Monday, August 31, 2020

Any milestone will prompt reflection. Today as we breach the threshold of being two-thirds through this project, we must take stock and figure out what this project has become and what it is turning us into. Jodie, who began this year believing these celebrations might provide a refreshing light and context into our mostly-predictable lives, now sees them as moderately interesting essay fodder, and a relative inconvenience as I pour hours of every one of my days into these articles. I enjoy some of the writing and some of the research (and most of the food and drink celebrations), but my passion has been tested. At 666 days into my 1000 Days Project I was invigorated and motivated with each new sunrise. As August steps aside to return us to the cooler months, in the midst of a year that has been overwhelming taxing on everyone’s psyche for numerous reasons, my enthusiasm is sporadic at best. I’ll still steer myself forward with optimism and resolve, but my heart is yearning for a new challenge. That aside, here’s what we got up to yesterday:

National Beach Day

Ah, a day at the beach. With the summer sun still cranked to the right, the spectre of children’s impending return to school just around the corner, and a few vacation days still in the holster, we can head out for a day of warmth and water and remind ourselves that yes, it is still summer. This is the idea behind this day, and it’s a sweet sentiment. Here’s why it won’t specifically apply to us.

First of all, the summer sun was very much visible in our sky, but it wasn’t doing its part to celebrate National Beach Day. It was a paltry 15 degrees outside, so notably cooler than inside our house. Also, there was a wind blowing out there that could have potentially uplifted us and plopped us into Oz. Second, we don’t live anywhere near an actual beach. Yes, there’s a crude excuse for one carved into the side of our city’s river, and a few lakeside beaches just out of town, but nothing that compares to a genuine coastal beach.

I am personally out of vacation days, though given that August 30 landed on a Sunday this year, that doesn’t really matter. Next year it will be a Monday; Jodie will be back in school and I’ll be at work. This day was not crafted with our particular lives in mind, but then again, few are.

Pictured above is our “beach”. I’ve posted a shot of it before. You’ve got a hot tub that gets tweaked to its coldest setting, providing a refreshing break from the warm sun. You’ve got a lounger chair and a hammock to hold us up and steer as much of our selves toward the warming, tanning rays as possible. We’ve also got a lot of shade from the garage, and a well-chilled pool for the kids (meaning dogs) to enjoy. This beach has served us well this summer – much more so than the three days it was usable last year and the year before. So we loved our beach from a distance yesterday, holding on to the hope that we can find peace in it once more this year.

It could happen. It ain’t autumn yet.

National Holistic Pet Day

Do those dogs look like they are lacking in terms of love and good health? I’d say Jodie is in worse shape, especially if her legs fall asleep, which they most certainly did. National Holistic Pet Day is a day to consider your pet’s full spectrum of health. So we’re not just meant to appreciate our dogs (which we do, and which we have on numerous such days as recently as last week), but to make sure we’re taking care of them properly.

We have endeavoured to feed our dogs well, and by “well” I don’t mean “lots”, I mean the correct amount to maintain a healthy weight. They get gross, smelly raw food in the morning (salmon-based, because it’s good for their coat), which we have to weigh the night before. They get Purina Proplan (also salmon-based) dry food for dinner, because our vet advised it contains what they need for optimal health. We are literally caring for a dog she hopes to show and breed, so we can be assured she isn’t just shilling for Big Kibble here.

Our dogs get bathed possibly less often than they should, but we try to keep on top of it. Liberty also requires extensive brushing, which is something new for us after decades of bulldog ownership. As for keeping them in shape, Trixie and Rosa get a good, lengthy walk every day, while Liberty goes for an extended trek with me through our neighbourhood, with numerous stops to keep her staying, paw-shaking and lie-down skills in top shape. We keep their shots up to date and keep them excruciatingly comfortable by allowing them to sleep on our beautiful new bed. That last one might be overkill.

So we took this day to reflect on our dogs’ health, and how they invariably contribute to ours, at least mentally-speaking. 2020 wouldn’t be survivable without them.

Frankenstein Day

Yesterday we wished a big ol’ happy 223rd birthday to Mary Shelley, the author who gifted the world with one of the most terrifying tales of hubris and obsession ever written. The story has been told so many times by so many filmmakers and stage directors it surpassed the qualifications for being a classic generations ago. Some prefer the creepy Universal monster embodied by Boris Karloff. Personally I’m more a fan of the efforts that kept closer to Ms. Shelley’s masterpiece, like the absurdly disturbing Kenneth Branagh film from 1994. Either that or give me some Mel Brooks.

Mary Shelley had a life that would make a fine movie of its own (and it actually has, starring Elle Fanning). She fell in love with poet Percy Shelley when she was 17, and ran off with him to galivant around Europe and get knocked up with his baby. They got home, Percy’s wife (yeah, he was already quite married) killed herself, and their premature daughter didn’t survive. A couple years later the Shelleys were summering in Switzerland with Lord Byron, John William Polidori and Mary’s sister. That’s where she came up with the idea for her masterwork.

In 1818, when she was only 21, they moved to Italy. Their second and third children died. Four years later, shortly after their one surviving child showed up, Percy drowned in a storm. Mary kept on as an author, but died young herself, at the age of 53. Her legacy is a tale that will be taught as long as schools continue to exist, a damn site more impactful than a weird blog full of celebrations.

Time was tight yesterday, so watching one of the Frankenstein films was a bit of a tall order. Besides, we’d already enjoyed the National Theatre version starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller earlier this year; nothing was going to top that. So instead I indulged in the quickest way to pay tribute to the great monster (or the doctor who created him), by listening to the Edgar Winter song that borrowed its name. It was brief, but well worth having that riff stuck in my head for the remainder of the week.

International Whale Shark Day

This is a day for us to reflect on one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. The whale shark is a massive beast, in fact it’s the largest nonmammalian vertebrate. They live for a long time – it’s estimated somewhere between 80 and 130 years – and because they are that big (up to 62 feet long), they get to decide where to spend their time. As such, you won’t find any in cooler waters. I don’t blame them.

If you’re unfortunate enough to wander into a whale shark’s mouth, you’ll be dealing with 300 rows of tiny, sharp teeth. Not 300 teeth – 300 friggin’ rows of teeth. That is not the kind of chomp you can expect to survive. That said, that’s not a chomp that is likely to happen either. Whale sharks feed on plankton, fish eggs, and small fish. Their teeth are not used as part of the eating process; they swim forward with their mouths agape, then close it as they push the accumulated water out their gills and the rest of the goodies down their throats. They get along fine with humans, and younger ones are known to play with divers from time to time.

Whale sharks are a species we still don’t know too much about. For example, we don’t even know how many are out there, scooting around the tropical waters in the distant deep. They are considered endangered though, and there are bans all over the place on selling their parts. In the first decade of this century, roughly 1/3 of all whale shark sightings were in the Gulf of Mexico, which became hazardous when that BP oil spill happened in 2010. No dead whale sharks were found, but it was evident that the spill messed with their natural goings-on.

For being one of the coolest species in the bunch, we happily salute the whale shark and hope one day to meet one. We’ll keep away from the teeth, just in case.

Slinky Day

The Slinky is a toy that almost everyone connects to in a very interesting way. It doesn’t do much. It walks down stairs (I hear it will do this alone or, if preferred, in pairs), which is neat, but otherwise what else do you do with a slinky? You hold it in your hands and bob it up and down, back and forth, and then…?

And then nothing. That’s it. But it still works because of the pure simplicity of being nothing more than a spiralling piece of metal or plastic. There’s a weird gratification in bopping a slinky up and down in one’s hand. It’s almost a portal to serenity. The slinky is entertainment in its most basic and primal form.

Richard James was the mechanical engineer who invented the Slinky, and of course he invented it by absolute accident. He was trying to devise a way to stabilize sensitive shipboard instruments – he worked for the US Navy – when a spring fell out of his fingers and landed in a most perplexing way. He knew right away this should be a child’s toy, and started up a company to create and sell them. His wife Betty picked the name after combing through the dictionary and deciding that ‘slinky’ described the spring’s motion.

In 1960, after the toy had become a massive success, Richard up and moved to Bolivia. It looks as though he was devoting his life to Christian efforts there, but strangely he left his wife behind. She kept growing the company, including launching a massive advertising campaign that made it a staple toy. She’s the one who smartly hired Homer Fesperman and Charles Weagley to write the jingle we all have memorized. This is why Betty James had her own induction into the Toy Hall of Fame – she powered that toy into the hearts of millions.

And in the end, it’s just a damn spring. A fun, relaxing, and brilliant damn spring.

Do we muster up the strength to dive into month number nine? Or do we give it all up and call it an eight-month success? Tune in tomorrow to see if we get to all this:

  • National Matchmaker Day. Do we know any single people? Is this something we’re even remotely qualified to do?
  • National Trail Mix Day. I know we’re qualified to do this one. And I’ll enjoy it too.
  • Eat Outside Day. The weather is still tolerable, so we can do this.
  • Motorist Consideration Monday. A day to let people cut in front of us. For Jodie anyway; I don’t plan on leaving the house.
  • We Love Memoirs Day. And we do! We’ll pick some of our favourites.
  • National Diatomaceous Earth Day. This is a thing. We shall discuss it.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

And here I am again! We have hammered through so many celebrations I am now regularly dreading the act of adding them all up, which I need to do. We had surpassed 1,400 a ways back. But with the few hours of the day I seem to have outside of this little Microsoft Word-bubble, I can’t find the motivation to do a properly updated count. There always seems to be something that requires my attention just a little bit more, be it a dog that needs walking, a meal that needs preparing, or a nap that needs taking. I joke, of course. A nap is also but a notch on my wish-list, as I remain busy with all of this:

National Lemon Juice Day

There are two distinctive brands of lemon juice, as pictured above. You’ve got your squeezed lemons, which requires a bit of muscle work but provides the most pure form of lemon juice you can find. Then you have the stuff that pours out of plastic lemons, which grow in abundance at local supermarkets everywhere. This is the stuff you use when you aren’t really concerned about the sanctity of whatever you’re making.

We don’t use the latter often, except as a fill-in when we find we have no fresh lemons on the premises and avocado toast (or whatever) simply has to be made. Yesterday I wrestled for all of four seconds over which to use and for what recipe. With a batch of simple syrup still sitting comfortably in my fridge from the day before, I felt the prudent thing to do would be to revisit the whiskey sour, and to properly squeeze a lemon into the mix. The plastic stuff wouldn’t do.

And that’s the full-throated gist of this bizarre holiday. Lemon juice is not something you’d consume on its own – you need the sugar to ‘ade’ it to drinkability if you catch my third-rate pun. Lemon juice is an ingredient in food and drink recipes. This is actually an outlier in our year of on-going prescribed mirth. We haven’t had the chance to celebrate specific ingredients very often. There is no National Oregano Day, and no National Baking Soda Day, at least not that we have encountered thus far.

Hopefully if we run into any more, they’ll be an ingredient in the whiskey sour, or something equally as refreshing and delicious.

More Herbs Less Salt Day

This is pretty clearly a warning to folks not to get to heavy-handed with the salt shaker, and to rely on fresh or dried plant-stuffs to enhance the flavour of one’s food. I have always been a bit wary of going crazy with the salt for a couple of reasons. First of all, as I travelled through those glorious, sepia-tone days of young adulthood, I was aware of the dietary concerns that would face me when I was older. Don’t eat too many fats. Watch one’s intake of sugar. Ease up on the salt. I felt I should probably dial into one of these early, and salt was the clear winner, as I wasn’t about to sacrifice bacon or candy.

