Friday, October 9, 2020

The comedy of consequence may be pratfall-dark or sitcommy-bright, depending on how one chooses to step forward. I was poised to throw caution into the wind of its own fetid breath, prepared for whatever may befall me, and however that may or may not amuse others. But my level-headed wife intervened, advising a foolhardy indulgence will only lead to unpleasant medical ramifications down the road. In plain-speak: I wanted to buy the marshmallow fluff to celebrate it yesterday, and Jodie said no. We don’t need a jar of that sitting around the house. Like it would sit around the house; we could always stash it beside my computer for easy workplace access, couldn’t we? Alas, we truncated our merriment and allowed the show to roll on thusly:

National Octopus Day / International Cephalopod Awareness Days

My initial strategy for this one was also heartily rejected by my wiser half. We have often passed the sushi/sashimi section of the nearby Asian grocery market and marvelled at the tiny baby octopi that are sold to be eaten. Somehow. I don’t know if you just pop the entire creature in your mouth and chomp down or pull its tiny tentacles off one at a time and suck them back like mini linguine. I was prepared to take the plunge, even though I highly doubt the things would taste even a fraction as great as that candy bar we ate on Wednesday. And if it won’t taste that good, why endure the grossness of it all?

Jodie could find no logical answer, and she kyboshed the entire idea. I wasn’t about to put up a fight against that kyboshery. Fluffernutter I fought for; eating an infant cephalopod is not a field upon which I’m willing to do battle. So instead I’ll take the non-food approach and see what I can learn about these majestically alien creatures.

The first item of note is that I used the term ‘octopi’ in my first paragraph, and that is incorrect. This is some complex Latin noun-grouping stuff, but take my word for it, that is not the grammatically correct way to pluralize this animal. Octopuses or octopodes would be correct. I’m going with octopodes.

Octopodes have three hearts. When they are lounging about, they are absorbing 41% of their oxygen through their super-thin skin. They have big ol’ brains too – the highest brain-to-body mass ratio of all invertebrates. That ink they shoot out to hide from predators? It comes from the same orifice they use to poop. Sex in the octopus world is a dangerous game. Males age rapidly and die off a few weeks after mating. Females spread out their eggs and guard the hell out of them for up to 10 months. They usually don’t eat during this time, and die off once their purpose is done. Love and death are just a few breaths apart for the octopodes.

To ensure we end on a happy note, I’ll also point out that zero octopodes were eaten and subsequently digested in the celebration of this special day.

National Salmon Day

Looks like we have a theme for yesterday. At least now we’re into the territory of a sea creature that I am more familiar with, and one that I am happy to devour if given the chance. Pictured above is my brunch from last weekend: a savoury Belgian waffle topped with smoked salmon, eggs, and Hollandaise sauce, from Under The High Wheel on Whyte Avenue. It’s a terrific dish, and quite possibly our last foray in patio dining for the next seven months or so.

Salmon can be prepared in numerous ways, but none quite as divine as smoked and sliced thinly. But they are more than simply food – they’ve got a fun and weird little existence before they pop into a fishing boat’s net. First of all, the stories about them returning to the place they were spawned in order to spew out their own kids is pretty much true. They rely on a primitive olfactory memory to guide them back – it’s like a hardwired sense of nostalgia. Beautiful and weird, all at once.

Their very body chemistry changes shortly after their birth – this (apart from their flavour) may be the coolest part of the salmon story. Born in freshwater, their insides morph into saltwater creatures, and they spend the next few years scooting around in the ocean, eating and taking up space. Then, when the biological imperative to bone takes over, they transform back into freshwater creatures and swim upstream to where it all began.

The thing is, they don’t fully transform into freshwater creatures again. In fact, this process takes its toll on the fish, and most of them die within a few days or weeks of doing the deed. Maybe 2-4% of Atlantic salmons will live to spawn a second time – all females.

So the lesson from these first two celebrations seems to be that sex kills if you’re unfortunate enough to be a sea creature. Thankfully, neither of us are, and I believe most of my audience lives on land as well. So that’s something to celebrate.

Get Organized Week

There are so many ‘Week’ celebrations happening right now, I felt I should dig into a few of them, even if we only touch on them briefly. This one, for example, whose origin I can’t find anywhere, showed up at the right time.

I am an unpredictably organized person. I’ll allow certain elements of my life to fall into disarray, like the organization of the clothing that still fits me vs. the clothing that does not, or the occasional swath of paper strewn upon my desk (which totally makes sense to me – I have a system, dammit!). But when I’m cooking, or preparing a large project like this one, I have to be organized or I stand zero chance of buckling beneath the weight of my frustration.

To commemorate this handy little reminder, I re-organized my Outlook folders for my work email. This meant I could clear my inbox down to only three items which I left in there as reminders. It’s a small victory, but hopefully it means I won’t lose anything I need to keep for future reference. I might not have gotten around to this were it not for this little reminder in my calendar, so I’m calling this a big win.

