Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Every so often we get our first permanent snowfall before Halloween, meaning kids have to bundle up in parkas either overtop or underneath their costumes. I suspect we’ll be getting a limited number of kids wandering our streets next Saturday anyhow. This year the snow means a reminder that I will not be standing at bus stops, or hopefully spending much of any time outdoors, except when the shovel calls. No more birdwatching at -20. Even if the calendar tells me otherwise. We’ve earned that luxury, after a wild and committed nine and 2/3 months of this. So where does that leave us today? I’m glad I asked:

National Day On Writing

This grammatically-proper designation indicates that this is a day for writers to flex their writing muscles (technically located in their fingers) and celebrate the reasons writing is important to them. This one comes to us courtesy of the National Council of Teachers of English. So the same folks who made us all suffer by analyzing “The Cremation of Sam McGee” every damn year in school now want me to justify my life choice.

I kid, of course. I love English teachers, or more specifically Teachers of English. I even married one – or, to be more specific, I married someone who became one.

So why do I write? It’s a cliché to say I write because I have to, but writers invented cliché, didn’t they? Doesn’t that mean we’re allowed to use them? The truth is, I write because I can. Because it’s a thing I can do to hold back the madness, to postpone my inevitable mental decline into nonsensical babbling and drooling. I write because I never learned how to let my soul scream through music or any other more visceral realm. I write because it’s the only thing keeping me from finding myself completely uninteresting.

Next comes the question of why I write this in particular: weird, lengthy, word-heavy projects that I post for free online. Well, it’s nice to work with a deadline. It prevents me from toiling over the same paragraph for days on end, and allowing procrastination to usurp the notion of diligence. I was working on a lengthy piece of fiction last year, but I’d fall off the wagon and let it sit for weeks. With something like this, I’m not allowed to. Hopefully this will be my last such endeavour, as I propel directly into another project – a more normal one – as soon as this is done.

But mostly I write because you read. Even if that “you” is just a later version of me, it’s still an audience.

International Sloth Day

Everyone, and I mean everyone I polled for this sentence (myself and my dogs) loves sloths. They kind of look like they’re smiling (which has always worked for dolphins), they move slowly enough to not only not be a threat, but to be downright entertaining about it, and they seem to possess a certain comfort and confidence in themselves. And they’re cuddly. I mean, in appearance. I don’t think it’s advised to cuddle an actual sloth. Unless you can’t help yourself, of course.

Sloths can’t walk. They have less muscle mass than most other animals, and their skill at hanging is mainly due to having great claws. Those claws also get used to crawl around the ground because, as stated previously, they can’t walk. When they do scamper about, it’s usually at about thirteen feet per minute. Yes, per minute. When fight-or-flight kicks in as danger approaches, they can ramp that up to fifteen feet per minute. Not much of an upgrade there – I think it’s safe to say that if a sloth is in danger, it’s screwed.

Sloths spend about 90% of their time motionless, which is about 3% longer than our primary canine research assistant, Trixie. They mostly hang from trees, and can do pretty much anything in that position, including eat, sleep, give birth, and even die. Yes, some sloths die hanging from a branch and they just stay there until knocked down. Even at such a slow rate of motion, there aren’t a lot of predators who are putting the sloth in danger. Except for humans, of course. We’re always ready to fuck up an ecology if we see a profit in it. The good news is that, apart from the three-toad pygmy sloth (which only lives on the island of Isla Escudo de Veraguas), they aren’t endangered.

But they’re awesome. Yesterday we were happy to scan through pictures of sloths, all of whom look like awesome dudes or dudettes. Not keep-as-a-pet awesome, because that has been proven to be a bad idea, but just awesome in the way that the world is a little more kick-ass just knowing that sloths exist. That’s a big ol’ win.