The other reason was taught to me when I worked as a prep cook (technically my title was ‘Salad Boy’). Using salt before trying one’s food is an insult to the chef. So I held back and tried everything before salting it up, and I found I rarely had to lean on extra salt to make the food palatable. For eggs, and often for potato side-dishes I’ll still grab some salt by default. But otherwise, I hold off.

Yesterday I made a twist on the avocado toast that so captured our hearts a few weeks ago when the calendar encouraged us to try it. Yes, there was salt involved, but I purposely used less. That was fine – we had smoked salmon lying beneath the avocado for a novelty, and that did the job. No herbs were even needed, apart from the chili pepper flakes.

But if you’re not familiar with the taste of each fresh herb, you should be. At least you should be if you intend to stake any claim on having talent in the kitchen. A well-made main course shouldn’t need extra salt.

And for that matter, neither should bacon or candy.

According To Hoyle Day

The plus side: Edmund Hoyle was all about games. The down-side: He was about games like whist and backgammon, so playing Grand Theft Auto V is not going to be enough to celebrate this day. We could play whist, but that would involve inviting two more people to play and learning all of the rules, since neither of us have played it before. Again, not going to work.

Edmund Hoyle, who passed away on August 29, 1769 (so yes, this is another celebrate-their-death-day event), made his mark teaching the members of uppercrust British society how to play games. In 1741 he wrote out the rules, and he wrote them so well that they became the go-to reference point for any fan of the sport. Hoyle wrote about backgammon. He wrote about chess. He wrote about piquet, which is another card game we’ve never tried. He became such an authority, the phrase “according to Hoyle” became a colloquial saying to mean “according to the rules” in all sorts of contexts.

Twenty-some years ago, Hoyle was the go-to name for PC solitaire games. I sold a bunch of them when I worked at a computer shop, advising customers that Hoyle was the “authority on card games” because that’s what it said on the back of the box. It turns out that was true, though he never contributed to the official rulebooks on solitaire, at least not to my knowledge.

He didn’t contribute to the rules of poker either, given that poker was invented some 60 years after his death. But he still obtained an entry into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979 because he was a hero of 18th century gamers. We didn’t play any of Hoyle’s games last night, but I did play a handful of games, including sodoku, kakuro, and a couple of futoshiki puzzles. And I re-read the rules for each, because I wanted to make sure I was doing things “according to Hoyle”, as they say.

Play Music On The Porch Day

I truly love this idea. In 2013 some savvy musicians, who understood the roots of music in community and the open air, started this day to encourage folks with even a modicum of talent to sit on their porches and jam. Pictured above is my auntie Kathy, who is proudly strumming her new ukulele on her porch as a celebration. She loves the instrument so much, and she plays with such joy at our family get-togethers, which are more musical nowadays than they have ever been.

I’m glad she celebrated this one for us, as neither of us possess the skills to get away with this ourselves. Sure, I could have taken one of my hand-held drums out front and pounded out a basic rhythm, but it wouldn’t have been very musical. Also, given that my neighbours are fans of modern R&B on one side and classic rock across the street, I doubt I’d have prompted a surprise neighborhood jam with a pair of bongos. This is a celebration best honoured by those who can do it properly.

I did my part – later in the evening I sat outside and enjoyed one of our dwindling comfy summer evenings by listening to music. Playing music through headphones is technically form of ‘playing music’, so I’d say it counted.

I approve of any celebration that pours more joy and beauty into the world, and I’m grateful to my auntie for jumping on board and brightening the world. My family is such good people.

Speak Kind Words Saturday / Be Kind To Humankind Week

Okay, maybe I’m the clueless schmuck who is so far out of the loop he can’t even see the crest of it over the horizon, but I have no idea what the hell Sevenly is. It’s a website, and from what I can see they have been posting all week on various kindness-type subjects – or “all week” in a previous year. I have no way of knowing in which year they came up with this particular week of niceties, but they put up a blog post for each day, and this final one is the day we are supposed to speak kind words. So sure – I’ll speak some kind words, and I’ll speak them about the company that appears to have created this celebration, even though I’m just now learning about them.

Sevenly sells clothes. Menswear, womenswear, kidswear, even petswear. They also sell hats, blankets, buttons and (of course) masks. But everything they sell appears to be tied in to some charity or another. They are partnered with the American Heart Association, with the Red Cross, and somehow with Mr. Rogers. This is a company that only sells merchandise that helps other people. This is a company we all should be supporting.

They have products for which proceeds will go to help victims of Hurricane Laura. They have ‘Voting Matters’ shirts, because it fucking does and Sevenly wants to help to create a more informed and engaged populace. They are partnered with Pepsi and John Krasinski to help raise money for a couple of key charities to assist restaurants who are having a rough year… so pretty much all restaurants then. Suicide prevention, human trafficking, women’s achievement… shit, just head over to their site and support ‘em. These are good folks doing lots of good things on the planet.

They have a collection of clothes licensed by the estate of Fred Rogers to promote kindness. If this world needs anyone’s words right now, it’s Fred’s. I can’t speak to the quality of the merchandise, but I can attest to the quality of the message. Head over to and spread some kindness.

Today we face another busy Sunday, which will be only as busy as we decide to make it. Will I find time to count our progress so far? Time will tell. So will all of this:

  • National Toasted Marshmallow Day. I tried. I even found an Aero Bar S’mores Kit. But Jodie said no. This one’s on her.
  • National Beach Day. We have no beaches around here, and we aren’t travelling to one.
  • National Holistic Pet Day. The dogs need some lovin’ today, and more than just food. Brushes and bath towels will be at the ready.
  • National South Carolina Day. This technically falls on Monday, but we have been bumping these to Sunday. Not sure we will this week though.
  • Frankenstein Day. Or are you going to be one of those pains in the ass who tells me it’s Frankenstein’s Monster’s Day?
  • International Whale Shark Day. This will be even wilder than International Dolphin Porpoise Day!
  • Slinky Day. I don’t think we have a working slinky around here, but it’s worth looking into.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Yesterday I celebrated something far more important than anything that appeared on the day’s calendar (well, Power Rangers Day is pretty special… but still…). It was our 21st wedding anniversary, and we spent most of the evening focused on that celebration, rather than try to sprinkle a heap of research and writing in before sundown. A drive-in movie and an evening in the arms of your favorite person outshines any National Day on the books. Does that epiphany get me out of doing the rest of this project? It could… but yet here I am, saddled with all of this:

Crackers Over The Keyboard Day

This celebration is meant to demonstrate that we, as participating humans, are willing to rebel against old stoic rules and embrace our wild sides. We’re told by parents, teachers, bosses, basic common sense that we shouldn’t eat crackers above the keyboard, yet here we are, living the X-TREME life, doing our best not to choke and sputter on all the adrenaline coursing through our inside places.

And I totally did it. I threw caution to a mild breeze and wrapped my arms around the societal structures that hold us just inches away from pure chaos. Thank you to Thomas and Ruth Roy, those weird and wonderful Pennsylvanians who have crafted a seemingly unending stream of strangeness which we have commemorated this year. Thank you for creating this gut connection to the sublime and the adventurous within us.

I should also note that Ritz crackers, while buttery and delicious, are also small enough to cram completely into one’s mouth, thus eliminating the danger of falling crumbs, assuming one has the ability to eat with one’s mouth shut. So the risk here was not quite as X-TREME as my all-caps, and replacing an ‘E’ with a misplaced hyphen might suggest. But forget all that. I grabbed this celebration by the pubes and shook it violently until it could be shaken no more.

This is life on the edge of adventure, folks. A few more commemorations like this and we may not live to see 2021.

Race Your Mouse Around The Icons Day

This one sounded like a Thomas & Ruth Roy celebration, but it’s not. In fact, we don’t know who came up with this silly idea. When you’re bored, waiting for something to load, the idea is to scoot your cursor around your icons as a time-waster. I mean… I guess that’s a thing people could do. Me, I tend to just wait. Or I’ll pick up my phone and find a momentary distraction. Even more so than communication our phones are handy for providing distraction.

Also, I tend to clean up my desktop as much as possible. I have a folder of great pictures that get cycled through as a ‘slide show’ for my desktop backgrounds, and I’d rather look at the skyline of New York or a great screenshot from Goodfellas than at a reminder that I haven’t properly filed that PDF report I worked on in February into wherever it should go on my hard drive. So ‘racing around the icons’ didn’t take me very long.

But if you’re looking for something to do, this definitely qualifies as… something.

Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day

I was first exposed to the term ‘Rainbow Bridge’ via the cover of a Jimi Hendrix album. I later learned the concept can also be based on a series of poems from the 80s and 90s, which assert that pets cross over this mythical bridge to await our own journeys into the afterlife, whereupon they’ll be waiting for us. To be honest, if I was to believe in only one life-after-death scenario, this would be it. I don’t even need to see my dearly departed loved ones; just give me an eternity with any of the four dogs pictured above.

We have received condolence cards from our vet every time we’ve lost a dog, and they seem to consistently cite this. We don’t actually need a day to be reminded to think of our departed canines – they are in our thoughts regularly.

But we’ll indulge. Pictured above are Rufus, our one and only male, whose habit of peeing on things made us yearn to only ever own female dogs going forward. But even though he possessed a fantastical odour, he was a brilliant companion. He defied all bulldog stereotypes and walked with high energy for long, extended trips with me. Then there’s Yoko, who remains the gold standard for all puppies we have owned since. She was perfect and compassionate – a therapy dog with no formal training. Becky was a feisty and weird dog, so full of quirks it would take a book to document them all. And Bethany was very much her mother’s daughter: a true companion with nothing but love for her humans.

I’d damn well better seem them again someday. They are all deeply missed.

National Whiskey Sour Day

Way back in 1870 the earliest known mention of a whiskey sour appeared in print, in some rural Wisconsin newspaper. It was suggested by a Peruvian news source that the drink had been invented in 1872 by one Elliot Stubb, a man more famous for having created the Pisco Sour. Pisco is a high-proof grape-based liquor that is much more popular in South America than here. The Pisco Sour is very much the same thing as a whiskey sour, except with a different booze source and the addition of an egg white.

If the drink was discussed in print in 1870, of course the Peruvian source would be wrong. It could be an error of dates, or perhaps they made it all up from nothing. Another possibility steers us right back to yesterday’s banana split: maybe it was conceived by two people in two different parts of the planet. After all, it’s not a complicated drink. Mix some bourbon with some lemon juice and simple syrup (which is just sugar and water), shake it up with some ice and serve it.

This one was a bit of a struggle to see through. The day actually landed on Tuesday, but I forgot to make one Tuesday night. Wednesday I was not in the mood for alcohol. Thursday I made the simple syrup, then left it on the counter to cool, which is where Liberty found it and drank it all down. Finally, I made my first whiskey sour last night, in our on-going effort to not skip any alcohol-related days. It was delicious, with just the right little snap of sour to complement the flavours of the bourbon. I suspect it won’t be my last.

I like a day that ends with a whole lotta yum. This might be my new favourite drink.

National Red Wine Day

I have written so much on here about the history and development of wine, I feel I can contribute no more. We – well, I drank some red wine last night after the movie and it was fantastic. I’ve been enjoying the stuff since I was eight days old. It was my first alcoholic love. And that’s all there is to say. On to the next day!

