order iced tea in a restaurant, that’s what you’ll get. To my knowledge only Chili’s served brewed iced tea, and they warn you about it whenever you order it. At present I believe our only Chili’s in town is presently beyond security in the terminal at our airport, so it doesn’t come up much.

In LA and New York I’ve ordered iced tea and there is no warning, they simply bring you unsweetened brewed iced tea. They call the sugary stuff ‘sweet tea’. And that’s about right. Real iced tea is a refreshing beverage, full of actual tea flavour. It can be sweetened with sugar or sweetener, but it doesn’t need it. Sweet tea is fine, but it’s not real iced tea and should not be labeled as such. I know, that’s an uphill fight that I’ll never win in this part of the world, but dammit I’ll believe it to my death.

My weirdly mortality-staked stance on this issue aside (seriously, I need to tone it down about 15-20% on that one), there are numerous cultural variations on iced tea. In the Netherlands and Belgium, iced tea is often a carbonated iced tea made by Lipton. In South Korea, they serve it cold but with no ice, and with such weird flavours as corn and barley. In Vietnam they’ll serve you iced tea at a restaurant while you’re deciding what to order.

We took some melon-and-other-fruit-flavoured tea from David’s Teas and iced it yesterday, providing us with a delicious beverage to accompany dinner. Iced tea as it should be. Save the sugar for dessert.

National Herbs & Spices Day

Is this a day to devour some delicious KFC, with its patented 11 herbs and spices recipe? Well no – KFC isn’t on the menu for today. But spaghetti is, and I love making my own sauce, employing fresh herbs & spices whenever possible. Yesterday I made use of some of the fresh basil we have growing in our back yard, as well as some thyme that was still in our fridge. It was a very tasty mix.

This is not the sort of celebration that lends itself to an explanation of history or invention. Herbs and spices have been lending their oomph to food for as long as we know. The question of why is obvious: food needs a little kick. It needs some help to realize its true potential. Some herbs, like the aforementioned basil and thyme, are almost universally loved, at least when used correctly. Others, like cilantro, are divisive. Again, when used in the right context, it should be outstanding.

As for the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, that was one of the great mysteries of my youth, right along with the secret formula for Coke (which they butchered and maimed when I was 9). It turns out the Chicago Tribune may have uncovered the list through a discovered checklist in a family album. To be mixed with flour, here’s what you need to recreate your own KFC masterpiece: salt, thyme, basil, oregano, celery salt, black pepper, dried mustard, paprika, garlic salt, ground ginger and white pepper. Pure magic.

Oh, and I should point out that while it didn’t seem as though it should, that homemade spaghetti sauce yesterday went brilliantly with the egg rolls.

National Black Cow Day

On the one hand, my research may have been flawed. On the other hand… maybe not. The origins of National Black Cow Day are lost to the ages, so we’ll never be able to know for sure. One source I found for this day indicates that it refers to a root beer float, which apparently some folks call a black cow. I’ve always called it a root beer float, but then I’m known for being overly literal.

In researching the day, I also found a reference to a black cow beverage which contains Kahlua, cream and Coca-Cola, which sounds suspiciously like a Black Russian. Then there’s this recipe, which features evaporated milk, root beer and bourbon, with a bit of chocolate syrup drizzled overtop. That’s the one I decided to make, since I’d already purchased some bourbon for the unimpressive mint juleps last weekend. I liked this one much better. Much, much better.

Steely Dan has a song called “Black Cow”, though it fails to specify which one is meant. It’s one of the Dan’s songs about drugs, so I’m leaning toward one of the more alcoholic definitions. Probably the one pictured above, because if I was acting careless and drug-laden enough to warrant Donald Fagan singing a song about my life, I’d do it with some quality booze. That’s just common sense.

World Art Nouveau Day

The Museum of Applied Arts in Belgium, a facility I have never had the good fortune to visit, created this day back in 2013 to honour two significant artists, Antoni Gaudi and Odon Lechner, both of whom died on June 10. Gaudi’s work is well-known to anyone who has drooled over Spanish architecture, while Lechner’s masterful architecture brightens up several blocks in Hungary. Both fall into this category of art, and have produced it on a grand scale.

So what the hell is art nouveau? I’m glad I asked. Art nouveau, which obviously includes art that is not necessarily intertwined with architecture, came as a rebellion against the stuffy academic art of the 1800s. The best movements in art start off as rebellions. With nouveau, you get lines and forms inspired by nature. You get movement in the lines, and beauty in the embellishment. You’ll see it in the funky early 20th century designs in Paris Metro stations, in the ornate glassware of Lalique, or in the flowery brilliance of the lamps designed by Louis Tiffany.

Art Nouveau oozed out of Belgium, which is why they get to lay claim on establishing this day to celebrate it. It emerged as a global art movement, inspiring artists to take the history of their nation’s art and weave it into this new way of thinking, from England to Japan. Those fancy old posters for French shows like Les Folies-Bergère or the early 20th century ornate Coca-Cola ads are art nouveau. Anything attributed to the ‘Modern School’ in Britain is also art nouveau. In Austria, where Gustav Klimt was fusing the style with expressionism, they called it the Vienna Secession. The Sagrada Familia basilica – that massive church designed by Gaudi that has taken more than a century to build – is likely the largest-scale example of art nouveau on the planet.

So celebrate like we did, have a look through some art nouveau masterworks and appreciate the style. In our part of the world, art nouveau had run its course by the start of World War I, and art deco stepped in to take its place. But while art may flare up and down in the collective consciousness in terms of what’s hot at any given moment, great art endures. And great art is worth celebrating.

We soldier onward, driving toward the end of this month and the halfway point of this project with verve and enthusiasm:

  • National Making Life Beautiful Day. How can we make life any more beautiful than it already is? Wow, that’s too bubbly, even for me.
  • National Corn on the Cob Day. Well timed for tomorrow, as corn would not have paired well with spaghetti and egg rolls.
  • National German Chocolate Cake Day. We celebrated this one a bit early, but we’ll happily relive it.
  • Cousteau Day. Hooray for Cousteau!