Teller Appreciation Week

Look, you and I both know that this is simply short form for Bank Teller Appreciation Week. It has been observed for the five days of the first full banking week of October since 1996. But the title invites us to celebrate in any way we’d like. Since our banking is almost exclusive to the web, we don’t interact with bank tellers very often anymore. So we’ll do the other thing: here are a few fun facts about the silent half of the Penn & Teller magician duo.

Teller’s first name was Raymond. I say “was” because he legally changed his name to simply ‘Teller’. He has Jewish background (as so many performers do) through his father, but he was raised in a somewhat Methodist household in Philly. Like his partner, Teller doesn’t drink or do drugs. He and Penn are virulent skeptics, atheists, and doubters of pretty much every naturally assumed belief. This is likely what makes them such great magicians: they invite their audience to doubt and question as much as they do. Their current show, Fool Us, is literally an exercise in magicians attempting to do their thing in a way that Penn & Teller can’t figure out the secret to their act. If you’ve ever loved magic shows, this is a must-watch.

Why is Teller silent? I thought it was an ode to Harpo Marx, whose voiceless antics were perfect alongside the talkative Groucho. Turns out it was an adaptation to his act when he used to perform at frat parties. He found that the drunk college kids were less likely to heckle him and throw stuff at him if he performed silently.

If you’re looking for a genuine treat, all eight seasons of their show, Bullshit!, are streaming on Crave. It’s a great deconstruction of everything from psychics to bottled water. I watched a couple episodes, and will watch a couple more over the next few days. It’s really the best way to celebrate Teller Appreciation Week, especially if you don’t visit a bank.

Customer Service Week

Might this be a good time to go over some of our favourite and least-favourite spots in town for customer service? Sure, why not?

We’ll start with our bank, TD Canada Trust. Screw ‘em – they have been, in our experience, an example of mediocre to poor customer service. I suppose that can happen when you’re part of a regulated oligopoly. On the flip side I’ll put in a kind word for Tangerine, the company that holds our mortgage. They have been great, in spite of the fact that they may have the most repetitive and obnoxious hold music I’ve ever endured.

We have always had great customer service at the restaurants we frequent: Da-De-O, Barb & Ernie’s, Canteen, etc., as well as from Destination Doughnuts, where our sweet-pastry dreams are fulfilled every Saturday. Part of that is because we are regulars, but really – we became regulars because of the customer service. The food is great, but we can be won over more by the experience.

I’ve done my time in customer service, in retail, over the phones, and dealing exclusively with the most angry, swear-happy clients. It’s great work, and those who pour their hearts into it (often for too little pay) are worth treasuring.

Drive Safely Work Week

The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety established this week back in 1996 as a way of saying, “Hey, if you’re going to drive to work, please try not to die in the process.” It’s a lovely sentiment, and one I’m sure at least 90% of folks could agree on. My guess is that they once called it Drive Safely To Work Week, then realized that the preposition in the middle might suggest they care more about their employees showing up alive to their shifts than making it home afterwards. Likely true, but a colder sentiment.

So I advised Jodie of this, since my drive to and from work involves carting my carcass up and down some stairs. She took care to drive safely, avoided any accidents or bouts of road rage that might make her drive up on to the sidewalk to mow down some pedestrians, just to feel something. She did the leg work on this one.

Stay safe, everyone!

We still have heaps of other National Weeks to celebrate, and we might squeeze some more in today. Here’s the stuff exclusive to our Friday:

  • National Moldy Cheese Day. I’m sure this probably means something like blue cheese or another stinky cheese, and not the stuff we automatically toss.
  • National Leif Erikson Day. A day to pretend we’re Vikings? Apparently there is a local celebration for this one, but guess why it’s cancelled this year.
  • National Pet Obesity Day. I was chided for posting a pic of Trixie for Full Figure Appreciation this week. I won’t make that mistake again.
  • World Post Day. We’ll discuss our favourite posts. I liked that one on MASH that showed where everyone’s hometown was located.
  • Fire Prevention Day. Only YOU (meaning me, or maybe you) can prevent fires.
  • Curious Events Day. Let’s hope we have a few of these.
  • International Beer & Pizza Day. Well this was an unexpected treat.
  • National Sneakers Day. My clunky boot-cast is the opposite of a ‘sneaker’, but we’ll find a way to celebrate.
  • World Egg Day. I guess we eat eggs? Or juggle them.
  • Scrubs Day. Probably a day to commemorate people who don surgical garb for their heroic day-to-day tasks. But we might just watch the TV show instead.
  • Submarine-Hoagie-Hero-Grinder Day. Delicious by any name.

(PS: Happy birthday, Johnny!)

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