Today is Saturday so that usually means a bunch of celebrations. Let’s see what we’ll get into:

  • National Chop Suey Day. Not even close to our favourite, so we’ll probably skip this one.
  • National Lemon Juice Day. I guess this means I’m making another whiskey sour!
  • More Herbs Less Salt Day. I can get behind this, though I’m not exactly a mass consumer of extra salt.
  • According To Hoyle Day. This is actually about the guy who wrote the rules to whist and other card games. So I guess we play a card game.
  • Independent Bookstore Day. Might be time to make a trip.
  • Play Music On The Porch Day. My auntie will be jamming with her ukulele on her porch. Maybe I’ll drag out my bongos to sit on mine.
  • Speak Kind Words Saturday. Sounds pleasant.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Embittered by an excessive focus on humanity’s dimmest and most vile yesterday, I felt little urge to swim in the waters of calendar-prescribed mirth. The culprit is once again social media and my inane compulsion to speak to the clueless and ignorant as though they possess some small desire to observe a wider world. This is masochism in its purest form, and it has set my controls to ‘dour’ for much of the last 48 hours. But this is why we soldier on, with a loud call for distraction. To wit:

National Banana Lovers Day

Unlike the rerun-setup that was National Bacon Lovers Day (not that we’re complaining), there is no National Banana Day to offset this one. Sure, we celebrate the split, the bread and the cream pie on other days this year, but this is the top banana, as far as banana celebration days are concerned.

Bananas are berries, technically. The bananas we eat are known as ‘dessert bananas’, which is odd because they make for a fairly weak dessert on their own, at least compared to the hundreds of other desserts we’ve celebrated so far this year. But this is to distinguish them from plantains, which carry a much different flavour and texture. Plantains are usually a little harder and starchier, though really they all fall under the ‘banana’ heading.

The bananas we sink our teeth into in this part of the world tend to be of the Cavendish variety. These have been the standard-issue bananas in North America since the 1950s. Before that it was the Gros Michel banana, but that one succumbed to Panama Disease, which was caused by a fungus that ate the fruit down at the root. There’s a rumor that the Gros Michels carried the sweet flavour we now find in banana-flavoured candies, but that isn’t true. And the Gros Michel variety isn’t completely dead, it’s just grown on a much smaller scale.

That said, the Cavendish is in danger from a different fungus so it might be time to track down a new breed of banana to become our beloved split-enhancer. For now we simply enjoyed the bananas we had, fungus-free.

National Cherry Popsicle Day

We celebrated the coveted grape popsicle back on May 27, and our only other popsicle celebration this year is National Blueberry Popsicle Day, which lands on September 2. The only problem is, I have never before seen a blueberry popsicle. In fact, a quick Google search will reveal numerous recipes for making them, but no link to any company-made frozen blueberry-sugar product.

And why don’t orange popsicles get a little love? This is just one of the mysteries of the universe.

So yesterday we indulged in some delicious cherry popsicles. There’s no need to delve deeper; I’ve covered the popsicle’s history, both on Grape Popsicle Day and again for Creamsicle Day last Friday. It’s enough to say that cherry is the unmitigated champ of the popsicle world, at least to us, and the ones we enjoyed last night were an absolute delight. Celebration celebrated.

National Just Because Day

A direct quote from my source on this day: “On August 27th National Just Because Day offers up an opportunity to do stuff… just because.”

I said it yesterday: this is the weakest premise for a day all year. That said, since we’re invited to do whatever we’d like “just because”, after work was over I played some video games. For no reason, other than “just because.” In fact, most of what I do on a day to day basis is done for no specific reason. Why do I continue with this project? Why do I subject myself to writing on average 2,000-2,500 words every day about celebrations? I can see no logic, no specific end-game we’re shooting for, except to do it.

Just because.

The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

“They” in this case refers to Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. She was an Irish romance writer – not particularly known for deep, rich characters, but still beloved. She was a widow at the age of 23, with three small children. So you could say she was a busy young lady, and now she had to fend for herself. Fortunately, she was quite a writer.

It’s an interesting story, in that there isn’t much more story to tell. Ms. Hungerford set aside three hours of every morning to write, and she pushed out at least 57 works, mostly in the style of “light romance”, which was crafted to contain some flirty dialogue, but no scenes that would scandalize the Victorian-age audience who bought her stuff. In the United States her work was put out under the name ‘The Duchess’. Why? I can’t find a source that can identify this.

Another question: why does Ms. Hungerford get a day of her own? Yes, 57 is an impressive number of published works (and there were likely more, as much of her early stuff was published anonymously), and even more impressive considering she died of typhoid fever at the young age of 42. But while she did snare a mention in James Joyce’s Ulysses, even the articles that praise her are careful to point out that her work is not packed with literary depth or importance. Also, why we’re celebrating her on this day, when it’s neither her birthday nor death day, I have no clue.

But she did snare one massive coup, which most writers never achieve. She plunked together a handful of words which will live on eternally. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes from her novel Molly Bawn, and that phrase will outlive anything I write. Maybe. I don’t know, my bit about cherry popsicles was pretty bang-on. I guess we’ll see.

Happy day, Duchess.

Kiss Me Day

91 years ago on this date, a comic strip appeared in which Popeye, our beloved sailor hero who was afflicted with forearm gigantism, got his first kiss from his beloved Olive Oyl. Specifically, she kissed him and then declared that she had merely mistaken him for her lover. Popeye then responds with “Blow me down,” which is either an expression of surprise at a sudden rush of feelings, or a desire for Olive to perform fellatio on him. It was the pre-crash 1920s, so anything was possible.

I guess this was a super-burn for ol’ Popeye, but fortunately he is what he is and that’s all what he is, so he managed to seal the deal with Olive a few years later. I mean, just look at her. You’ve got to lock that down.

And that’s what this day commemorates. We already had National Kissing Day, International Kissing Day, and about a dozen other days that were all summed up by a celebratory kiss between us. And yes, we did kiss. But we also acknowledged Popeye’s good fortune, so if anything is going to make this celebration slightly different from the others, it’s that.

National Burger Day (UK)

It has been less than two months since we celebrated National Hamburger Day, the North American version. Well, the American version I guess. There is no officially designated National Hamburger Day for Canada, so as usual we will gravitate toward the nation that provides us with much of our culture, also the one that appeared to have invented the hamburger. We also celebrated National Veggie Burger Day back in June, so we are well-versed in the burger celebrations.

But we are also a nation that is politically and historically linked to Great Britain, so if they are going to dive in and enjoy some burgers, we can do the same. And because we’ve already looked into the story of how burgers came to be (spoiler: no one has any clear idea!), we don’t have to revisit that again.

So no research, just good eats. My kind of celebration. Unfortunately, we had eaten numerous burgers from two barbecues last week, and we neglected to take a photo of them. So while we don’t have physical evidence to back up our claim, you’ll just have to believe us that yes, we celebrated National Burger Day, the British version, and we celebrated it well. In fact, I found a site that designates this day back on August 22, which was the day we had the family over for a burger-grillin’, so we’re even more on point than we’d thought.

We simply can’t turn down a burger day.

Tarzan Day

This would be another day without explanation as to why we celebrated it yesterday. We have nothing telling us that Tarzan of the Apes, the 1914 novel that launched the franchise, was released on August 27. But here we were. So how to celebrate? I found two ways. First off, I tortured myself with the schmaltzy soundtrack to the 1999 Disney cartoon. It was a solid reminder of how much more interesting Phil Collins was in the 70s and 80s. It was also a reminder that this soundtrack is why my daughter possesses an inexplicably intense loathing of Mr. Collins and his work. Her loss. Well, mine yesterday.

Next, let’s have a look at what Tarzan was really about. Putting aside the aforementioned Disney movie (which employs a lot of talking animals and makes all the humans safe and white), the novels and movies did a phenomenal job of playing up stereotypes of ‘savage’ people with darker skin. One theory is that Edgar Rice Burroughs formed his opinions on race because he grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, which was known as a ‘sundown town’, meaning all those with darker hues were expected to vacate the place when the sun went down.

It’s a shame, because Tarzan could be an interesting perspective on society. He’s a white kid who was raised by apes and is later forced to live in the world of European aristocracy. And Burroughs, who was not a fan of royalty and the otherwise hoity-toity types, did make that commentary. But, and maybe this was in fact due to the unenlightened times in which he lived, he fell short of making any grand statement about race. Even when it comes to gender, Jane was an interesting character. She was imbued with elements of strength and independence, but all of that is overshadowed by a bunch of violence and disrespect towards women. Not by Tarzan, but by characters who are also supposed to be among the “good guys”.

Tarzan is a story that deserves retelling, and that’s exactly what it gets. I haven’t seen a version that was done right yet though. Hopefully that’s coming. And hopefully they give it a better soundtrack.

National Petroleum Day

In this province, every day is National Petroleum Day. There is a lot of oil sitting underneath our feet, and thousands upon thousands of folks around here are employed with the aim of dragging it out and spurting it into our cars. And the oil industry takes a lot of abuse, primarily because it is exhausting a finite global resource and causing potentially irreparable damage to our environment. Also because our provincial government has given massive tax breaks to oil companies who then turned around and laid off a bunch of workers. So some folks are rather disgruntled about the entire mess.

But we still live in a world where oil is king. From the plastic keys taking the abuse of my unrelenting fingers to the fluid that powered the truck that just dropped off my Amazon delivery of 200 Raw-brand filter tips, we still need it. But we also need to need less of it. LEGO is aiming to be 100% renewable and plastic-free without sacrificing the integrity of their bricks. And as electric cars continue to become more popular, if we could curb our oil needs to fueling other vehicles, and to produce less plastic, we’d all be better off. Even the blue-collar Albertans who rely on the industry for their livelihoods – we have to look at the bigger picture and save the damn planet.

Big oil is big money though, so it’s an ongoing fight. We do our part by trying to use less, and having reduced our vehicle fleet count to one lonely truck, that’s something. But we also need to acknowledge that our economy still runs on oil. We just need to diversify. Not really a great conclusion to reach at the end of a celebration, but then National Petroleum Day isn’t exactly a dynamic or interesting celebration.

World Rock Paper Scissors Day

Variations of this game can be traced back to the Han Dynasty, somewhere between 1800 and 2200 years ago. The Japanese had a similar “fist” game as well. In the Japanese mushi-ken game, the frog (stick out your thumb) beats the slug (stick out your pinkie), which beats the snake (stick out your index finger). Obviously the snake eats the frog, but I’m not too clear how the slug triumphs over the snake. I also don’t understand why paper beats rock either. Sports are so confusing.

This game is seen as a way of randomly deciding between two options, one represented by either player. But it’s not quite as random as a coin toss (which, to be fair, is not 100% random either). You can use strategy to defeat your opponent. If your hand-eye skills are top-shelf you might be able to anticipate their move by watching what their fingers do on the downward swipe. For this, identifying ‘rock’ is easiest, since the fingers won’t have to move at all from the pre-throw position. But there are algorithms made to give competitors (and yes, this is a worldwide competitive game) an advantage.

Humans are not completely random creatures. We can be predicted, at least to a reasonable extent. And the game has spread far beyond the competitive circuit. One Florida judge used it to resolve a dispute. In 2018 a referee, finding he was missing a coin for the opening coin toss, opted to have the captains in an FA Women’s Super League soccer match play rock-paper-scissors to see who would kick off first. The Japanese have even taught chimpanzees to play the game, which somehow makes me feel uneasy about chimpanzees. It’s only a small step from rock-paper-scissors to learning tic-tac-toe, and we all saw how close that game was intertwined with our nuclear near-destruction in the 1982 Matthew Broderick film (which may have been a documentary, I can’t remember), War Games.

Jodie and I celebrated this one with a single showdown. As pictured above, my paper adequately covered her rock, leading me to victory. There was no trophy, however, and not even a friendly wager on the outcome. So celebratory pride, that’s what I won. Yay!