World Statistics Day

Hooray for statistics. I was 95% positive I was going to skip right over this one, but then I realized that some statistics are fun. We should highlight those as an effective way to battle back the malaise of a snowy Tuesday. So here are a few interesting stats I found online – keep in mind, they are only as reliable anything else one might find online, so don’t quote me at your next cocktail party. Also, don’t go to cocktail parties. There’s a 100% probability of there being a pandemic going on right now.

  • 55% of Americans believe they possess smarter-than-average intelligence. I suppose the referendum on that will unfold in a couple of weeks.
  • Apparently 25% of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth, which really begs a deeper look at that last statistic.
  • The acceptance rate at Harvard is a paltry 5.2%. But when a new Walmart opened earlier this year in Washington DC, only 2.6% of applicants landed a job. So is Walmart tougher to get into than Harvard? Let’s ask that 55% of above-average folks.
  • 71% of Americans believe Alexander Hamilton was president, though it should be noted this number was compiled before his titular musical dropped onto Disney+. Still, that’s pretty sad. He was never gonna be president.
  • Every year more than 50,000 people are injured by jewelry in the United States. That’s a lot of deadly bangles.
  • There are an estimated 270 million fake accounts on Facebook, which almost makes me wonder if I’m one of them.
  • Google has answered more than 450 billion unique searches since 2003, so that time you asked it whether it’s advised to smear mayonnaise onto an open wound to encourage quick healing, Google didn’t even bat an eye.
  • Seaweed can grow as much as one foot per day.
  • Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was on the Billboard album charts for longer than the Civil War, WWI and WWII combined; a total of 736 weeks.

Statistics can indeed be fun. And we’re all about fun here.

National Suspenders Day

For some reason that I cannot fathom, I own a set of suspenders. Is that right? A set? Is it a pair of suspenders? That doesn’t sound right, but then a pair of pants isn’t a logical description either. Anyhow, I must have bought these for a wedding, or rented them and forgot to return them. But I do own them, and I think they look dashing with my t-shirt and sweatpants combo.

Suspenders came about thanks to London haberdasher Albert Thurston back in 1828. I know that it simply refers to someone who sold small items for sewing or clothing manufacturing, but a ‘haberdasher’ is a great name for a profession. It sounds like it should involve fast women, crazy drugs and low morals. Like someone could get arrested for haberdashery and it would sound pretty bad-ass in the joint.

Does it seem like I’m stretching out this topic? That could be because the topic is suspenders, and there isn’t a lot to say on the subject. Albert Thurston called them ‘braces’ at first. And they were incredibly popular right out of the gate, since men tended to wear those really high-waisted pants that buried their bellies somewhere in the crotch area and made wearing a belt highly impractical. This is also why they became popular again in the high-pants, short-tie era of the 1940s. Nowadays, they’re worn by hipsters, business folks, some punk rockers, and Larry King.

And, apparently, me. With sweatpants.

Can a day get more exciting than yesterday? It hardly seems possible, but here are the contenders for wild mirth and insanity today:

  • National Fossil Day. I was going to head over to the museum to look at some fossils today, but alas, that plan has been pandemic-thwarted.
  • National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Not sure if anyone actually makes this.
  • Back To The Future Day. The 35th anniversary of Marty McFly’s voyage. Also, the 65th anniversary of Marty McFly’s voyage.
  • International Day of the Nacho. National Nachos Day is November 6. This is the global one, so… more important?
  • National Apple Day. If we don’t get a chance to eat one, I’m sure we’ll use our phones.
  • National Check Your Meds Day. Check them for what? For ticks?
  • National Reptile Awareness Day. Again, can’t go see any in person, so that really stinks.
  • Babbling Day. My specialty!
  • Celebration of the Mind Day. A fine thing to celebrate, especially if you’re like 55% of Americans.
  • Count Your Buttons Day. Another wild party. Does it ever stop?
  • Hagfish Day. Like eels, but somehow more grotesque. Might be the name.
  • Love Your Body Day. Or love someone else’s. We aren’t the cops.