Thursday, August 20, 2020

There was little more remarkable about yesterday than the fact that it was day 232 of this 366-day journey, meaning we are a whopping 63% of the way to the finish line of 2020. That’s a solid C-, right? Can we take that as a win and just check out until 2021? No, the wheels must roll forward and each spoke must be tended to. I mean, no one tends to spokes – that may be my weakest metaphor of the year so far, but hey! That means we are still achieving milestones! Stay tuned for my worst pun of the year, which is no doubt still to come. In the meantime, fill up your eye-holes by reading about all of this wonderous nonsense:

International Bow Day

This is exactly what it sounds like. Claire’s, a company that manufactures bows – as in, the type a lady or perhaps Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness (because he could totally pull it off) might wear in their hair, created this celebration. If we wanted to invest in the true meaning behind this day we’d head over to Claire’s website and buy us some bows. But neither of us wear bows in our hair, nor are we the type of relatives who would gift such a thing to our young nephews and nieces. We’re more the “buy them LEGO” type of aunt and uncle.

So, we kept our options open as to the best way to celebrate this day. There are numerous types of bow we could honour. We could take up the violin and learn to wield a horse-tail-hair-laden stick. We could lace up our shoes with a bow knot. We could stand at the front part of a boat. We could shoot someone with an arrow. We could put on a pussy bow, which sounds like a weird sex toy but is just another way to describe a lavaliere. We could discuss the bow and warp of semiconductor wafers, which I can only assume is some sort of cookie-bending technique. We could bend at the waist as a show of respect. Actually, that’s the one we did.

Bow can also refer to a location. It’s a district in London where Ian McKellan lives and where Amy Winehouse used to call home. It’s an 1,100-person village in Devon, which is considered a ‘failed town’ because it never attracted enough trade to become a legitimate town. It’s a hamlet attached to Stanford In The Vale, which features the ruins of a Roman bathhouse. It’s a town in Kentucky that appears to be little more than a small group of houses. It’s a town in New Hampshire where hundreds of climate activists protested the local coal-fired power station last year. It’s a community in Washington state which features an old-timey steam-powered train folks can ride at Christmas. Bonus: the train is on the property of a guy with the delightfully affable name of Diz Schimke. It’s a river that cruises right through the middle of Calgary, and also a high-rise office tower in that city’s downtown.

Are any, or perhaps all of those more exciting to celebrate than the bow you’d tie around your neck or stick in your hair? That’s up to the celebrator, I suppose. Honestly, we were fine with just bowing to our dogs.

National Potato Day

With over 5,000 varieties of potato on the planet, there is plenty to celebrate here. The potato is probably the most versatile food, inasmuch as it happens to be a key ingredient in so many dishes that we love. It’s the perfect side dish: you can mash them, bake them, roast them, scallop them, chip them, tot them, hashbrown them, and French-fry them. It can star in the middle of your dinner plate, in dumpling or pancake form. And in a pinch, you can throw them at your enemies. No one wants to take a potato to the head.

To find the earliest domestication of the potato you’d have to head all the way down to southern Peru as far back as 8,000 BC. Because of its flexibility and potential, the potato has become a staple food in cuisines all over the globe. Where would Russia be without the mighty potato? Certainly not deep in a love affair with vodka.

Our word for potato (which is “potato”) comes from ‘patata’, the Spanish word. For whatever reason, the French call them ‘pommes de terre’, or ‘apples of the earth’. I hope this doesn’t mean the French bite into them like they would an apple, but I can’t say for certain. If you are bold enough to devour the leaves and stems that push out from the ground above a growing potato, you could be setting yourself up for a long night of vomiting and pain. Keep in mind that nightshade is a not-so-distant cousin to the glorious spud.

According to at least one study, with a couple of glasses of milk a day you could live off of nothing but potatoes. I’m not sure if there are enough varieties of potato foods to keep that interesting, but it’s good to know. Just in case.

We didn’t do anything too extravagant with our potatoes yesterday, as it was still too hot to have the oven on for any length of time. But we had some great fries and mashed potatoes with dinner – the perfect way to praise the beloved potato.

International Orangutan Day

Imagine my frothy delight at clicking on, a prominent website for the conservation and protection of orangutans, and seeing a big shiny button that read: ADOPT NOW. I can adopt an orangutan? Images of sitting on the couch, watching football with my orangutan buddy (I’ll call him Boba Fett), popped into my head. I’d buy a motorcycle, just to have a sidecar he could ride in. We’d cut an album of Hall & Oates covers. This is the dream.

And a dream it will remain. It turns out that ‘adopting’ an orangutan simply means donating $15 US a month to help support them. The creatures themselves would remain in Borneo and Sumatra. That is disappointing, to say the least. Boba Fett and I would have had such a great time together.

Orangutans spend more time up in the trees than pretty much any other primate. They are also rather antisocial creatures, so it’s entirely possible Boba Fett wouldn’t want to hang out with me. I don’t think I can take that kind of rejection; it’s a good thing these ‘adoptions’ are virtual. Orangutans use tools and develop their own little cultures; they are one of the smartest species in the primate world. There are three different species of orangutan, and all three are at the scary end of the endangered scale.

I suppose this makes a compelling argument for everyone to pop over to and pledge some money to protect them. It’s also a compelling argument for sending one to me. I’d take care of him, shelter him from our ugly winters, and even provide him with a tree to sit in. Maybe they can subsist on potatoes – that would be convenient. One day, Boba. One day.