Today may be a busy day or it may not be… I haven’t decided yet. This article is certainly packed with more than I’d planned on celebrating, so maybe a bit of a respite is in order:

  • National Red Wine Day. Obviously this one won’t be skipped.
  • National Power Rangers Day. Our son wanted to be a Power Ranger when he was young. Maybe it’s not too late.
  • National Bow Tie Day. Now I’m wishing I had a bow tie to wear.
  • National Cherry Turnovers Day. More desserts! Just what we need!
  • Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. A day about dearly departed pets. This just makes me sad.
  • Race Your Mouse Around The Icons Day. Oooh, another sporting event that isn’t a real sporting event to celebrate!
  • Crackers Over The Keyboard Day. I didn’t get to live my life on the edge in a glider aircraft last weekend, but I can do this!
  • Forgive Your Foe Friday. It has been, what, three days since our last forgiveness celebration? How many people am I supposed to be pissed at?
  • International Read Comics In Public Day. This would be much easier to celebrate if I had any plans on being in public today.
  • Dream Day Quest & Jubilee. Today marks 57 years since Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream with the world.
  • Radio Commercial Day. I’ll celebrate by continuing to avoid these. They’re awful.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

In 2020 the laws of time appear perpetually incepted, folding in upon themselves in a clever celestial origami, leaving us in a state of constant bafflement and confusion. For more than five months we have surfed the wake of isolation, with the froth of relative security slapping our faces warmly. Next week the shift begins that dries the wave and pits us against the unpredictable yawn of fate. Will we get sick? Will we squeak by? I have been exceedingly apt at closing off this temporal wobble by remaining steadfastly focused on the immediate. Yesterday was yet another day of sun and serenity, and for the moment it was eternal. We may have had to bump a couple of items, but we’ll get caught up. Also, we tackled all of this:

National Dog Day

This is the official one. The big one. The one that presumably overshadows National Walking the Dog Day, National Dog Biscuit Day, National Hug Your Dog Day, National Hug Your Puppy Day, National Little Pampered Dog Day, Ugliest Dog Day, National Puppy Day, Take Your Dog To Work Day, National Spoil Your Dog Day, Responsible Dog Ownership Day, and National Make A Dog’s Day Day. This one even has its own website:

The purpose of this day, created by Colleen Paige, an animal welfare advocate, is to honour dogs, to appreciate the crucial role they play in our lives and in our society, and to bring attention to rescue dogs who need homes. We will happily amplify that last notion, however I will continue to remind Jodie that the legal limit on dog ownership in this city is three, and if we get another one she will be an official rule-shirker. She has never aimed to be a rule-shirker.

Dogs detect drugs and bombs. Dogs lead blind people through the world safely. Dogs provide therapeutic support to those who need it. And they approach the world through a lens of pure love and adoration. It’s no mystery that our lives without dogs would be frail and pale imitations of anything meaningful. They bring us joy and belonging like absolutely no one else could. Yesterday we did what we always do: we treasured our dogs, we walked our dogs, we fed our dogs treats, and we spoiled them to the point of allowing them to sleep in our bed.

Whatever the question, dogs are the answer. Oh, and if you’re wondering if I took a moment after the lunch hour to pause and observe it was “National Dog Day Afternoon”, I totally did. No banks were robbed, and no harm befell John Cazale.

Make Your Own Luck Day

According to the one source I found for this day, it was started by a guy named J. Richard Falls of Irving, Texas. He conveniently dropped this day onto his birthday, and declared that we should all wake up on this morning and believe something great is going to happen. Though if the sentiment here is that we are supposed to “make our own luck”, then believing won’t be enough. We have to get up and do something.

I have never been particularly fond of this phrase. Luck is, by definition, the element of chance and randomness landing in your favour. If you drop a casino chip onto a number at a roulette table, you will be lucky if the ball lands in that spot. Making your own luck would mean either gambling responsibly – placing a few bets on columns, or number groups, or one of the other options in order to mitigate your losses and keep you playing longer – or rigging the wheel so that it stops where you want it to. Option one is employing a strategy to lessen the impact of luck, while option two is simply cheating.

So that’s really what this day is imploring us to do. Shrink the danger of luck to give ourselves a better advantage, or to cheat. It sounds on the surface like it’s encouraging fate to gift us, but it’s about helping ourselves. So that’s what we did. We wanted a positive, restful day so we made decisions that brought that into being. It meant holding off on starting any massive projects, spending quality time celebrating National Dog Day, and both of us getting off social media for a while and out of endless debates over race and science. And as luck would have it, our mission was accomplished.

There’s probably a lesson in here somewhere, maybe one beyond the overtly obvious one, but I don’t care to dig for it. We had a lucky day. Hopefully you did too. Hopefully J. Richard Falls did as well. Happy birthday, J. Richard!

Women’s Equality Day

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that women do not have 100% equality in our society. We know they do on paper, but there’s a lot of work to be done to overcome crap like wage disparity and the relative dearth of women in positions of power. This is why feminism is still a thing, and why those of us who give a crap (which, honestly, should be all of us) continue to fight the fight. #metoo was a great wake-up, and a lot of thunderous good has been done in the last few years, but it ain’t over.

But all of that aside, it’s not a bad thing to take a look back at the accomplishments that have been made. And in America, perhaps the greatest achievement by the feminist cause was the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. One hundred years ago, women in America were granted the right to vote. Expanding access to the vote, just before a huge election; this is pretty much the opposite of what’s happening right now.

The Equal Rights Amendment, which was first introduced into Congress in 1923, would guarantee full rights to women, including in matters of divorce, employment, and property. I imagine when Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman brought this to Congress in the relatively immediate wake of the 19th Amendment, it was expected that the wave of progress would push the ERA right through. The House finally approved it in 1971, the Senate in 1972. This was in the midst of another wave of women’s rights. But 38 states needed to ratify it in order to make it a thing.

They didn’t. By 1977, 35 states had signed on. Nevada came around in 2017, Illinois in 2018, and Virginia earlier this year (before the pandemic mess). So the magic 38 was finally hit. Except that there had been a deadline for ratification back in 1982. And five states voted way back then to withdraw their ratification, which may or may not be legal. So the ERA remains in legislative limbo.

But that doesn’t negate the glorious achievement of 100 years ago. It never hurts to appreciate the silver linings, so long as they don’t blind us to the clouds we have yet to part.

Oh, that was good. Someone slap that on a T-shirt.

National Toilet Paper Day

Okay, I can understand why we need to celebrate toilet paper. Of all the products I perpetually restock in my home, this is the one I probably take for granted the most. Just look at the alternatives that were in common use before the glorious rolls of two-ply we enjoy today. If you were in Ancient Greece, you’d use clay. In Europe and the Middle East, the hand was the most common apparatus for self-hygiene. Fountains were also used, but they didn’t bring that scrubbing action.

Plants were big on the ass-wiping circuit, from grass and leaves to fruit skin and corn cobs. Up north they used snow, which sounds so unpleasant I don’t even want to think of it. Shells and stones have been used in some places as well, which sounds as thought it would be more effective than snow, but not at all pleasing to the hindquarters. The French figured out the bidet, and the Romans used either wool and rosewater or (for the poor folks) a sponge on a stick. The Chinese were the ones to come to humanity’s rescue, inventing the first toilet paper back in the 1300s.

Which brings us to now. At my place of work – the office tower I don’t actually go to anymore – they used a one-ply paper that you can practically see through. When I attended school at the University of Alberta, the toilet paper there was somehow even thinner. One should never underestimate the importance of a quality paper, which is one huge reason I’m thrilled to be working at home.

Above is a shot of the roll from the bathroom beside our bedroom. For whatever reason, this is the only place where Liberty, our #3 canine assistant, feels compelled to munch on TP. Yesterday she let up though, perhaps in honour of this day. I guess we all get what we can from a good roll of toilet paper, even if we’re just in it for the flavour.

As the sun insists upon another day, we plan to do our part by making it as full of revelry and weirdness as possible, thanks to all this:

  • National Pots de Crème Day. I don’t know what this is, and I shan’t respond to it.
  • National Just Because Day. This might be the weakest premise for a day all year, and that’s saying something.
  • International Lottery Day. This is the day when we snag enough money to add some class to the rest of this year’s parties.
  • National Banana Lovers Day. Fantastic! Bananas for everyone!
  • Movies Day (Russia). Do we watch a movie? Specifically, a Russian movie? Maybe Rocky IV?
  • The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day. Looks like we’re spending just a little time learning about history.
  • Kiss Me Day. A little bit on the nose, but I’ll take it.
  • National Burger Day (UK). We have had burgers a few times this week, so this has certainly been amply celebrated.
  • Tarzan Day. Should we watch the Disney movie or just listen to that crappy Phil Collins song?
  • National Petroleum Day. We will use some petroleum if we leave the house, I suppose.
  • Thoughtful Thursday. Fun!
  • World Rock Paper Scissors Day. Now we’re talking something important.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Some days appear carved from molten butter, destined to end up in a puddly heap by their end, while remaining slick and scalding throughout. Thankfully, yesterday was a mellow warm ooze of I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Monday: a much more welcoming alternative. The list of prescribed celebrations was short, which suited my desire to focus my attentions elsewhere quite swimmingly. And what was on the docket was, for the most part, rather delightful. For example:

National Banana Split Day

A banana split is one of those desserts that can boast a next-level understanding of human psychology. Our brains are meant to focus on the banana itself – it’s right there in the name. A banana is a potassium-rich fruit, and undeniably good for the body. As a kicker, you even have other fruit bits involved, hinting that this is almost a fruit salad. It can even feature a few crushed-up nuts for protein.

But the split knows what it’s about. Behind that shielding wall of whipped cream you’ve got three scoops of ice cream (usually vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and a generous topping of various sauces on top. It’s like having three ice cream sundaes at once, but with a banana to help us to deal with any potential guilt. One might fault the banana split for being so duplicitous, but our taste buds so love the deception that we’ll give it a pass.

Naturally the origin story of the banana split is divided among numerous claims to its invention. David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist from Latrobe, PA claimed to have created it in 1904. Lefty Lally, working out of a Columbus, OH pharmacist in the same year, also claims to have created it. Restaurant owner Ernest Hazard over in Wilmington, OH says it was his brainchild in 1907.

As with all of these conflicting origin stories, we simply don’t care. I think it’s perfectly logical for three different humans to recognize that bananas are sweet and pair well with ice cream. So they all invented it. It doesn’t matter – the banana split is a celebration meant to be savoured. And we did. We were torn over whether to create our own, using the three-flavour spumoni sitting in our freezer, or to find one locally. Dairy Queen does its own take on the banana split, and while it’s not the pure real-deal (they use their soft-serve, which is only a single flavour), it did the job. Our other alternative would have been to visit a restaurant, and we weren’t up to combing the city for the best split in town last night.

The one pictured above did the trick.

National Kiss & Make Up Day

So many ways to approach this rich and nuanced suggestion for a celebration. I kid of course, this is simply a rehash of National Reconciliation Day and a number of other days we have celebrated this year. The idea is to make up with someone with whom you’d previously been quarrelling, and I suppose the twist on this one is that a kiss is implied. Well, that certainly cuts down the list of potential quarrels. That racist I’ve been arguing with on social media? I’m not kissing that guy.

In fact, once ruling out my kids and my mother (we have no quarrels; she brings over delicious treats), this meant Jodie was my only option for celebrating this day. And as luck would have it, she went to bed Monday night rather displeased that I had been playing Grand Theft Auto V while Liberty rang the bells at our back door, indicating that she wanted to go outside. Yes, even dumb puppies can be trained to do this.

In my defense, I was trying to land a helicopter on that small round roof of the restaurant at the Los Santos airport – not an easy task. But yes, I should have hit pause and let the dog out. Fortunately I was able to offer this wonderful opportunity for Jodie to forgive me, and then to give me some of that good ol’ lovin’ (only a kiss – keep your thoughts clean). I’m sure that deep down she was grateful for this opportunity. Yep. I can read her well.

Hopefully I’ll have a few days to do something wrong again, as I’m sure we’re bound to run into another one of these patch-up-your-issues days before too long. Luckily, I’m quite the carefree deviant.

Touch-A-Heart Tuesday / Be Kind To Humankind Week

And we follow the generic forgiveness celebration with yet another generic do-something-good celebration. This one was launched by a lady named Lorraine Jara back in 1988. She was inspired by a tragic story from her home town of Toms River, New Jersey. It seems a couple of dudes were out rowing a boat when it capsized. Two ladies helped to pull them out of the freezing water, but they had no motor to hurry to shore and no radio to call for help. Apparently two boats equipped with radios passed by but refused to help. One of the two men died.

So Lorraine’s aim with this little unofficial holiday was to encourage us to not be the dicks in those two boats, but to be the two ladies who sacrificed their time to try to help those strangers. Knowing there are people out there who would be completely unwilling to put themselves out even a little to help save someone’s life is a depressing thought. So I’ll shelve my cynicism for this repeat, and hand Lorraine a win. We should be willing to take a hit to help others. After all, we never know when we’ll be those guys in the water.

Given our rather sedentary lifestyle, there was no going out yesterday to help anyone in person. Jodie did help out her niece, who is getting her start in the eyebrow-sculpting game, but that’s pretty weak. I opted for the old give-a-little route, just in case, and donated some bucks to the local Ronald McDonald House. They touch a lot of hearts behind those walls, and definitely deserve our support. Thanks, Lorraine.

National Second-Hand Wardrobe Day

I’m pretty sure I have said this before on some other similar day, but we don’t own a lot of second-hand clothes. This isn’t due to any sort of snootiness or better-than-thou-ness, we simply don’t. For one thing, I have a certain… shape of form that is not always easy to pair with a piece of clothing, new or used.

We both run into the issue that we also don’t want to go out and shop this year. Jodie has been buying her clothing online, while I’ve been stretching out my wardrobe from the previous decade (parts of it from decades prior to that one). Wandering through racks and racks of clothes that have recently been fondled and breathed-upon by others just isn’t a proper pandemic activity.

Pictured above is one of the few pieces of second-hand clothing I own: a coat owned by my dad that fits me surprisingly well, and will do me just fine for the upcoming autumn weeks. Not pictured above is the six packed bags of second-hand clothes that we packed in the truck to haul to Goodwill yesterday. We don’t wear a lot of second-hand clothes but we do understand that they are a welcome alternative for folks who could use the help. And besides, Jodie has exquisite tastes. For the gentlemen, they’ll just end up with a bunch of t-shirts designed for a slightly more rotund individual.

Today might be one of the easier days of this project, which is great news to those of us (both of us) who are craving an easy day:

  • National Dog Day. They say every dog has his day. Our have had about a dozen so far this year.
  • National Cherry Popsicle Day. My favourite flavour of popsicle, so we absolutely won’t be skipping this one.
  • La Tomatina. This is that infamous tomato war event in Bunol, Spain. Anyone want to come over and toss some tomatoes?
  • Musical Yoga Day. This one is up to Jodie.
  • National Toilet Paper Day. Yes, we do get around to celebrating everything around here eventually.
  • Make Your Own Luck Day. What if I want to make someone else’s luck?
  • Women’s Equality Day. Well, we aren’t coming out on the wrong side of history with this one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Awash in a foamy fjord of perpetual mayhem, this is the day when we start to observe that nearly every inanimate object may be subject to its own personal national day. Yesterday we explored the banal, but with waffles so it wasn’t so bad. Still, we were tested. Tested by the big hairy elbows this project swings into our free time. Tested by the loss of hours of a day off when I could have been playing cowboy in a computer game. Tested by how to make any of this even remotely interesting to ourselves. If it fails to interest you, that may be because we failed to spark our own excitement. But how is that possible, with all of this?:

National Peach Pie Day

Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to call it a close-enough celebration to count. How can I do this? Because in addition to being the only people standing on the playing field, we are also the only people making up the rules for this little goof-fest.

Above is a rather unflattering photo of a Peach Dump Cake that our team baker (hi, Mom!) created for us. There was no Peach Dump Cake Day, but she was inspired by National Georgia Day to give it a go. She wasn’t impressed. She suggested we heat it up and toss some ice cream on top, and you know what? She was right. It was delicious. I knew this day was approaching and I planned to repeat the snack and take a proper photo.

But then National Ice Cream Pie Day happened. Followed by National Soft Serve Day. Then National Spumoni Day. Then we had family over for a barbecue, and they brought desserts to add to the doughnuts we’d purchased for the event. We are so weighted down by desserts, this poor little dump cake passed the point of starting to turn and I never got a second helping. This is why the photo above is not particularly flattering.

The peach dump cake is more of a variation on cobbler, and I’ll posit that this makes it closer in spirit to a deconstructed pie than a cake of any kind. It was close enough for us, and it was plenty tasty. It just wouldn’t have been had we tried more of it yesterday. Alas, it has been jettisoned from our counter.

Good thing, since we’ve got to make room for National Banana Split Day today, and the dessert celebrations happening almost every day this week. It’s a tough life.

Nostalgia Night

An evening to embrace nostalgia sounds very much like a North American creation, specifically one either made by baby boomers to remind us all that yes, they made better music back in their day than in any other, or by people one generation older who wanted to remind us all that music was better when Glenn Miller was running the show. Much of our culture is based on nostalgia, whether it’s Greta Van Fleet sounding like a modern Led Zeppelin, That 70s Show and Happy Days cashing in on a previous generation’s idea of youth, or the upcoming Wonder Woman movie taking place in the mid-80s.

This night was created in Uruguay. And it was created back in 1978, at a time when one might question what ‘nostalgia’ even means in Uruguay. Confused? Me too.

The origin story for this one either traces back to CX-32 Radiomondo or else to Disco Ton Ton Metek (which I assume was a discotheque based on the creatures from Empire Strikes Back, which is especially prescient since that film hadn’t yet been released). But someone decided that the day before Uruguay’s independence day should be something special. And to be clear, it’s not a ‘Make Uruguay Great Again’ kind of racist or classist nostalgia. It’s all about the music.

And it has caught on. People have crazy nostalgia parties, spinning classic tunes from their youth, or the youth of folks older than them. It’s an annual party celebration, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to know it exists. If we ever re-do this silly little project on the road, I want to end up in Uruguay for August 24. It sounds like a blast.

We listened to some vintage music last night as well, though we fell short of having a party (for obvious reasons). But it was rock-tastic. Thanks, Uruguay.

Pluto Demoted Day

It was 14 years ago on this day when the International Astronomical Union decided that Pluto no longer fit the definition of planet. People railed against this decision, possibly because the names of all nine planets are among the few things we remember from school. Did Pluto deserve such a fate? Do kids today have to memorize more dwarf planets now, or can they just pretend Pluto doesn’t exist?

Let’s look at why the IAU made this decision. They defined three parameters that make up a planet: it must be in orbit around the sun (Pluto is), it must be large enough to have been rounded by its own gravity (yep to this one too), and it must have “cleared the neighbourhood” around its orbit. Here’s where Pluto falls short. Clearing the neighbourhood means there should be nothing else but its natural satellites (a.k.a. moons) wonking with its gravity. Given that Pluto is partly susceptible to Neptune’s gravity, and that it gets involved with a number of other objects floating in the Kuiper belt, Pluto does not meet this requirement.

Alan Stern, the guy behind the New Horizons mission NASA sent off to Pluto, disagrees with this. He claims that, by this definition, we’d also have to eliminate Neptune, Jupiter, Mars and Earth from being classified as planets, as they all have asteroids sharing their orbit. Having no horse in this race I won’t be taking a firm side, but for the purposes of yesterday’s celebration, we tried. We believed Pluto was still a planet, just for that one day. It’s not a bold or brave stance, but one we’re willing to make, just to honour the teachings of our youth. With that day done, we’ll shave it back down to dwarf planet status and move on with our lives. Sorry, Pluto.

National Knife Day

Do we not celebrate the knife every damn time we have to use one? Try it – next time you use a knife, consider what you’d have to use in its place if we had no knives. There. I’ve given you a celebration that will last you the rest of your natural life, or at least until you’re too old to be trusted with using a knife.

Legend has it that on this day (yesterday’s this day) in 1838 that Razen Bowie wrote a letter to Planter’s Advocate, advising that he created the infamous Bowie knife – the one that was made famous by his brother Jim. Jim Bowie was a frontiersman, a famous American hero who died at the Alamo in March of 1836. The story was that he was pretty damn brilliant in a knife fight, and that either he designed the famous knife that would bear his name or else a blacksmith created it just for him.

But the story isn’t always 100% accurate. Maybe his brother actually created it. It’s also believed that perhaps Jim Bowie wasn’t so well-known for knife fighting, and he just happened to get in one scuffle that made him a legend. Also, Jim Bowie was a slave trader. Not just a slave trader, but when importing slaves into America was made illegal, he smuggled slaves into the country, and swindled the government to earn a massive profit on them.

So fuck Jim Bowie. And while we’re at it, fuck his brother Rezin, who was deep into the human-smuggling game with his brother. I don’t care who invented that knife; we celebrated the way this day should be honoured: by using a knife to cut up berries. Knives are awesome. Their inventors, not always so awesome. As far as we’re concerned, history can be rewritten to state that David Bowie, who to my knowledge traded no slaves, invented the Bowie Knife.

Vesuvius Day

It was a beautiful summer day in August of 79 A.D. Or maybe it was in October or November – historians aren’t really sure about the date. And given that we’ve switched calendars and deleted days from existence on several occasions, I don’t see a reason to get too connected with this particular day. But whenever it happened, this is when we commemorate one of the most fascinating destructive events in human history.

The bomb that leveled Hiroshima was massive. The explosion that spurted out of Vesuvius back in ’79 was about 100,000 times more massive. Hot gases and smouldering ash rocketed up into the atmosphere. When you imagine the most fantastic possible CGI volcanic explosion, you still are not likely appreciating just how huge this was. Pompeii was wiped out, but it wasn’t alone. Herculaneum was wiped out as well. The population of both cities was up around 20,000, and no one had a chance to escape before things got molten.

The first impact was ash and pumice falling to the earth. Raining pure hell would be an apt description. Those who could, and those who were smart enough to know what was coming, fled at that point. Then along came the lava flows, which knocked over buildings like they were made of matchsticks. So far about 1,500 bodies have been discovered entombed beneath the wreckage.

This brings us back once again to Pliny The Elder, who has worked his way into the origin stories of National Prosecco Day and Virtual World Days in the last couple of weeks. Pliny was attempting to flee from the area impacted by Vesuvius’s eruption, and died in the process. Some say he simply collapsed and died, another story is that he pleaded with a slave to kill him in order to spare him the agony of incineration. We’ll never know, but it’s weird that we’re talking about him again.

In honour of Mount Vesuvius, I listened to an excerpt from Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii performance. Hey, it’s not the best way to honour the dead, but it’s something.