World Photography Day

On January 9, 1839, the French Academy of Sciences announced to the world that a new process for capturing images of the outside world called the Daguerreotype Process had been invented. Credit for this goes to Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicephore Niepce, two guys whose names should be a lot more well-known. This was the birth of photography, and the French government handled it brilliantly. On August 19 of that year (hence the date of this celebration) the government purchased the patent. They then declared it as a gift unto the world and allowed people to make their own for free.

This wasn’t the first successful attempt at photography; that had been going on for more than a decade. But this was an official invitation for the world to join in and embrace the technology. I would love to see another similar gesture of good will with some technology – ideally the holodeck that we’ve been waiting for since 1987. I guess the food replicator would be the more logical choice for the betterment of humanity.

Ten years ago the first online gallery was posted in honour of World Photography Day. I looked over some of the photographs and they made me more than a little self-conscious over my own pic-snapping abilities. Regardless, above are a handful of some of my favourite pictures from the last couple of years. Roughly 95% of the photos I take are either of dogs or of celebrations for this project so I can’t profess to possessing a variety of photography skills. But I’m getting pretty damn good at capturing Trixie’s tongue.

Happy day to all aspiring photographers out there.

National Hot & Spicy Food Day

For this day commemorating the food we love to suffer through, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at our bodies’ relationship with spicy stuff. If it brings us pain, why do we love it so damn much?

First off we have to understand what we’re up against. Capsaicin is the molecule in spicy stuff that causes our tongue’s nerve endings to send out blasts of excessive (and mostly unnecessary) crisis alerts to our brains. Spicy food cannot damage soft tissue, at least not long-term, so no matter how wildly the chef has seasoned that chicken wing you will recover.

Once the brain has gone into alert, it will prompt the body’s temperature to raise in an act of (befuddled) self-protection. That’s when you start to get the spicy-food sweats and a runny nose. But then your nervous system does its thing: it dispatches a number of endorphins to try to numb the pain. That’s why we feel such an exhilaration after a few seconds of a particularly spicy bite; our bodies are trying to fool us into enjoying it. And it works.

Of course, capsaicin is a tricky bugger. It may get washed away from the tongue after a short while (we also produce extra saliva to help with this), but it can travel down the throat and into the stomach, causing heartburn and indigestion. And if you’ve ever endured a particularly spicy meal that still contains a bit of capsaicin as it travels out the other way, you know a kind of unfathomable pain that no endorphin rush can satiate. It’s the price we pay for living our culinary life on the edge.

Last night we kept it simple and enjoyed a spicy Popeye’s chicken sandwich for the second time in four days. These sandwiches are frigging amazing, and the spice takes them to the next level. Long live spicy food, and may our insides always be able to tolerate it.

National Sandcastle & Sculpture Day

There is no great origin story to the sandcastle; in fact, it’s likely the first sandcastle predated the first castle by centuries. As long as sand has existed, people have tried to form it into shapes. There are numerous festivals and competitions around the world for sand construction, none of which take place here, given our complete lack of beaches. And no, a silty deposit beside our river doesn’t count as a real beach.

The sandcastle above is the current Guinness Record-holder for the tallest ever built. It’s hard to fathom just how impressive it is without any scale, but the thing is nearly 58 feet high. That’s like stacking two Jaws sharks on top of one another then getting Yao Ming to stand on top of both of them, then building a castle that high. It took twelve people and eight technicians three and a half weeks to build last year. Below are a few of the funkier constructions I unearthed while getting my mind blown to bits at how awesome this day can be.

It kind of makes me sad that we have no sand to play in around here. It also makes me sad that “sand castle technician” was never a potential career pointed out to me by my high school guidance counsellor. I could have done that.

National Soft Ice Cream Day / National Eat Dessert First Month

Also known as soft serve, this is one of our favourite frozen treats. There was simply zero chance that we would not be doing this celebration.

Soft serve ice cream dates back to Memorial Day weekend in 1934, when ice cream salesman Tom Carvel (founder and empire-builder of Carvel ice cream) got a flat tire in Hartsdale, New York (birthplace of baseball legend Mike “SuperJew” Epstein!). Tom sold off his melting ice cream to some locals, and decided he’d be better off in a fixed brick-and-mortar location. He also noticed that people seemed to really dig the soft, melty stuff.

He’s the guy who came up with the secret formula for making soft-serve, which he claims he did in 1936. Scootch over to Moline, Illinois (birthplace of John Deere, the tractor guy!) and you’ll find a claim by J.F. McCullough and his son, Alex. McCullough went on to open the first Dairy Queen, so if we’re going to award the invention claim to the person who built the biggest empire from it, J.F. would win. But that’s not how things work. No, in the food game we just absorb conflicting invention claims and let everyone have their say. Then we shrug our shoulders and just eat the stuff, because we have no stake in who actually came up with it.

And that’s what we did. McDonald’s is offering cones for a buck and sundaes for two over the summer, and that was a great way to celebrate.

Today flops into view with a weird mix of celebrations, some we can tackle and others we simply cannot:

  • National Radio Day. I suppose I’ll be listening to the radio all day. We have satellite radio, so that’s a win.
  • National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. I love pecan pie, and it’s even better with chocolate. Unfortunately our team baker has passed on this one.
  • National Lemonade Day. This one will be easy to drink back.
  • World Mosquito Day. Maybe I can find one reason today not to wish every mosquito on the planet to rot in a fiery hell.
  • National Bacon Lovers Day. National Bacon Day is at the end of December. This might hold us over until then.
  • Virtual Worlds Day. They’ve got to be better than this one, right?

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