Can Opener Day

Was the can opener invented on an August 24? I have no earthly idea. But someone must have believed it was, otherwise why would such a bland concept get its own special day in the middle of summer? I could be out celebrating National Water Slide Day or National Burn Ants With A Magnifying Glass Day, but no – someone felt we should commemorate the thing that grants us access to corn niblets.

Cans were invented to store food around 1772. The instructions to open early canned food products involved – and I’m not making this up – a hammer and chisel. Then along came the twist-key mechanism and the stab-it-and-mangle-the-lid type of opener. Finally we got to the twisty-open type pictured above. I have never owned an electric can opener, though I have witnessed the effects of such a device on the common house cat. It’s very cute.

William Lyman of Meriden, Connecticut invented the rotating wheel can openers we know and love, back in July of 1870. So we’ve had these things taking up space in kitchen drawers for a whopping 150 years. Happy birthday, can opener, or at least happy birthday sometime back in July.

We had no cans we needed to open yesterday, and it would have been a waste to pop open some cranberry sauce or something that we had no intention of eating. But our can opener also contains a little hook thing that pops caps off of bottles. I happened to have a single bottle of Mexican Coke waiting for me in the fridge, so that did the trick. Huzzah.

Weather Complaint Day

It may seem odd for this day to show up in August, when the so-called “dog days of summer” (which I assume are called that because they are particularly flatulent days) are still going on. But Edmontonians are often reflecting right about now on whether they had a crap-tastic summer or one that was bathed in enough sun to offset the lengthy winter to come.

I joke of course – no amount of sunshine and warmth can be enough to make up for eight months of frost, snow and ice. But the weather in 2020, once we got past the monsoon season, wasn’t bad. We’ll hold our complaints until later this year, but I guarantee we will have celebrated this day dozens of times over by the time this year clocks out and vanishes into the waste bin of history.

But this day isn’t actually about complaining about the weather, as odd as that may sound. It actually commemorates a newspaper quote that was uttered by Charles Dudley Warner, an essayist, novelist, and good buddy to Mark Twain. Twain wasn’t the only one who could fire off a zinger. On this day in 1897 Mr. Warner uttered, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Ha. Nice one. I’m kind of sad that Mr. Warner never attained quite the level of notoriety as his buddy Mark.

Except in San Diego. Charles Dudley Warner spoke so eloquently about his love for that city they named three streets after him: Charles Street, Dudley Street, and Warner Street. That’s pretty impressive. I’ll bitch about the weather in his honour for the remainder of the year.

International Strange Music Day

A New York City musician named Patrick Grant is to blame for this day, which he launched in 1998. It was his way of pointing out that if we listen to music we consider ‘strange’ or ‘abnormal’, it will expand our horizons and therefore expand our appreciation of music. I agree completely with this. It took diving into some loud, angry music before I could understand what makes loud, angry music great. It was an experimentation in listening to album-side-length songs like “Thick As A Brick”, “Close To The Edge” and “Echoes” to understand how brilliant psychedelic or prog rock can be.

We have to venture into the unknown when it comes to music. So yesterday I dug up a selection of some of the strangest crap I could find. I started with Merzbow’s brand of Japanese noise music – a style of music that is exactly what it sounds like. It’s mostly white noise and distortion, with very little to offer those who love rhythm and even less to offer those who crave a good melody. Honestly, his song “Woodpecker” (and I don’t particularly like that I called it a ‘song’) sounds like thirty or forty large appliances all crapping out thirty or forty other appliances. I am still not a fan.

Steve Roden created something called ‘lowercase’, which is an ambient form of music. It’s the perfect accompaniment if you’re looking for some background tunes while a legion of robot doctors operate on your eyeball with no anesthetic. I jammed to some Prefuse 73, who make ‘glitch hop’ music – a subset of hip hop based on glitches and weird edits. This wasn’t bad – in fact it was a joy after the last two experiments.

The ‘vaporwave’ artist Macintosh Plus has only one song on Spotify: something called “Slick & Panic”. It’s a twelve-and-a-half-minute experience of sound effects and computerized distortion. It sounds like a hallucinogenic trip inside a Windows 3.1 computer. I honestly expected Max Headroom would be listed as a producer of the track. I then listened to an artist (group?) named Ducktails. This was ‘hypnagogic pop’, meant to recreate the experience of being just on the verge of falling asleep. It worked.

That was enough for me. There is a lot of weird shit out there, but sometimes it’s best to ease into the weirder stuff gradually. Radiohead helped a lot of its fans do this when they followed up their biggest album ever with Kid A, a foray into electronic strangeness. It’s never too late to expand one’s mind. Just stay away from the noise music, trust me.

National Waffle Day

On March 25 we celebrated International Waffle Day. ON June 29 we celebrated National Waffle Iron Day. We celebrated both of these days by eating waffles, and the March day even included an attempt to research the waffle’s humble origin story.

We know waffles. We’ve done waffles. We happily celebrated them once again, because that’s what the calendar demanded. Enough said.

Today I return to work and look forward to a wild day of hopefully not combing my house, looking for inanimate objects to celebrate:

  • National Whiskey Sour Day. This sounds like a grown-up beverage. Looking forward to it.
  • National Banana Split Day. Now we’re talking. A delicious treat we could get from Dairy Queen or make on our own.
  • National Kiss & Make Up Day. I guess I should pick a fight with Jodie so that we have some reason to make up.
  • National Secondhand Wardrobe Day. Do we own any second-hand clothes? I’m guessing we don’t.
  • Touch-A-Heart Tuesday. Another day to be kind to others. I’m guessing the next will be sometime later this week, so if we miss this one, it’s okay.

Monday, August 24, 2020

At 1,916 words, the article published yesterday was a short one. When we started this helluva hullaballoo in January I was expecting to top out at 800-900 words. After all, I wrote a thousand words a day for a thousand days and that was a massive undertaking. Now I’d be researching, writing *and* celebrating. There was no way I’d stretch out each of these articles to ludicrous lengths, right? Except I have. I broke 5,000 words a couple weeks ago, and the only way I could celebrate was to wake up the next day and keep going. Why do I do this to myself, when a world of distraction awaits? I’m glad I asked, for there is only one logical answer. Madness. This project may indeed be a chronicle of my descent from sanity into whatever lies beneath it. But at least I’m having fun! Plus, there’s all this to enjoy:

Cheap Flight Day

Our plan for this day was to do some initial research in early July, then to track over the course of the summer how much the same flight might have gone up or down. Actually booking a flight would have been a nice capper to the celebration, though the end of August is not typically the time when a teacher can look into starting a vacation. But with this year being so radically different, I simplified our efforts for the day. Now the challenge would be to find a relatively cheap flight, with the “relatively” referring to the average flight in a non-Covid year.

I started with an Edmonton-Vancouver round trip. We have taken this many times, and we have booked it for our kid many more. It’s usually about a $200-$250 proposition, unless we score one of those ultra-cheap airlines with no frills. You know, the ones where you have to physically remove your legs and store them in the overhead compartment because otherwise you won’t fit in your seat. I picked a Monday-Sunday week in September, so we wouldn’t be in the high season (meaning high volumes of travel and high prices), nor would we be dealing with last-minute costs. The cheapest flight on Flighthub: $391.60.

So what if we booked a little later? I reset the parameters to December 21 through January 3, calculating the costs for Abbey to come home for the holidays (though my starting city and destination city were reversed). Cheapest flight: $467.98. Hopefully this drops a little bit before we actually book anything.

I next searched for flights to New York for that same September week. We have found flights from between $475 to about $600 round-trip in the past. I was pleased to see flights as low as $327 round-trip, with numerous options in that price range. Of course, that might be because Canadians aren’t allowed to go vacation in New York right now. So yeah, $327 is great, but it’s not going to happen.

Lastly I checked out flights to Toronto, which often cost just about as much as flights to New York. Why? I have no earthly idea. Travelling by air out of this city stinks. The cheapest flight in September would be $792.35. That is brutal. And if we wanted to head there over Christmas break? $698. Somehow the flights drop in price and become reasonable in this scenario.

My conclusion is that there are few cheap flights to be found right now, and that’s almost certainly because of the weird state of the world. We can celebrate this day a bit more next year perhaps. For now, we’ll stay the hell home.

National Sponge Cake Day

What wondrous things can we learn about sponge cake? That it probably originated in Spain? Okay, that’s not so wondrous. How about the fact that it’s most likely one of the first non-yeasted cakes to hit the world, or that early sponge cakes were more like a cookie than a cake? That’s moderately more interesting. I’m curious about the first sponge cake recipe, which dates back to 1615. It was in a book entitled The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman. That sounds like a real page-turner.

This book, which has nothing more to do with sponge cake, but about which I’m still curious, was not quite as sexist as the title may imply. It consists mostly of recipes and home remedies (including the use of “dried stag’s pizzle” for something), and it is implied that women are the folks in the household responsible for these. Any suggestion to the contrary would have been rather out of place in a 1615 text. But it’s more about these items than coaching one’s wife into being a ‘complete woman’. So that’s something. It’s worth noting that only 5-10% of British women were literate when this was published, so that may have hurt sales. But let’s get back to the sponge cake.

There are numerous forms of sponge cake throughout the world. The Chinese make sponge cake that they top with vegetables, so let’s skip right over that. Angel food cake, which we enjoyed (and have celebrated before), is an American invention. Chiffon cake and Boston Cream Pie are also part of the sponge cake family. The Swiss Roll, the Trifle, the Victoria Sponge… they all fall under this heading, and each one of them delivers its own delicious journey.

We kept it simple with sponge cake, strawberries and whipped cream. The good stuff. No damn vegetables.

Internaut Day

For the second time this month we celebrate the creation of the World Wide Web. WWW Day was last week; this time it’s a bit more of an official commemoration. Or so I thought. August 23 actually has no prominent place in the birth of the web, it’s just the day that was decided for this celebration. But the people at CERN are posting about it on their site, so I assumed it was somewhat official.

It’s not.

But that’s okay, this entire project exists because of the World Wide Web, so we’ll toss another day on the pile to celebrate it. And instead of recapping the history (which we did in a criminally brief way last week), let’s have a look at the world’s widest web’s very first webpage, pictured above. That was it. Some text and some hyperlinks, which were sufficient to demonstrate the potential of this technology. It’s only a few small steps from a “How Can I Help?” link to “Click here to see singles in your area.”

The links on that page – and I should be clear that this is a reconstruction of the first webpage and not the actual first webpage… kind of like how they tore down the Cavern Club in Liverpool and rebuilt it a block away – still work. It’s a great way to see the credits reel on who created humankind’s biggest present addiction, and a fascinating insight behind the curtain of its creation.

I was also a bit intrigued by the Frequently Asked Questions link. There are five questions, by the way, including one that offers a lengthy answer on how to ‘search’ for new content in a much more complicated way than “google it”. But the notion of Frequently Asked Questions – I was positive I hadn’t heard of this before the internet. Could it be possible that it was invented for the world’s first webpage?

Of course not, Marty, don’t be a schmuck. But this was the FAQ’s coming-out party. There were Q&A style documents dating back to the origin of documents, of course, but actually calling them Frequently Asked Questions is an internet thing. Specifically it dates back to the early 1980s and the early attempts to develop ‘netiquette’ for the growing ARPANET. It actually originated courtesy of Eugene Miya of NASA to make finding answers easier for recipients of their mailing list. So by the time that lonely little webpage above showed up, it was a thing in tech circles, but not to the world in general.

Not that the above website was a big thing to the world in general. But this is where the mighty ball started rollin’.

Hug Your Sweetheart Day

With no specific origin to this day, and with the day being essentially a repeat of numerous other hugging days this year, we indulged by simply indulging. We hugged. We do that a lot. But it’s nice when doing so can notch another bit of mirth into 2020’s already jam-packed mirth book.

One site, perhaps believing its readers may have trouble grasping the subtle nuances of this day, actually provided a link to a number of different “types of hug” you could try for this day. I’m not joking. Here are 20 different types of hugs and their meanings, all popped into order for your light reading. Christine, the author of that page, appears to be rather passionate about hugging, but she forgot a few of my favourites.

There’s the bro-hug, which often one-armed (the other arms may clasp together at the hands first), and features two solid, manly pats on the back. One or both huggers is welcome to utter, “no homo” if this is something they are really concerned about. There’s the I-can’t-stand-up-because-I’m-too-drunk hug, which we’ve all taken part in at some point in our lives. And of course the classic golden retriever hug, in which Liberty, our #3 canine research assistant, suddenly remembers we exist and celebrates by popping up to a standing position, resting her paws on our shoulders.

Hugs are divine. Hug early and hug often.

Valentino Day

On what would have been his 125th birthday (sadly, he never made it past 31), we celebrate the life and legacy of Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filibert Guglielmi de Valentina D’Antonguolla, a man whose parents really wanted to test how small the fonts could go on a kid’s birth certificate. We know him best as Rudolph Valentino, the first true sex-symbol of Hollywood cinema, unless you’re the type who’d be into Fatty Arbuckle. We won’t judge.

Correction: This is another day of celebrating the man’s death and not his birth, which doesn’t really make sense to me. Still, he’d have been 125 this year; that’s kind of cool.

Valentino came from Italy through Ellis Island in 1913. He worked as a bus boy in New York and lived on the streets for a while. He became involved – perhaps romantically; we’ll never truly know – with a Chilean heiress who was very much married. The scandal killed Valentino’s aspiring dancing career and he headed out west.

Apart from James Dean, no actor has become such a massive heartbreaker with such a short career. Valentino’s big break came in 1921, five years before his death. He starred in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (a delightful romp) and in The Sheik. He was an action-adventure superstar. Then one August day he collapsed in a Manhattan hotel. He was diagnosed with appendicitis, but it was actually perforated ulcers that mimicked appendicitis symptoms – something they now call Valentino’s Syndrome, not that this little snippet of fame helped him much. He died a few days later, on August 23, 94 years ago.

Roughly 100,000 people filled the streets of New York for his funeral. Another huge service took place when his body was moved back to the west coast. And that’s where it stayed, entombed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where horror movies are frequently shown to the masses on the crypt wall.

It’s not so much a celebration (as stated before, we prefer celebrating birth days to death days), but Valentino’s funeral was the first of its kind, and arguably the most impactful. Never before had a film star been so beloved and so deeply mourned. The man made history in life and in death. Not bad.

National Maryland Day

Off we go once more on our journey around the United States, attempting to sample just a bit of the local food as we pass through. Would this be way more fun if we were doing this in person? Absolutely. It would also be way more expensive, would necessitate us taking a year off from work and life, and couldn’t possibly happen appropriately in this pandemic situation. But we’ll revisit this idea next Thursday for National Lottery Day. If that day works out well, we’ll see what 2021 may bring.

The Old Line State (it’s a Revolutionary War thing) was founded as a refuge for persecuted Catholics who were getting the hell out of England. The government passed an Act Concerning Religion in 1649, which declared punishment for anyone who reproached someone else because of their religion. It wasn’t merely an effort to create a pro-Catholic place, but a place where religious tolerance was the order of the day. It didn’t reach utopian levels, of course, but the effort was nice.

Maryland was a pro-slave state at the start of the Civil War, but it opted to purge that insanity rather than secede. Maryland had graciously donated land for the creation of Washington DC a few decades earlier, so it would have been awkward if they’d joined the Confederacy. I mean, it was probably awkward for every state that joined the Confederacy, but that’s a musing for another day. Maryland has been an important locale for industry since industry was a thing, and a key port location, as we all learned in season 2 of The Wire.

Some interesting people called Maryland their first home, such as Toni Braxton from Severn, Ric Ocasek from Baltimore, Divine from Baltimore, The Hoff from Baltimore, Richard “Toby Ziegler” Schiff from Bethesda, Frank Zappa from Baltimore, Adam Duritz from Baltimore, John Astin from Baltimore, Anna Faris from Baltimore, Judah Friedlander from Gaithersburg, Parker Posey from Baltimore, Matthew Weiner from Baltimore, and of course our favourite radio sidekick, Robin Quivers from Baltimore.

We sampled a delicious dessert courtesy of our team baker (hi, Mom!) – the Berger Cookie. These can be traced back to German immigrant Henry Berger, who opened up a bakery in East Baltimore back in 1835. These little cookies are dipped in a delightful chocolate frosting, and have been called distant cousins to the black & white cookies that are a part of New York lore. They were an absolute treat, and a perfect way to pay tribute to a state I’ve never been to.

I’ve got this day off from work, but of course that just means we have more time to dive into a heap of fun:

  • National Peach Pie Day. We celebrated this a little early, so that’s an easy one.
  • National Waffle Day. We love waffles, and have some terrific fresh berries ready to go. So another easy one.
  • Nostalgia Night. This is actually a Uruguay thing (who knew?) but we are happy to embrace some nostalgia tonight.
  • International Strange Music Day. Might make for an interesting time writing today’s article.
  • Can Opener Day. Wow. This one is pretty deep.
  • National Knife Day. So we’ll be wandering around our kitchen, celebrating stuff in our drawers today. Neat.
  • Pluto Demoted Day. Well this is just sad.
  • William Wilberforce Day. We may or may not learn who William Wilberforce was.
  • Vesuvius Day. One of the mountains we promise never to piss off.
  • Shooting Star Day. That would be fortuitous if we can spot one of these tonight.
  • Weather Complaint Day. Which is also known as ‘almost every day’ in Edmonton.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

After a night of fair-to-poor sleep (it may be because our new mattress is akin to sleeping upon a kitchen floor) and a long day of shopping, cleaning, cooking and entertaining, we had little energy left for celebrating. Little, in this case, is a euphemistic way of saying zilch. And I’m the one was sitting here last night at 9:30, trying to fashion an article out of my deep, deep desire to not do this exact thing. We didn’t get up to much celebrating yesterday, at least not according to the calendar. We did, however, enjoy a wonderful visit with family we haven’t seen in ages, and that was celebration enough. Except now there’s all this:

National Be An Angel Day

This day was started in 1993 by someone named Jayne Howard Feldman, who felt we needed a day to remind us to be good, to do good for others, and to generally be a groovy cat or kitten, depending on how you identify. I like that. It’s sweet. It’s also the premise of at least two dozen days throughout this year.

Not that this should stop us from doing some good. Initially we’d considered volunteering on this day, but of course volunteer work is (a) limited in this pandemic, and (b) not entirely possible when most of your wife’s family are coming over for a barbecue, and it’s up to you to make the potato salad and grill all the meat. But we did… well, something. We loaded up our nephew with piles of food to get him through the next few days of work. We locked our dogs away and made sure our littlest niece and nephew had a safe and happy good time, complete with cookies, cake and ice cream. We may not have hit the level of ‘angel’, but we weren’t bad.

When a random puppy wandered over to our house, and even into our backyard to become a guest at our barbecue, Jodie figured out where the puppy lived and I brought him home to his grateful owners. I’m not entirely sure how this puppy has gotten out of the house unnoticed several times over the last week, but that’s not for us to figure out.

People are hurting this year, and charities are hurting even more, because it’s hard enough figuring out how to get people to donate their time and resources without having to factor in some potentially fatal virus. So if you can be someone’s angel, even if it’s just for a snippet of your day, please do. Be better than we were.

Never Bean Better Day

Something called the Drager Group created this day, and thankfully it has nothing to do with beans. I mean, if it did we would simply have obtained some of those great jelly beans again, as we have for at least two bean-related days so far. But this one was actually named after a dog who had the delightful moniker of ‘Bean’. Bean looks like a really cool dog. Plus, if you visit his website and purchase one of his plush toys (which you absolutely should), they will donate another one to an ill or disadvantaged child. The people behind this celebration are truly looking to make this world a better place.

Bean has appeared on Animal Planet, and he was featured in an issue of the Wall Street Journal. He’s a celebrity therapy dog, and his work brings attention and focus to the amazing work done by therapy dogs everywhere. This is seriously so much more worth celebrating than fucking lima beans.

Pictured above on the left is our little bulldog Becky (2008-2016), who was somehow given the nickname ‘Bean’. So we can relate on that level. Becky was never an official therapy dog, but there’s no question she would provide immense therapy to Jodie whenever she was down. The Bean knew when she was needed, and she never failed to amuse us and lift our spirits. At least two of our current canine companions are potential therapy dogs, but the one who has the chutzpah and (eventually, we’re told) the brains to get certified is Liberty, pictured on the right. She is very much in tune with our emotions, and we couldn’t get by without her.

So our Never Bean Better celebration was all about these puppies. I think most dogs are therapy dogs for their owners, as dogs seem to genuinely attempt to connect with their people emotionally. So big hugs to all the Beans out there. You are truly appreciated.

National Eat A Peach Day

We… we didn’t eat a peach. I know, this is a brutally easy day to figure out. Even if it was National Peach Day, that’s more vague and open to interpretation. This day literally states how to celebrate it right there in the title. And we appreciate that sort of blunt directness, especially seven and a half months into this project when our imaginations may be feeling a little bit of fatigue.

That aside, I’m still counting this celebration. Why? As I teased in yesterday’s article, we have one other option.

Released on February 12, 1972, The Allman Brothers’ third studio album was a revelation in rock music. They hadn’t yet released their most popular hit, “Ramblin’ Man” (which they apparently hated), and they were coming off of the success of the double-live Live At Fillmore East the previous year. They were known as brilliant musicians with a folksy, bluesy approach to music. This was an album of intense emotions, as many in the band were struggling with heroin issues, and founder/guitar legend Duane Allman died in the middle of the album’s creation.

But holy crap, what an album. This one is also a double, with two of the four sides dedicated to a single lengthy interpretation of Donovan’s “There Will Be A Mountain”, but with a lot more wailing Hammond organ and intense guitar. You’ve got “Blue Sky”, “One Way Out”, “Ain’t Wasting Time No More”, “Melissa”, “Les Brers In A Minor”, “Little Martha”, “Trouble No More” and “Stand Back”… it’s a packed collection of tunes.

So yeah, I listened to that last night. Or some of it – it was late, and I couldn’t get all of the way through “Mountain Jam” before I fell asleep. But it was a fine way to celebrate.

Earth Overshoot Day

I was hoping this was going to be some sort of space commemoration, maybe of when some space shuttle was returning to earth and overshot its mark. Then I remembered that no, I’d never heard of such a thing happening so it’s unlikely there’s a day to commemorate it. It turns out that this day is a bit more grim. It’s a bit more dreary.

This day apparently changes up its calendar location year by year. What it means is that we as humans have exhausted our budget for nature for the year. After this day we are drawing on ecological debt. We’re accumulating more CO2 in the atmosphere than we should be allotted. We’re using up the planet’s resources.

Just for fun (and because I had to figure some way to celebrate this very non-celebrate-ish day), I went to this site and calculated my own Earth Overshoot Day. Based on the questions they asked, my own day is actually April 5. This means we’d need 3.5 earths in order to accommodate my deviant lifestyle, at least if everyone was as ecologically crappy as I. I’m not sure if that’s true, but then I don’t always eat locally-sourced products (or at least I don’t keep track as much as I should), and we don’t get any of our power from solar, wind, or that giant hamster wheel I hooked up to the house. If only we could find a giant hamster to work it.

So we may need to live a bit more ecologically. And we are trying. We are certainly burning a lot fewer fossil fuels with me staying at home for work, and Jodie wrapping up a 5-month “summer break” of sorts. But we could do better. It’s good to have these days to remind us.

What a day. We felt guilty about our green footprint, felt guilty that we don’t do enough to be an angel to people, and we felt sad that our dog, The Bean, is no longer with us. How about something with a bit more joy?

World Plant Milk Day

Okay, this doesn’t sound particularly joyful on the surface. But I assure you, I had a wonderful time celebrating this one. Pictured above is my coffee intake for yesterday: a magnificent almond milk latte from Credo. Not cheap, but they make some of the finest coffee products in this city. And the almond milk was an easy pick.

Plant milk is vegan, which is great if you care about such things. We do not. I do, however, care about the lactose intolerance that crept into my innards right around when I turned 30. It now means that I either order some sort of plant milk in my lattes or else I down a bunch of pills. Yes, that is how I have been surviving all of these ice cream celebrations. I should have invested in Lactaid stocks years ago.

Horchata, first made in northern Africa from ground up, sweetened tiger nuts (it’s a nut – get your damn mind out of the gutter), is one of the first plant milks to have become popular. Almond milk has been around since at least the 13th century, and soy milk first popped up in China a short while later. Coconut milk is probably the next most popular type of plant milk, but its natural sweetness means it should be consumed as its own thing, and not as a substitute for plain ol’ cow milk.

You can also enjoy cashew milk, barley milk, rice milk, wheat milk, chia seed milk, peanut milk, quinoa milk, pistachio milk, pecan milk, and even potato milk if you’re so inclined. We aren’t, but I’ll keep swilling back the almond milk whenever the urge strikes. It has a precocious little flavour of its own, and it fills the milk gap for me.

So yes, this one was joy. Restrained joy, but you can’t take away from the glory of a person’s morning coffee, especially when it tastes this damn good.

It will be a quieter day, but I’m sure we can find heaps of stuff to keep us busy. For example, there’s all of this:

  • National Ride The Wind Day. This is a day to experience something exciting. I was hoping to ride in a glider for the first time – price: $125. That was pre-pandemic though, so maybe I’ll just juggle some knives or something.
  • National Sponge Cake Day. This one will be a bit easier to celebrate.
  • Cheap Flight Day. We will look into how pricy it is to fly right now, because we haven’t even considered looking into it.
  • Hug Your Sweetheart Day. Awww…. We can do this.
  • Daffodil Day. We don’t have any around the house, but we can learn about these flowers. Maybe we’ll pick up something interesting.
  • Buttered Corn Day. I guess we’d better pick up some corn.
  • Internaut Day. This is something computer-related so I’ll definitely look into it.
  • Valentino Day. I’m guessing it was his birthday. Happy birthday, Rudolph!
  • National Maryland Day. Off we go on our culinary adventure once more.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

From the moment the rising sun coughed its saffron sputum all over the morning clouds, I was tugging at the day’s hem, whining at it to hurry up to 4:30 when I can actually relax and unwind. Except that I can seldom embrace such pre-set revelry, not when there is so much other pre-set revelry this year. And this is what I continue to remind myself… it’s only for this year. Beyond December I don’t even have to celebrate another birthday after this year. I have done enough. The parties keep piling up like beachfront debris, and we keep tossing more on the pile. For example:

National Senior Citizens Day

Back in the middle of the 1988 presidential election, when Ronald Reagan had pretty much completed his life’s work, apart from tossing out a few thumbs-ups to encourage folks to vote for his VP this day came into being. He signed the proclamation that decreed August 21 to be an unofficial holiday to commemorate senior citizens. Whether it’s still being celebrated by anyone this year I have no idea. Except that here we are.

Sort of. I mean, we just had Baby Boomer Appreciation Day not long ago, and that’s quite similar. Our population of senior citizens is mostly made up of early boomers, with only a handful of Greatest Generationers remaining. And as I said on that day, we shouldn’t be looking to take the easy route of blaming the folks with white hair for all of society’s ills. They fixed a bunch of ills along their path, they just didn’t get around to all of them.

I’ve always been a fan of senior citizens. As a kid they were extra-generous with the laughter, which always encouraged me to hone my schtick (which sounds like a weird euphemism for masturbating, but I assure you it is not). Then along came The Golden Girls, which taught me that people my grandparents’ age could be sassy, funny, and lead lives that go beyond Sunday dinners and stories about the Depression.

We celebrated this day by reaching out to my mom with a big ol’ National Senior Citizens Day hello. She didn’t mind the hello, but I could tell she resented being called a senior citizen. I advised her to take up her beef with the dictionary. And then I wished her a happy day, because that’s what we do around here. We spread the joy.

National Men’s Grooming Day

If you were guessing that this day was founded in order to move a bunch of razors, shaving foams and assorted skin creams, you’d be absolutely right. This can be a tough sell; a lot of guys make an effort to groom themselves as little as possible. This has always been my approach. I won’t say that I grew this beard as a way of avoiding having to shave (it was actually grown as a Halloween costume accessory), but I have appreciated the convenience. Still, unless one is going full-hippie (or full-hobo), some maintenance is still required. I took a few moments yesterday and tried to fix the monstrous clump of fur on my face so that it looked moderately presentable.

But when it comes down to it, I don’t want to deal with a bunch of creams and tonics. I don’t want to focus on my T-zone or break tradition and wear makeup. I always tell my barber the same thing – make it a low-maintenance haircut. If I have to pick up a blow-dryer every morning, it isn’t going to work for me. I need “brushing my teeth” to be the longest task of my morning.

And as for grooming below the neck, I get that some guys are really into that. Manscaping is all well and good (and, I just learned, a word that is in Microsoft Word’s dictionary, so that’s something). It’s just not for me. I don’t need my chest hair snipped into some goofy shape (though that might be hilarious). And I don’t need to use my face clippers on anything south of the equator.

So you’ll have to settle for the before and after pictured above. I cleaned up my face parts and tried to wrestle the beard into something that could pass for acceptable. It was a dynamic little celebration.

National Spumoni Day

In the glorious world of Italian frozen treats, there are two standouts that set them apart from the chilled desserts of other nations. You’ve got gelato and you’ve got spumoni. Gelato is creamy, smooth, and with a delicious punch of flavour. Spumoni is… well, it’s okay. There are some who no doubt swoon over the very mention of it – and I will confess, the name is delightful – but it just doesn’t rile up my taste buds and coerce them to party.

True spumoni is actually a form of gelato, only it has earned sufficient distinction and a large enough fan base to be considered on its own. It’s a three-flavour treat, much like the Neapolitan ice cream sandwich that I massacred earlier this week to form a crude ice cream pie. In fact, Neapolitan ice cream is a direct descendent of spumoni. The three flavours in spumoni are usually cherry, pistachio, and either chocolate or vanilla, but of course in the US things are a bit different. The most common spumoni varieties there contain the same strawberry-chocolate-vanilla combo as that ice cream.

Fortunately, we live in Canada. Yes, this is a sentence I’ve uttered often in the last four years. But yesterday I said it in defense of our great frozen treats. The stuff we got from the Italian Market was the real stuff.

Of course, the real stuff when it comes to spumoni involves one other key element: the candied fruit and/or nuts that are found within it. This is the part I’m not particularly fond of, as that texture feels like it simply shouldn’t be there. I dive into iced treats for the creaminess of them – nuts are great sprinkled on top, but I don’t need tiny bits of nut-stuff in every bite. That’s why I’ll always prefer plain ol’ gelato.

I’m not complaining. The candied goodies inside of last night’s spumoni were actually really good. We ate some delicious frozen goodness last night, and that’s what these celebrations are all about.

Poet’s Day

There are two schools of thoughts on this day. See if you can guess which school of thought we’re going with.

Option one. Celebrate the greatness of poetry. Read some poetry. Write the entire article as poetry again. Discuss how poetry has made our lives more rich, more full, and more full of beauty. Talk once more about how great it is that Sir Patrick Stewart is passing time during this pandemic by posting his recitations of Shakespeare’s sonnets every day on social media. Find a book of poetry on the shelf, and give it a big ol’ hug.

Option two. It’s an acronym. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. POETS Day.

Obviously we went with option number two. And it wasn’t just to get out of work a little early; yes, that was part of it, but there was more to consider. We’d celebrated World Poetry Day on March 21, Haiku Poetry Day on April 17, Great Poetry Reading Day on April 28, Bad Poetry Day on August 18, and we’ve still got two National Poetry Days in October, along with Random Acts of Poetry Day and Black Poetry Day. We’re poetry heavy in this little project.

Also, the second one is just more fun. Other variations would say Punch Out Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, or Push Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, but the point is the same. The University of Waterloo and the University of Calgary (both of the engineering faculties, anyway) have POETS clubs that meet every Friday to start the weekend early. It’s a club I would most definitely join.

I stopped short of telling my bosses that this was POETS Day. And I did start slacking early. Maybe it was at 4:29PM, maybe it was earlier, but let’s just say it was 4:29 and leave it at that. This is, after all, on the official record, right?

National Bacon-Lovers Day

As mentioned previously, National Bacon Day is one of the trumpeting finales of this project, landing on December 30. On the off-chance we don’t make it all the way to National Bacon Day though (I like to keep my options open), we’ve got this one. We are bacon lovers, so it fits. In fact, we love bacon so much that I completely forgot to take a picture of the bacon we ate for lunch yesterday. But eat it we did. And damn was it great.

So what can we learn about bacon? Apparently it contains choline, which is really good for fetal brain development, so if you’ve got a bun in the oven you should sprinkle some bacon on that bun. Americans (and possibly others, but parts of the internet don’t care) were encouraged to save their bacon fat during WWII and donate it, as it could be used to make glycerol, a key ingredient in explosives. Apparently Kevin Bacon’s favourite sandwich (which he claims he invented) is a BLAST: Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Smoked salmon and Tomato. This just makes me like Kevin Bacon even more.

Bacon is addictive. The smell is intoxicating. It may be – no, it absolutely is the greatest meat-food on the planet. We were thrilled to have this little day to keep us going until December 30 too. Not that we’re abstaining until National Bacon Day. We are human, after all. Humans addicted to bacon.

We have a packed Saturday, so some of these may need to wait until the early lights of next week:

  • National Be An Angel Day. Any chance they need me to play baseball in Anaheim?
  • National Bao Day. I love bao; that said, we’re having a family barbecue today so it isn’t likely to fit.
  • Never Bean Better Day. I was hoping this was a day to honour beans again (jelly, for example), but it’s actually a dog-related day. We’ll be doing this one.
  • National Pecan Torte Day. I doubt we’ll come across one of these.
  • World Plant Milk Day. I really want to know how they milk plants. But they do, so we’ll drink some.
  • National Eat A Peach Day. We’ll either eat a peach or listen to some classic Allman Brothers.
  • National Tooth Fairy Day. Looks like we’re knocking someone’s teeth out.
  • Earth Overshoot Day. We will learn what the hell this is today.
  • Take Your Cat To The Vet Day. No cat, no vet.
  • Southern Hemisphere Hoodie Hoo Day. We already had our turn. Now the southern folk can get out there and make fools of themselves.